The World of Whitsundays: Above & Underwater

Whitehaven beachDuring my mid-semester break, I joined my friends Fanny and Henrik on their tropical Queensland adventures. We met up in Airlie Beach, a typical Aussie backpacker haven lined with bumpin’ bars, to embark on a 3-day-2-night Whitsundays sailing adventure.

The Whitsundays are a group of 90 continental islands situated off the coast of central Queensland. As their small mountain tips peak up from the Coral Sea and happy fish live among the coral underneath, they provide an excellent opportunity for adventures both on land and underwater.

Sixty or so tour companies run day-trips and longer tours around the Whitsunday Islands, so finding something to cater your interests won’t be hard. If you have a flexible schedule, here is a tip: don’t book ahead of time. Show up at Airlie Beach and ask around if there are any discounted spots available on trips leaving in a day or so. Chances are you’ll find something easily. We found three spots on the SV Whitehaven ecotour, and we reckon we saved a good chunk of money by not booking ahead of time.

Now that the logistics are out of the way, here’s the fun part: our tour provided us three opportunities to snorkel at different reefs, a visit to the Whitehaven Beach, kayaking in the open waters, bushwalking the islands, and plenty of time to tan aboard (if the weather cooperated). That sounds like a great trip, doesn’t it?

It looks good too…

SV Whitehavan
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Fraser Island Tour

Fraser Island-ShipwreckEven though I am a pro-guidebook girl and I preach independent travel, there are some places you need to visit with a tour company. Fraser Island, world’s largest sand island, is one of them. Unless you have a four-wheel-drive vehicle, a Telstra cell phone (for Googling the history of the place; Optus and Vodaphone don’t get reception on the island), and training on how to deal with dingoes, just take a tour.

My Danish friend, Annemiek, and I went for the two-day Fraser Explorer Tour and we totally recommend it! Here are some of our highlights:

Lake McKenzie is arguably the most popular of over 100 freshwater lakes found on Fraser Island. The white sands around the lake are made of pure silica, and from personal experience I can attest that they are an excellent natural scrub. The water of Lake McKenzie is also supposed to leave your hair feeling baby soft, but that one didn’t quite happen. However, just swimming in this fresh water, lukewarm (by Canadian standards) lake, is what draws so many tourists.

Fraser Island-Lake Mackenzie

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Hobart: what the locals love

Two weekends ago I started working on my Aussie Bucket List and flew (even more) south to Tasmania. My home base for the next four days was Hobart, a cute city at the base of Mount Wellington and a good launch pad for many Tassie activities such as Port Arthur and MONA (Museum of Old and New Art). I travelled around the Huon Valley and checked MONA with my gracious hosts over the weekend, but on Monday, they all went to work so I was left with the ever-exciting challenge of exploring Hobart on my own.

My trusted Lonely Planet guidebook has less than two pages on things to do in Hobart, but after visiting over 20 countries in the last five years if there is one thing that I have learned it’s this: the best kept secrets never make it to guidebooks.

I started Hobart’s cultural exploration on Salamanca Place. I’d visited this restaurant-packed esplanade with my friends on an earlier evening and thought it would be a good idea to check it out during the day.

Hobart: Salamanca Place

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Sandboarding in Peru

When my friend suggested that we could go sandboarding in the Huacachina oasis of Peru, my first thoughts were: “Peru has sand dunes?”

Before my trip this April, I thought I could count the popular Peruvian highlights on one hand: 1Andes, 2Machu Picchu, 3-Amazon, 4-guinea pig and 5-Nazca lines. Since I was already going to experience the first three, not interested in the fourth (note for non-regular readers: I am vegetarian) and couldn’t afford the fifth, I decided to give the lesser-known Peruvian desert a chance. Not to mention, after last year’s embarrassment royale during volcano boarding in Nicaragua, I wanted to prove to myself that I had become better at standing and sitting on planks.

“Sandboarding sounds amazing!” I told my best friend who was living in Peru for a year (read about her Peruvian adventures here). While I was discovering the mystical land of the Incas and realizing that couldn’t be more inaccurate in thinking that Peru only had a handful of major attractions, my friend organized our sandboarding adventure in Huacachina. Continue reading