I love the Whitsundays

Airlie Beach - Small town with a big personality.

Boathaven Resort - Sunday, August 15, 2010
I have written about Airlie Beach before and I am very passionate about this region and what it has to offer. However, I was a bit naive in thinking that all small towns have a wonderful vitality and quirkiness about them. We recently went on a road trip and stayed over night in a well known small town that is 3 times the size of Airlie Beach.We went out for dinner and had to drive around and around before we could find something that was open after 7:30 p.m. besides the local McDonalds or Red Rooster.  Of course the best option we found was the local pub and even though it was a bit run down and could use a lick of paint we were happy to find somewhere that had people in it. The pub had about 10 people at the bar and 6 people sitting around the dining tables. The waitress looked like she was trying to serve drinks at the MCG for a grand final crowd. She was seriously stressed about the number of patrons that had desended on the pub and our group of four just took that number up by 25%. 
I will admit the steak was good and everyone had a great meal and it was relatively inexpensive for what you received. But the atmosphere was shocking. Nobody was talking or laughing except for us (of course everyone was staring at our table). Nobody was playing pool or watching the games on the TV. They came to consume food and go home. After our meal we went for a walk down the street and everything was closed, including the cop shop. There were no cars on the road, no late night shops, no parks with bands playing, nothing.  So we went to the hotel/motel, which was now all closed up as well, and went to our rooms for the night.
While I was laying there in the motel I was thinking that our town is 1/3  this size and it seems like New York City compared to this town. Why is it so boring? Then it dawned on me,  it's because of the continual influx of tourist we get to the Whitsunday region that keeps our town vibrant and full of life. I know this should not be a lightbulb moment, I have always known we have some of the shops and services only because Airlie Beach is a tourist town, but it never dawned on me that other towns that are much bigger are so boring because they do not have tourist. I love living in a small town (most of the time) but I could only do it if it was a tourist town. The tourist are the reason we have a variety of restaurants to choose from that stay open to the late hours of the evening,  we have specialised shops with the latest fashions and gadgets on offer, we have free swimming lagoons, sailing clubs, festivals, and so much to do. The tourist are the reason the government gives us more money for infrastuctures that we need. The tourist visiting Airlie Beach is the reason we have all the beauty therapist, repair places, mechanics, and distributers of a variety of products. The needs from the Whitsunday Island resorts is the reason a lot of the suppliers, that us smaller operators on the mainland use, are here in the town. The locals lives are easier and more productive because we are a major tourist destination so we have services like taxi's and limo's. Services that a town of our size would not have if it was not for the tourist.
So I just want to thank all the tourist that visit Airlie Beach every year,  because you are the reason my favorite town in the Whitsundays is so great. 

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Sailing - Bareboat Vs. Charter

Boathaven Resort - Friday, July 30, 2010
We get a lot of people that choose to stay at Boathaven Spa Resort pre and post sailing tours. so we get a lot of feedback about their experiences. Sailing in the Whitsundays is one of the most amazing things you could do in your life as it is the perfect backdrop for a sailing adventure.  We have calm seas due to the islands and reef system breaking the waves, beautiful scenery, plenty of safe inlets  to moor overnight, and Australian icons such as Whitehaven Beach to visit. So the question should not be "should I go sailing in the Whitsundays" as the answer is a profound yes. The question should be "should I sail myself (bareboat) or go on a crewed sailing adventure".  The answer to that depends on many things.

Bareboat Sailing - there are many options in the Whitsundays to choose from if you want to go sailing on your own with just your friends and family. There are privately owned yachts and small and large companies that have many yachts to choose from. Whitsunday Rent a Yacht and Cumberland Yacht Charters are two very popular mainland bareboat companies and we also have Sunsail based on Hamilton Island.
You do not need to be an experienced sailor to hire a bareboat but I believe to enjoy yourself you should have the basic skills. The Whitsunday region is a relatively safe place to sail as it is quite protected but I believe it's much better and more relaxing for everyone if someone on board has sailed before and has experience. The positives of bareboat sailing is the freedom it allows you to choose what you want to do, what you want to eat, where you want to go, and who you want to hang out with. Most of the boats are kept in excellent condition and have maintenance that can help you if you have any problems during your journey. The negatives would be for some that it is a hands on holiday. It's like camping but on the water in a luxurious environment. You prepare all your own meals, you need to be able to sail the vessel to the correct locations, you clean up after yourself, and your responsible for the yacht at all times. You have to provide your own provisions and if you forget something it's not convenient to restock. Cost wise it is much more expensive than shared crewed sailing but then you don't have the freedoms with the shared crew sailing that you get with bareboat sailing. Most charters are a minimum of 5 days so there is few options for short getaways.

