Ocean Rafting in the Whitsundays (or should that be the Wetsundays)   12 comments

The Whitsunday Islands are one of the picture postcard sights of NE Queensland. Dramatic green forested island mountains rising from an azure sea, fringed by coral reefs and white sand beaches. We arrived in Airlie Beach, the main tourist hub under heavy, leaden skies that promised rain.

Our apartment at the splendid SeaStar Apartments (review here) made up for the weather, a stunning place with a wide balcony with sea views. We had a couple of full day tours booked so we hoped that perhaps things would be better in the morning.

They weren’t. The weather was awful. After some glorious weather to start or trip our luck had run out. Blue skies were replaced with heavy driving rain and wind. We were booked on a trip with Ocean Rafting  (review here) in one of their fast and very bouncy looking craft for a day of snorkelling and sunbathing on the world famous Whitehaven Beach. The weather just looked awful as we waited on the pier. To their eternal credit they offered us the chance to bail out of the trip with a full refund as the forecast was for no improvement through the day. We thought that we would only end up sitting listlessly around the apartment all day feeling miserable if we did so we thought we may as well go for it as did everyone else.

As you can imagine from a trip on a fast boat its run by, and patronised by a youngish crowd. Me and TBF felt a little out of place. The enthusiastic crew soon put everyone at ease, and then skipper opened the throttle and we were off.

airlie beach, whitsundays, whitsunday island, border island, hill inlet, whitehaven beach, ocean rafting, hook island, thrilla

airlie beach, whitsundays, whitsunday island, border island, hill inlet, whitehaven beach, ocean rafting, hook island, thrilla

Well all I can say is you don’t need theme parks to get a real life thrill ride – in fact our vessel was called “Thrilla”. It was tremendous fun as we bounced, twisted and turned amongst the fairly big waves and heavy seas thrown up by the storms. The kids and TJF in particular were really enjoying themselves despite the weather. Well, TJF did, not sure about TJS, he looked terminally wet and cold all day

airlie beach, whitsundays, whitsunday island, border island, hill inlet, whitehaven beach, ocean rafting, hook island, thrilla

airlie beach, whitsundays, whitsunday island, border island, hill inlet, whitehaven beach, ocean rafting, hook island, thrilla

With the rain and the spray we were all pretty much soaked after 20 minutes. After a narrow gap between islands we were out in the open sea and the waves were huge. The boat would skip across the waves and then suddenly drop like a stone or hit a wall of water with soaking spray. It became more apparent that spending the day out on the waves was the best way possible to spend a wet day. If your gonna get wet it may as well be fun 🙂

airlie beach, whitsundays, whitsunday island, border island, hill inlet, whitehaven beach, ocean rafting, hook island, thrilla

airlie beach, whitsundays, whitsunday island, border island, hill inlet, whitehaven beach, ocean rafting, hook island, thrilla

airlie beach, whitsundays, whitsunday island, border island, hill inlet, whitehaven beach, ocean rafting, hook island, thrilla

We pulled up into a sheltered bay at Border Island and took and hour out for some snorkelling.

airlie beach, whitsundays, whitsunday island, border island, hill inlet, whitehaven beach, ocean rafting, hook island, thrilla

airlie beach, whitsundays, whitsunday island, border island, hill inlet, whitehaven beach, ocean rafting, hook island, thrilla

Most of the islands have fringing reefs and despite the fact that the wind and waves had stirred up the water a bit the snorkelling was still amazing, loads of coral and in particular large green parrot fish. Only me and TBF ventured in (kids preferred the very relative dry of the boat) – of course in the water it doesn’t matter if its raining and I was having a ball. Here’s a picture of me enjoying myself in the warm waters – trust me, it wasn’t as cold as it looked

airlie beach, whitsundays, whitsunday island, border island, hill inlet, whitehaven beach, ocean rafting, hook island, thrilla

The boat headed off across a wild sea and through a torrential downpour with me and TJF at the front of the boat, towards Hill inlet on Whitsunday Island, the largest in the group. I can only imagine what a stunning spot this must be under a blue sky.

airlie beach, whitsundays, whitsunday island, border island, hill inlet, whitehaven beach, ocean rafting, hook island, thrilla

We took a stroll through the bush to the viewpoint and tried to imagine the scene. In good weather and the right tide, Hill Inlet is a swirl of silica and turqouise shaded water. Today it was just a grey swirl but I loved it any way. This is what it’s supposed to look like….

Hill-Inlet-Lookout

And this was our view.

airlie beach, whitsundays, whitsunday island, border island, hill inlet, whitehaven beach, ocean rafting, hook island, thrilla

Sometimes I feel a little regretful that we didn’t see it at its best but mostly I’m chuffed to have been there at all. Even on this day it’s a majestic spot

We headed back down and had a lunch on the white silica beach in the drizzle.

airlie beach, whitsundays, whitsunday island, border island, hill inlet, whitehaven beach, ocean rafting, hook island, thrilla

airlie beach, whitsundays, whitsunday island, border island, hill inlet, whitehaven beach, ocean rafting, hook island, thrilla

I took a paddle in the shallows and saw huge Stingrays just a few feet from where I stood. There were dozens of them all hunting in the shallows for crabs in the sand. Nervous of these gentle yet dangerous creatures I clambered up amongst the tree roots to see them from a safer perch. Amazing stuff.

We took an actually pretty splendid stroll along the sand spit and paddled in the warm water. It stopped raining for the occasional minute and found ourselves smiling through the grim conditions. It was almost a disappointment to head back to port.

airlie beach, whitsundays, whitsunday island, border island, hill inlet, whitehaven beach, ocean rafting, hook island, thrilla

airlie beach, whitsundays, whitsunday island, border island, hill inlet, whitehaven beach, ocean rafting, hook island, thrilla

After another wild ride we were back at Airlie Beach.

airlie beach, whitsundays, whitsunday island, border island, hill inlet, whitehaven beach, ocean rafting, hook island, thrilla

We were absolutely drenched and standing in the lobby, dripping water, waiting for our lift we must have looked a sight. A worthy day out indeed and one to file under “making the best of things”.

Proof reading it, seems like I’m making a statement about what a good day it was despite weather. I’m not sure if I’m trying to convince myself or people reading this to be honest. It was deeply disappointing to hit such a bad spell of weather in such a an amazing place but in 4 weeks we were never going to have it all our own way. I’m probably overplaying the sentiment but it was a genuinely great day out that I look back on with fondness. Just reading it all through again though I should say that there were one or two moments when it really was utterly miserable!

Big thanks to the Ocean Rafting guys and gals for making it a such a memorable day. But in the sunshine next time 🙂

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12 responses to “Ocean Rafting in the Whitsundays (or should that be the Wetsundays)

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  1. I’m sure it really was fun, despite the weather! That photo of what it should look like does look rather nice though…

    Stingrays, aargh! Reminds me of walking along Gulf Coast beaches in Florida, just watching them all flapping in the shallows. Don’t like them 😦

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    • You just have to give stingrays a bit of space. They are inoffensive unless you startle them. It was great to see them in their natural habitat and some of them were more than a metre across.

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  2. Sounds like you made the best of a bad weather day. You can’t control the weather so good to make the most of it and enjoy the day anyway.

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  3. Oooooh. Just watching the video made me feel seasick. Was there a gentler alternative for the faint-hearted? Perhaps a pedalo? TJF looks like she was having the time of her life!

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    beatingthebounds

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