The South Island of New Zealand is without a doubt…
It was time to discover more of what Queensland had to offer. I was especially looking forward to sailing the Whitsundays. However Stray surprised me with some hidden treasures along the way that I would have missed if I was traveling on my own. We got to discover a beautiful untouched island and learn about the rainforest and environmental issues from an Aboriginal woman. But read for yourself.
In case you have missed the beginning of my adventure you can read more about my arrival in Sydney and my first impressions of Australia in Part 1 of my Australia Diary. In that first week of my tour with Stray Australia I did tons of fun stuff from wine tasting, to tubing, surfing, kayaking and beyond.
Day 16: Emu Park
Emu Park is not a very well known place, however it is definitely worth a visit. The town itself is small with only about 2000 inhabitants, but the beaches and especially Great Keppel Island are going to be a true highlight.
We started the day with a big breakfast at a local café and then did a little stroll through town checking out the singing ship- a piece of art dedicated to James Cook and had a look at the memorial walk that reminds of the fallen soldiers in WW1 and WW2.
Later in the afternoon we got driven to the Turtle Walk, which is a great little hike up to a lookout from where you have a nice view of the coastline and if you are lucky you will even be able to spot turtles from there. We got lucky and saw two turtles coming up to the surface.
In the evening at the hostel they had a leaving party for the staff members and quite a few people from the town came as well. It was great fun and everybody was so welcoming. The locals from the town even made a BBQ for us with homemade sausages and we had a few drinks on the house.
Day 17: Great Keppel Island, Train to Airlie Beach
Great Keppel Island is the highlight here and the reason why you should stop at Emu Park. It takes around half an hour to get to the island with the ferry. What awaits you are nice long stretches of sand beaches, crystal clear water and some good snorkeling. We hiked across the island to Monkey Beach and had the entire beach for ourselves which was amazing. We spent the day sunbathing, snorkeling and simply enjoying ourselves. We were the only people on the beach for the entire day, so it definitely is worth going of the beaten path and exploring a lesser known place here on the East Coast.
Late in the evening we took an overnight train to Airlie Beach that would get us there in the early morning hours.
Day 18-19: Sailing the Whitsundays on the Gypsy Dancer
The Whitsundays are one of the highlights along the East Coast and one stop I was personally looking forward to the most. Whitehaven beach has recently been awarded as the second most beautiful beach in the world and I couldn’t wait to see it with my own eyes.
A great way to experience the Whitsundays is to do a tour on a sailing boat. They range from a day tour, to multiple day tours where you get to sleep on the boat. I opted for the 2 day, 1 night tour and it was awesome. I did the tour with the company Sailing Whitsundays on their boat called Gypsy Dancer. The tour includes everything from snacks, meals, water, snorkeling equipment etc. plus you can bring your own alcohol.
We started the tour in the morning and after a safety briefing we got comfortable on the deck of the boat. As soon as we got out of the harbour we set sails. The first couple of hours we sailed to Whitehaven Beach and after a delicious lunch we took a small boat to the beach. First stop was the lookout from where you have an incredible, breathtakingly beautiful view of Whitehaven beach. The sand is so incredible white and it does look a little bit like an ice cream swirl.
We got a few hours on the beach to sunbath and to have a swim before we headed back to the boat. After some more hours of sailing we stopped at a bay where we were going to spend the night. The staff on boat prepared a really nice BBQ for us and we spent the rest of the evening having a couple of drinks and watching the fishes in the sea below us. It was really fascinating to observe some very big fish chasing squid. So cool. I slept surprisingly well on the boat and got woken up the next morning with coffee and breakfast that our caring boat crew had prepared. We continued sailing and stopped at a few snorkeling spots where we were able to jump in the water and experience the fascinating underwater world of the Great Barrier Reef.
It was an incredible experience sailing through the beautiful Whitsundays o the Gypsy Dancer with a great bunch of people and I feel so lucky to have seen this place with my own eyes.
