Australia’s east coast is full of national parks that are marketed as perfect one to five-day trips in the city’s backpacker hostels and travel agencies. While for some of them you don’t need to book a tour and can do it via public transport (i.e. North Stradbroke Island near Brisbane), for most of the national parks you actually need to book a tour package either at the hostel or at the travel agency unless you have your own car (i.e. Fraser Island near Rainbow Beach).
Even though these tours are generally sold at a fair price, the range is huge with different trips being promoted on every single town that you visit on your travels up the east coast so it’s sometimes hard to know if one in particular is really worth the money. So you might want to pick them very carefully as you can’t do them all (depending on your budget).
With this post I’m trying to help you with this problem by telling you what has been my favorite overnight tour on Australia’s east coast and what I definitely recommend you not to miss out:
A two-day sailing trip around the Whitsunday Islands.
Obviously the absolute highlight of any one, two, three or seven day trip to the Whitsunday Islands is visiting the archipelago’s most famous site: Whitehaven Beach. It was also the first place we visited on our two day sailing trip, around five hours from Airlie Beach, the town on the mainland where all the trips start.
We were first hiking up to a view point from where visitors can take the picture that looks almost identical to the one you always see on the postcards and promotional posters all over the country (even though I’m sure they took it from an helicopter). Keep in mind:
The best view of Whitehaven Beach is during low tide when the whole strip of white sand gets revealed.
I waited at the lookout for more than one hour, not just for the low tide but also for the sun to come out to get taken my picture, before heading down to the beach to actually take a swim.
This beach is so gorgeous – the sand can’t get any whiter, the water can’t get any clearer and the trees of the rainforest on the island can’t get any greener. The only reason why I didn’t add the Whitehaven Beach to my list of world’s best beaches is that it’s just too crowded with tourists to really enjoy its beauty in a relaxed atmosphere as everyone is more or less hoping around trying to get the perfect shot of the beach.
Even though the visit of Whitehaven Beach was the highlight of our sailing trip, there was another really cool thing that we did on our second day: Snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef. There is an “inner reef” and an “outer reef” and since I didn’t go for the diving it was just fine to jump in the water with the snorkeling gear they handed us and explore the colorful sea life of the “inner reef” near one of the islands of the archipelago.
In the evening we sailed to a quiet bay and luckily we could spot a dolphin right next to our boat after sunset. It was a lot of fun to hang out with the captain and the other backpackers in the dining cabin that evening, playing board games and exchanging our travel stories.
By the way: The term “sailing trip” is not quite true. Even though the boats are equipped with huge head- and mainsails they are all motorized and definitely don’t use the wind to get from island to island.
I paid 280$ for a 2 day overnight trip trip around the Whitsunday Islands; all meals and drinks (except alcohol), national park entrance fee and snorkeling gear included.
Have you been traveling Australia’s east coast already or is it still on your to-do-list? If you have done a few of these overnight tours as well – what was your favorite one? Let us know in the comments.