Welcome back. On to Part II of our Australian Adventure. Last Monday morning (was it seriously only last Monday morning?! Gosh a lot’s happened since then.) Chris and I left his house in Bathurst seriously early in the a.m. with his brother Ben and Ben’s girlfriend to head back to Sydney to catch our flight to … drum roll … THE GREAT BARRIER REEF!
^^ Flying over the Reef.
^^ Be-aut-iful! [Ed note: Please ignore the smudge on the lower right-hand side of my lens. It pains me that it's there in some of my photos, and were I any good at Photoshop, yes, I would try to take it out.]
It only takes about two hours to fly from Sydney to the island where we were staying , Hamilton Island, which is part of the 74 Whitsunday Islands all located on the edge of the Great Barrier Reef. And thank goodness, because I was ready to get my relax on! The place we stayed — the Whitsunday Apartments — was actually a group of apartments … obviously.
^^ The view from our balcony. Not too shabby.
So we had a kitchen, bathroom, dining room, living room and really huge bedroom. It was nice that we really felt like we were on our own during our honeymoon, but at the same time had the help of people in the lobby if we really had a question or concern. The island itself is relatively small, and it’s pretty easy to walk to the majority of the places you’d want to go (like the downtown shop area, the other resort pools and stores, the beach, the place where you could eat breakfast with the koalas!), but it is pretty hilly, and some of the spots (like one particularly gorgeous sunset area), is much more easily accessible via free bus transportation, or …..
^^ Everyone on the island rents these little electric golf carts to drive around — no one except the owner of the island is allowed to drive regular cars on the land. We only rented the car on Tuesday, as we were doing excursions the other days we were there.
It probably goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway — the beaches here are gorgeous. And during low tide, you can walk out for what seems like miles into the ocean, with all of these little pools of warm water around you, and tons of sea life surrounding you.
^^ Yup, it was jellyfish season. You pretty much have to be aware of that, then ignore it, or else you’ll be obsessing over it the whole time you’re in the water.
^^ Having a drink poolside at one of the other hotel pools. Pool-hopping was one of my favorite things about the low-key feel of this island. It’s like we were all one big happy family. No one cared where you were actually staying — everyone was welcome everywhere!
While we spent most of the day Monday familiarizing ourselves with the island and the pools and the oceans, we wandered into town around 4:30, just to check it out, and ended up squatting at the Manta Ray Cafe, which turned out to be a great place to catch the sunset over the harbour, as well as to learn about some of the local wildlife from our waiter:
^^ What? I’m not paying attention to you.
^^ Oh yes I am. As our waiter pointed out (and as we later witnessed) the cockatoos on this island are not shy, and they WILL steal your food if you look away for even one second.
^^ The fruit bats seriously come out at night. Ick!
On Tuesday we rented our little golf cart early in the morning, and then spent the morning eating breakfast with the koalas (yes, my favorite ever), and checking out the zoo.
^^ Don’t worry — he was behind glass ;)
^^ Who knew this docile (and weird) looking bird would be Australia’s deadliest bird. Doesn’t he look like a turkey?!
^^ I know, right. It’s like, how can this much cuteness exist in the world?
The rest of Tuesday was a pretty chill day for us. We checked out the island a bit more, had some drinks at the swim-up bar, slept on the beach, drove the car out to this spot with gorgeous views. You know — pretty typical Tuesday stuff.
^^ Just having wine and cheese and crackers on our awesome porch.
^^ Goodnight, Great Barrier Reef.
^^ This little guy landed right on my arm which, of course, caused me to freak out. Oh, nature.
^^ And this little guy was staring us down as we ate our fish & chips dinner by the harbour. We think he’s a baby stone-curlew. Whatever he was, he was seriously funny looking.
Onto Wednesday. Wednesday was an amazing day because, as a wedding gift to us, good family friend’s of Chris’s got us a half-day boat ride out to Whitehaven Beach.