Day 20-21: Rainy days in Airlie Beach
There is not much to report from the next two days in Airlie Beach. There are a lot of cool things to do in Airlie such as skydiving, a scenic flight, boat tours etc. however due to the bad weather that all got cancelled. Luckily there are a lot of nice cafés in Airlie Beach so I spent most of the time inside having delicious coffee and food and getting some work done. For an awesome breakfast I can certainly recommend Sidewalk Café.
Day 22: Travel Day off to Magnetic Island
We met early in the morning at 5 am to take the train to Townsville from where we were going to catch a ferry to Magnetic Island. According to our tour guide Magnetic Island is the most beautiful place in the entire world. It is a great place for hiking and spotting wildlife. Another fun way to experience the island is to hire a topless car and drive around.
We got to our hostel around noon and since it was still pouring rain I spent most of the day sleeping.
Day 23: Magnetic Island
Today was our free day to explore Magnetic Island. Unfortunately the weather hadn’t really picked up so I started my day with some yummy breakfast at Nourish Café in Horseshoe Bay. Later in the afternoon I decided to get a day ticket for the bus and explore the island a bit. Picnic Bay is a really beautiful spot that I saw and if the weather was better I would have loved to do the „Fort walk“. Here you don’t only get to enjoy a beautiful view of the coastlines, chances are also pretty high that you will be able to spot some wild koalas because there are over 905 koalas living on the island.
Day 23-24: Tully Rainforest Experience
From Magnetic Island we took another train up the coast to Tully. When getting out of the train the first thing you will notice is the heat and the humidity. We surely made it to Tropical Queensland. Tully might only be a small town, but the nature here is what really is astonishing. Tully is known as the wettest town in Australia and it has the biggest banana plantation in the Southern Hemisphere (just some facts on the side). We were going to go on a special rainforest experience together with an expert guide and spend the night camping underneath the stars in the Tully National Park. Our first task was to set up camp on the camp ground together with our guide.
After that we headed to a lovely spot along the Tully river to go for a swim at the waterfalls and drove around to spot some wildlife. When we got back to the campsite we prepared a BBQ together and later that night shared some stories and a bag of marshmallows around the campfire. In the morning after a surprisingly good sleep, an indigenous woman took us on a walk through the rainforest. We learned a lot about Aboriginal ways and how they lived off the land and still do live in harmony with nature. Her speech about the importance of preservation and highlighting the environmental issues we face today really moved me. The morning we got to spent with her was really special and gave us a lot of food for thought.
One thing that Tully is really famous for is the white water rafting in the Tully river. The rafting is so good there, that they are actually hosting the white water rafting world championships this year! I was lucky to spend the rest of the day white water rafting with the tour company Raging Thunder. Truly one of the coolest activities on the trip.
Day 24-25: Cairns
Cairns was the last stop on the tour and it meant saying goodbye to all the awesome people I met on the tour. We ended our trip with a last dinner together in a local pub followed with some drinks. After spending so much time together and experiencing so many amazing things it really felt like we have become a small family. A few tears were shed and some last photos taken before we separated ways. My flight was early in the morning so unfortunately I didn’t have much time to explore Cairns and the surroundings but as I already know this won’t be my last trip to Australia, I will be back for sure.
The time spent in Australia was truly special and I fell in love with its natural diversity and beauty, the relaxed lifestyle and the friendly people. I truly couldn’t have imagined a better way to experience what this country has to offer than with Stray!
For my first time in Australia it was the best decision to choose to go with a tour company and to know that I will have a stress free trip as Stray has a great itinerary set up for you that includes the best of what the East Coast has to offer. We got to see the amazing places such as Byron Bay, Whitsundays and Fraser Island, but also had unique stops and experiences included that you won’t experience otherwise. Plus we had awesome local guides on the tour that provided us with some great information about the county and who prepared us some good Aussie BBQ.
I liked the fact that even though I was part of a group tour I had the flexibility to hop off and stay longer and travel at my own pace.
Traveling solo it was a great way to meet tons of likeminded people from all over the world, traveling and experiencing this beautiful country and making friends for life.