Crewed sailing
- when I refer to crewed sailing I mean shared cabin crewed sailing. You can hire a skipper on a bareboat charter and that is not what we are referring to here. Crewed sailing offers an amazing abundance of styles of tours and types of yachts to choose from. You can have trips from 2 day/1 night all the way to 6 day/ 6 night journeys. There are boats that cater to the adventure sailor, backpacker, luxury with private cabins and bathrooms, divers, and a mix of others. There is a few good crewed sailing companies that depart from the mainland. Prosail - Maxi Yachts caters to the backpacker and adventure market, Explore Whitsundays - has a mix of and yachts with private cabins and Maxi's, or companies that have boats like Whitsunday Magic or Pacific Sunrise which specialize in couples and offer more luxurious surroundings. The positives about crewed sailing is that you can sit back relax and enjoy the scenery or get involved in the sailing if you wish. All your meals are prepared for you and there are crew that can take care of your needs and do most of the cleaning up. It is much less expensive than bareboat because you are only renting a cabin and not the entire boat and you do not have to purchase provisions.The negatives to some may be the lack of privacy, structured itineraries, and food options. (however I have been on a few of the shared charter boats and the food was fabulous on all of them) The biggest negative I believe is that you can't choose who else books the tour. So it's luck of the draw regarding what type of people you may end up spending the next few days  with.

There are a few things you need to consider before going on an overnight sailing adventure around the Whitsunday Islands. Both options are great but some will suit you better than others. The most important piece of advice I can offer you is to stay away from the dodgy operators. If something looks really cheap there is a reason for it. Stick with the bigger operators for the bareboats and make sure your crewed charter boat has the WCBIA logo and tick of approval.

Enjoy your sailing adventure!
Boathaven Spa Resort

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Big Game Fishing

Boathaven Resort - Tuesday, July 13, 2010

I used to really enjoy a day out game fishing around the Whitsunday Islands. I loved everything about it! Game fishing is an individual sport that requires the support of a team (if your serious). There could be four anglers on the boat and your all supporting each other but when that line pops off the outrigger and you hear that "zzzzz" of the line reeling out,  it's each man (or lady) for themselves.

That uncertainty of what's on the other end of the line is what I enjoy the most. Experienced fishermen can tell what it is by the feel from the rod, but every now & then everyone is surprised by the catch.Up here in the Whitsundays, it could be anything from Marlin, Spanish Mackerel, or even a yellow fin tuna. We are not as well known as Cairns for big game fishing but I can guarantee you will get plenty of action out the back of Hayman Island or out near the reef.  Heck, my husband even tagged a SMALL blue marlin just out of South Molle Island, only 15 minutes from the mainland. (okay when I say small I mean about 30 kg. We were teasing him the whole trip that he caught a newborn.) .

You might have noticed that when I started this blog I said I used to really enjoy it. Well the reason for this is that back then I was younger, no kids, and not trying to run a few businesses. I would really enjoy sitting back and trolling for hours waiting for the strike, not a care in the world and plenty of time to waste. Now if I don't catch anything within 1/2 hour I am over it. All I can think about is all the things I could be doing instead of just sitting here staring at the ocean. So the last 5 years I have not been real excited about going game fishing.  I do enjoy what we refer to as bottom bashing. Which is fishing for reef fish with a hand line. I like it because I have to think about it and it's soley up to me if it works or not (well me and the fish), and you can catch great fish for the table.  So my son and my husband will continue the tradition of being a good game fishing person, that was handed to me from my mum, and I will find other hobbies that spark my interest these days.

