Airlie Beach is the jumping off point for the Whitsundays, a large group of picturesque islands off the coast. We had hoped to find another Port Douglas in Airlie Beach, but got the polar opposite. The main drag is one backpackers after another with the requisite cheap eats, bars, internet shops, and tacky souvenir shops to go with them. After being scared by the local tourist info center that we wouldn't find a room for the night, we booked a rather expensive hotel on the waterfront that turned out to be pretty empty. J thinks the office we went into was just a booking office posing at the true government tourist office and wanting to make a quick buck on commission.
We spent the next day on Illusions, a small catamaran with a crew of two (the captain and his son) and only one other couple. It was perfect. J made a dive with the captain while the rest of us snorkelled at Blue Pearl Bay off Hayman Island. The son threw fish food into the water from the dinghy so the fish would swarm around us in the water. We saw a huge giant clam, some large parrotfish, and
lots of small tropical fish. On the way back, the captain asked if we'd like to try "boomnetting." We weren't quite sure what that meant but decided to give it a go....J liked it (check out the photo), CM did not. The best part of the day was sitting out on the bow under the mainsail in the sun on the way back. The captain was playing The Beach Boys Greatest Hits, the wind was up, and we were flying across the water!
After our long day on the water, we drove to Mackay (about 90 minutes from Airlie Beach). We stayed down by the marina, a district that is up and coming with lots of condos, restaurants, etc. We had a great dinner of bugs - yes, bugs
! "Bugs" are a type of prehistoric lobster found in Queensland similar to a langusta (lobster with no claws). They are prepared in such a way that it is easy to get the meat out of the shells. Mine came in a pasta dish and were absolutely delicious!!
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