Wingin' it in the Whitsundays

There’s a kangaroo watching me pee. It has its head cocked to the side, as if asking “whatcha doin' over there, human?” I wish I could respond. I’d tell him that I understand the whole territory thing, that I’ll be back in my tent in a jiffy and to give my regards to Skippy - but alas, I don’t speak ‘roo. Plus, it’s too early in the morning. I need a strong camp coffee before I can deal with the locals.

It’s my final morning in the Whitsundays, a beautiful set of islands just off the coast of northern Queensland. You know, the white sand, crystal water, palm-fringed islands. The ones that put Australia on the map and made this country the envy of the world. Especially the Brits. Those poor, unlucky Brits.


My mate Sam and I have been road tripping our way around the Whitsunday’s for a week now. We’ve been camping on magic, secluded beaches and doing our best to not stall the Jeep (the monster has seven gears and I’ve conked it at every traffic light).

This morning we’re set up at the prettiest campsite I’ve ever had the honour of unrolling my sleeping bag at. Our tent is set back among the beachside scrub that opens out to an unparalleled view of Dingo Beach, a secret stretch of sand about 40 minutes north of Airlie.

Even the view over my brekky pancakes has me wanting to go full Tom Hanks, jump off the grid and pull a Castaway. But how did I come to be in such a beautiful part of the country? Well, it all started with a map to a waterfall...

Sam frolicking in the lagoon in the Whitsundays
Sam frolicking in the lagoon in the Whitsundays

Don’t go chasing waterfalls

Whoever said that, was lying. Through their teeth. If there is anything I’ve learned, it’s that you should always go chasing waterfalls. Especially when you’ve just landed in Proserpine, been given a 4WD fully-stocked with camping gear and told to go explore.

Cedar Creek Falls can be found just 20 minutes out of Airlie Beach, and it’s a big reward for what is ultimately very little effort. When we arrive, the pool is empty. The water is bright green and placid; its serenity is broken only by the rush of the waterfall. Oh, and the mosquitoes. Man, the mozzies are a killer out here.

If you ever find yourself at Cedar Creek, make sure you brave the chill factor and swim across to the waterfall (keep an eye out for the resident green turtles) and then hike up to the top for a first class view across the pool. Remember your camera too.

An earthquake with a side of fish 'n’ chips

Later that day, we keep cruising up the highway to Bowen. The sun is out, it’s not jellyfish season, and it seems like the perfect beach day. Naturally, this calls for fish and chips, extra dead horse.

With a sweaty bundle of butcher’s paper under one arm and a couple of beach towels under the other, we set up shop on a sand dune. We’re the only ones on the beach. One potato cake, a piece of grilled flake and a handful of chips later and both Sam and I are snoozing.

Sam wakes up first. There’s a rumbling beneath us as if a convoy of trucks were approaching up the beach. But there’s not a truck to be seen. It’s an earthquake. It only lasts a few minutes, but long enough for Sam to look at me and ask, tsunami?

Horseshoe Bay #nofilter

Obviously, we survive. We later discover the earthquake struck 50KM off the coast of Bowen and came in at 5.8 Mw, which is actually quite significant. The next day, earthquake trauma aside, I get to witness one of the most Instagram-worthy sunsets I’ve ever seen.

At low tide, Horseshoe Bay is a serene half-moon swimming beach. At high tide, you can clamber on the rocks and paddle in the shallows. We go for a sunset swim as the sky is emblazoned in pink orange dusk. There are lovers everywhere, propped up against boulders. It’s all very romantic.

Sam and I aren’t romantic at all. Instead, we spend half an hour trawling the bay looking for my sandal, which had accidentally washed away with the tide. We found it, I took a selfie.

Sam and Tayla enjoying some beach time
Sam and Tayla enjoying some beach time

South Molle Island

It’s hardly a trip to the Whitsunday’s without an excursion out to the islands. So we jump on a boat and head to South Molle. I’m glad I packled a waterproof because as soon as we board, the weather turns. As we get pounded by a mix of sea spray and raindrops, I think to myself “they should really call this place the WETsundays”. Wow, apparently I’m not very funny when damp.

We pull up at the beach beneath a thousand thunder clouds. It gives what would otherwise be paradise, a super ominous feeling. The campers that are already set up tell us to go check out the abandoned resort. Umm, what? We’re just here to kayak. When did I sign up for a horror movie???

A Wolf Creek DVD

The weather doesn’t improve as we walk out to the resort (in fact, it doesn’t improve for the next three days, but you win some you lose some). The whole place looks as if it was evacuated at last minute, there are still beer cans in the bedrooms! The swimming pool, however, has been impeccably maintained and the spa is bubbling away. Things are getting creepy.

Things get creepier when we walk into the industrial kitchen and see a set of knives laid out on the bench, perfectly ordered from biggest to smallest. One of the stove burners is firing. On top of a set of menus sits a Wolf Creek DVD. Come onnnnnnnnnn. This is not cool.

It turns out the South Molle resort is manned by John ‘the caretaker’. We bump into John (and his Wilson ball #Castaway) as we are quickly retreating the resort. He seems nice enough, but we make a pact never to go to the bathroom alone again.

'Sup! Wanna paddle?

For our final adventure, we decide to give our 4WD a good work out. First, we take a shortcut through the sugarcane fields and then we hit an hour of outback dirt roads. Hello pothole, hello 4WD. Our end destination is a picture perfect beach, just north of Hydeaway Bay. I would give you more directions but; a) it would ruin the mystique; and b) I don’t have any. We stumbled upon this gem by chance.

The water is super calm, the horizon dotted with sailboats. It’s perfect stand up paddle boarding conditions. We jump on the boards and weave between the boats, waving to the old guys on deck. It’s beautiful, the rain has finally stopped.

Back on the beach, and time to light a bonfire. With a belly full of marshmallows we toast to the Whitsundays. To its beauty, and its beaches, and its spiders the size of dinner plates.