I do want to share with you a very funny fishing story that happened a few years ago. Damien & I were out on a mate's charter boat, Marlin Blue, and he had a few tourist on the boat as well. There were 6 of us all together including the skipper, Ken. Well one of the tourist was an englishman and he was a combination of arrogant and daft which is not a good mix, especially on a small boat with 6 strangers and lots of lethal weapons lying around. It was a slow day as far as fishing was going so Ken decided that he would stop out near The Cones and try and let the anglers catch a few little stripy on a small rod reel combo, to use for bait later on.  While Ken was reeling in a small bait fish, a large Spanish Mackerel came and took the bait fish and started giving Ken a good fight.  So Ken decide it would be a fun fight and he handed the small rod/reel combo to the Englishman as he was standing right behind Ken and had not stopped talking. So Ken thought letting him fight a spanish mackerel with a small rod/reel would wear him out a bit and shut him up.

Well let's just say it did not have the effect we wanted but oh my it was the funniest thing I have ever seen and I still chuckle whenever I think about it now. First of all he had reel turned the wrong way with his rod over the reel. When Ken asked if he would be more comfortable the other way around he snapped back and said to get out of his way. So we all backed up and let the expert go it alone.

After about 10 minutes of the Englishman reeling in the mackerel pretty easy, with the biggest grin on his face, he turned to one of the other tourist and said that he would be happy to offer lessons later on how to catch the big ones.  Then the mackerel turned on him and stripped his line to about 50% of what he had reeled in, in about 2 seconds. This guy was sweating and huffing and he almost went over the transom twice and slowly started to turn the fish and gain some line back.  The Englishman was pulling back so hard that I though the little rod would break before the line was going to.  He was actually doing good job of pulling and winding, pulling and winding and we could start to see off in the distance the mackerel having a little jump. Then all of a sudden the line got really easy to wind in, not easy like a line broke, but easy like the fish just gave up and was not putting up a fight. I looked at Ken, who was up on the fly bridge, with a confused look on my face and he mouthed the word Shark to me. In the mean time, the Englishman was reeling in the "fish" and proudly announcing to everyone how he had tamed the beast and that the mackerel met his match. Damien, Ken, and I were finding it hard not to burst out laughing because it would be really rude. The Englishman proudly wound up his "fish" to the boat and pulled up the line to show us his very large Mackerel HEAD minus one body.  The Englishman looked very startled and then proudly boast "I pulled so hard that I have pulled the head completely off the fish" at which everyone on board the boat bust out laughing, and proceeded to pat him on the back and told him to tell all his friends how he fought the fish so hard that he actually ripped the head off.
About 6 months later Ken received an e-mail from this guy. He asked Ken if he could look into something for him. The Englishman reckons his friend that is an avid fishermen doesn't believe he pulled the head off the fish and most likely a shark ate the body of the mackerel while he was reeling it in. Ken advised the man that his friend was just jealous and to continue to tell his amazing story to anyone who would listen.
For those that don't get the story - yes it was a shark and no the guy did not pull the head off a fish.
Boathaven Spa Resort

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Learning to Dive - Whitsunday Style

Boathaven Resort - Monday, June 28, 2010

I have a few friends in the Whitsundays that own or operate their own Padi Scuba Dive companies. They teach people to dive and become certified, the offer resort dives on tours (this is for beginners or those not certified), and they also offer PADI advanced dive courses.

I have always been an avid snorkeller. I like ability to relax, float on the surface, and see the beautiful corals and marine life that is quite abundant on and near the Great Barrier Reef. My friends have teased me for years about being afraid to go diving and because I always stand up to a challenge I agreed to give it a go.

I decided to go out on Cruise Whitsunday Great Barrier Reef adventures and dive with Reef Safari. They are a popular option in our region and I had heard lot's of great feedback from our guest about the service. So off to the Great Barrier Reef I go.  I would like to mention that I was assigned a dive instructor that I lovingly referred to as Mum's hot eye candy. It helps, when you think you may die, that at least their going to find you in the arms of an amazingly hot young man. Now I know scuba diving is relatively safe but I also now that man was not supposed to breath under water and this is the conflict in my head that will not go away.