Oh Whitehaven Beach … how beautiful were thee? The beach stretches out over 7 km (yup, that’s Aussie speak), and is completely uninhabited. It’s received a ton of accolades, such as “Queensland’s Most Beautiful Beach,” and for good reason. The sand is pure white, and it never gets hot. Plus it’s so fine, it’ll clean your jewelry for you while you sunbathe.
Not too shabby.
Oh, and there’s some sort of ridiculous fine if you were to try to steal sand from it. Something like $35,000. So don’t do that.
So that was how we spent our Wednesday morning — chillin’ on the most beautiful beach in the world. When we got back mid-afternoon we did a bit more pool-hopping and beach sleeping and eating and drinking and card playing … just general merriment.
Thursday, then, was the day of all days. On Thursday, we took a full day boat excursion out to the Great Barrier Reef. This tour included oh-so-much. There was a breakfast on the boat, lunch out on the pontoon once we arrived at the Reef and a tea service on the ride back. There was snorkeling equipment at the Reef, a glass-bottom boat ride and an open observatory deck from the pontoon. All of that was included in the price. ($225 per person which, honestly, wasn’t that bad.) You could also purchase some additional activities for an added fee, like Scuba diving (which Chris did), and a guided snorkel tour (which I did). So when we arrived, luckily Chris and I were the first group to go on our perspective diving and snorkeling tours. (A quick note about the jellyfish: Since it was stinger season, we had to wear wetsuits into the water. This was my first experience wearing one and I have to say — I didn’t hate it. I mean, they definitely aren’t the most attractive things … but they kept me warm and safe, so I’m okay with it!)
Then we met up afterwards for lunch, went on the glass bottom boat ride and then spent the rest of the afternoon snorkeling together.
Me oh my, it was amazing. Besides how gorgeous the Reef itself is (don’t stand on it or touch it! it turns to sand!), we saw Clown Fish (aka Nemo), sea cucumbers (which no one else was impressed with, but I was), giant sea turtles, clams the size of my body, this other fish that I don’t remember the name of that is so territorial that when my guide picked up a rock and placed it near the fish, he picked it up with his mouth and spit it out far away from him. Amazing. Plus tons of other awesomely colored and incredibly interesting sea life. Experience of a lifetime, to say the least.
Of course I didn’t take a ton of pictures here, because I was busy doin’ stuff (sorry), but here are a couple shots I was able to snap:
^^ Fish at the Reef, as seen from the glass-bottom boat ride.
^^ Some coral from the same ride.
^^ A view of the part of the Reef where we snorkeled and dove. Look at all that gorgeous green/blue coral under the water, just waiting to be checked out!
^^ A storm was brewin’ on our way back from the Reef. It made for some pretty awesome pictures.
Thursday night we had dinner reservations at coca chu, a restaurant that one of Chris’s aunts had recommended. We ordered delicious cocktails, a bottle of wine and more food than we could even possibly hope to eat in two days. (Seriously, our waiter even told us we ordered too much food. We can’t be stopped.) The food is South East Asian, and our table overlooked the ocean as the fish jumped in and out of the water.
Am I setting the scene enough for ya?
Unfortunately I wasn’t feeling all that well that night (major bummer). I think the travel and jet lag and drinking and eating had all finally caught up to me. No matter — it was still an awesome night with delicious food and fabulous company. That’s all you can really ask for, right?
Friday was our last day on the island, and we spent it doing a bit of shopping, grabbing some delicious breakfast at the local bakery and eating by the harbour, and drinking the last of our wine and beer on the beach. It was seriously sad to say goodbye to Hamilton Island and our little honeymoon, but we had the best, most amazing time. Chris and I both keep saying how we loved that the island provided the perfect blend of fun activities and adventure with just the right amount of leisure and relaxation. You can chose to do nothing at all, and still have fabulous time, or you can do all the activities your little heart desires. (Chris even took a 2.5 mile hike one day while I took a nap. Gotta love that.)
Friday afternoon it was back to Sydney to meet up with our families for our last weekend in Australia, as well as to take in the International Fleet Review.
But I’ll be back with that blog post next week ;) Bis bald, friends! Hope you all have awesome weekend activities planned!