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Early Retirement Travels - Week 3, Australia

Whitehaven Beach

Time to catch up with my travel diary, I want to be able to look back and remember what fun we're having on our trip.

We started off the week with an organised trip, heading north from Cairns to visit the Mossman Gorge, Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation, with quick stops in Port Douglas and Palm Grove, plus a myriad of fantastic views as we journeyed along the coastal road. There seemed to be a treat around every corner.

We saw crocodiles, spiders, cassowary, wallabies, snakes, and no doubt some other wildlife that I've momentarily forgotten. Sally is smitten with the wildlife, and I love seeing the smile on her face when she spots the animals. The Cassowary was my favourite, I'd never heard of it before, and there are as few as 1,200 left in Australia, so seeing one was special.

There were just seven people on our tour, and we had a chatty, entertaining and knowledgeable guide. The welcome to Australia song that he played when we first arrived still makes me laugh - have a listen.

The following day, we jumped on the bus, using the Cairns to Sydney, hop on hop off ticket that we'd bought. We paid £160 ($225 or a bit less at today's exchange rate) with Premier. They're cheaper than Greyhound, but they've done the job. Flying misses out the points between cities, and rather than renting a car we preferred to let someone else do the driving.

We alighted in Townsville, for a ferry to Magnetic Island. We'd debated whether to go to Magnetic Island, but we're glad we did. Even though our visit was short, it was a little gem. Arriving at our accommodation in Picnic Bay, the owner suggested an itinerary for our 24 hours on the island. We hiked to Tom Thumb rock to admire the views and watch the sunset, then down to a beachfront bar for dinner.

The next morning, even Sally, who likes her sleep, was keen to get up early for another hike, this time to Horseshoe Bay Fort for some Koala spotting. They're not easy to find, sitting very still and well camouflaged in the trees, but we saw three or four before hiking down to the ferry for the mainland. We left wishing we had time for another night on Magnetic Island.

Wednesday afternoon was another bus ride, this time to Airlie Beach, where we would depart the following day for a sailing trip to the Whitsunday Islands.

The Whitsundays are a group of 74, mostly uninhabited islands situated between mainland Australia's East Queensland coast and the Great Barrier Reef. Perhaps the most famous feature is Whitehaven Beach, considered to be one of the most beautiful beaches in the world because of it's incredibly white sand and turquoise waters.

We'd booked a 3 day/2 night sailing cruise, but found that our boat didn't have sufficient bookings to sail. Because of this, we were transferred to another vessel, the Atlantic Clipper. The Clipper is described as a social boat, evidently code for a party boat. Hmm, more aimed at the 18 to twenty something crowd than to one of the oldest backpackers in Australia I think!

That said, we were going, so we determined to make the best of it. Truth told, it wasn't the ideal trip for us, but we still had fun. The crew were very good, and we enjoyed chatting with the "youngsters" and I'm pretty sure some of them enjoyed chatting with us too. In fact, it wasn't as "party" as we feared, and the boat was big enough to find a quiet space when we wanted. Funnily enough, we found a small number of the twenty somethings liked to join us, and we had some fun evenings with them.

Whitehaven Beach is beautiful, although slightly dulled by an overcast sky while we were there. Instead, my highlight was snorkeling on a reef, where we saw a greater number, colour and variety of fish than at the Great Barrier Reef. Sally's highlight was seeing humpback whales alongside our boat. We also enjoyed our chats with the youngsters, a start to a sentence that almost makes me feel old!

Our vessel docked around midday on the Saturday, so we had some time to pass before catching our bus later that afternoon. It was going to be a mammoth journey of 16 hours 35 minutes. Relaxing in the sun with a couple of ciders seemed the perfect way to prepare for it. We even found one of our new Clipper friends to join us.

I'm 190cm (6 ft 3 in) tall, and somehow I managed to sleep reasonably well on the bus journey. My blow up travel pillow is becoming a firm friend. We arrived in Noosa on Sunday morning with no plans other than to do the laundry, take a stroll and relax by the water. And that's exactly what we did. Sally had fish and chips by the sea, while I momentarily rued my vegetarian option, in much the same way I'm doing now smelling someone's bacon sandwich breakfast. My willpower is holding for the time being, just.

Our big event next week is a trip to Fraser Island, which is the second "must do" on the Queensland backpackers itinerary. I'll let you know what that's like.

Daily diary and costs

Similar to last weeks post, I'm including a list of what we did during our week and the approximate costs - I'm using this part of my blog as a mini diary for myself, but feel free to read if you're interested.

Week 3 - what we've done:

Monday - Daintree Rainforest trip

Tuesday - Bus from Cairns to Townsville/Ferry to Magnetic Island. Walked to Tom Thumb point to watch the sunset.

Wednesday - morning Horseshoe Bay Fort walk for beautiful views and spotting Koala bears in the wild. Ferry back to the mainland to catch the bus to Airlie Beach.

Thursday - Checked out of the hostel, and checked in for our Whitsunday boat trip.

Friday - Whitsunday boat trip.

Saturday - Finished the Whitsunday trip. Enjoyed a cider in the afternoon, while waiting for the bus from Airlie Beach to Noosa.

Sunday - Arrived in Noosa after a 16h35m bus journey. Did laundry and strolled and relaxed by the water.

Week 3 - we spent a total of £1,568 / $2,209 for 2 people on:

Accommodation £220 / $310

Meals/Coffee/Snacks £309 / $435 (we're still eating out and consuming more beer & wine than we should)

Toiletries/Sun Cream £2 / $2

Taxis £375 / $529 (mostly a hop on hop off ticket from Cairns to Sydney which is a long way!)

Trips £625 / $881 (day trip to Daintree Forest / 2 day, 2 night boat trip to Whitsunday Islands)

Laundry £6 / $8

Telephone £23 / $32

Other £8 / $12


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