Anyway, we get to the pontoon that is permanently moored out at the reef. After 15 minutes of shoving my body into a wetsuit that I swear was given to me as a joke because it was two sizes to small, I was ready to go and swim with the fishes.
I just want to quickly mention the wetsuit. Ladies, this thing does wonders for your figure, it pushes up all the bits and smooths out all the lumps. Unfortunatly it pushed all my bits up to the top and all of a sudden I was sporting a double D rack. I have a photo of myself in this outfit before we got in the water and I proudly display it on my desk, as I looked like I did when I was 18, and that alone was worth the dive experience even without diving.

So I head down the platform to where Reef Safari does the beginner dive training and Mum's hot eye candy is taking away all the nerves and i'm starting to get really excited. Then the instructor hands me a weight belt and advises me that this will help me sink. Now I am excited because never have I been told extra weight was required to complete a task, normally it is the opposite. I mention this to the instructor and he tells me the most offensive thing that has ever been said to me and they lived to tell about it. He says "the weights are for people that have more body fat as you tend to float, we will start you with one large belt and see how you go". Now I know the precious young man meant no offence but he almost lost an appendage with that statement.  Well, three weight belts later and I finally start to level out under water without floating to the top and have boats trying to tie up to me. It does not help that he wetsuit has created two size double D floating devices that are slowing moving up around my ears.

Well it is off to the adventures under water and I am holding on to my instructors hand (while I imaginge what our kids may look like) while he guides me under the pontoon and out to the expansive Great Barrier Reef which is only meters away.  Everything is going fine and I assume we are relatively close to the surface because I feel so comfortable. Then I tilted my head back to release a bit of pressure from my ears and I realise that we are about 10 meters under the surface and my mind starts racing. My instructor must have noticed as he gave me the OK sign of which I promptly gave him the OK sign back. I was not going to let this get to me. Obviously we were still going lower into the deapths of the Great Barrier Reef and I lifted my had again to adjust the ear pressure and somehow a small amount of sea water got into my mouth. It made it's way to the back of my throat and for some reason I seriously needed to cough. 

Uuummmm.. How do you cough under water with a regulator in your mouth? Did we go over that in the training class? Damn the cute instructor, it's his fault I was not paying attention, and now I am in absolute panic mode.

I look at the instructor, he must see the panic in my face because he looks a bit panicked, I shake my head and start kicking as hard as I can to the surface. (by the way this is the 1st lesson that they teach you of what not do) I feel the instuctor trying to grab my leg and all Ii can think is "you can shove that OK sign where the sun don't shine" I am out of here. About 2 meters from the surface I decide the most logical thing to do is rip my mask off because hey! it was in the way and the only thing it was doing was providing me with life giving oxygen. I break through the surface and I am trying to stay up with the three dang weight belts on. I am floating on my back when the instructor pop's up next to me with a big grin on his face. I said he could leave me and that I would just float over to the pontoon and I was not going to finish my dive. He shook his head and told me that he was not going to let me quit. I thought that was very noble of him considering I was contemplating knocking his block off.  He advised me to relax, just hold his hand and let him guide me, all I need to do is enjoy my surroundings. I nervously agreed to try it again.

This time I did exactly what I was told. I relaxed, held on to my georgous instructor, and took in the spetacular views of the corals and marine animals. IT WAS AMAZING. I saw sea turtles, close enough to touch, the entire cast of Finding Nemo, spectacular corals of all shapes and sizes, huge clams, and even off in the distance a Mantaray glided by.

We spent a good half hour under the sea and he had to squeeze my hand a few times to get me to agree to go back up to the surface. Once it was over and we swam back to the pontoon I had a smile as big as the Great Barrier Reef itself. That is until I got over excited and forgot I had three weight belts on and jumped up on the platform only to collapse under all the weight. Much to the amusement of the other instructors and experienced divers getting ready to start their dives. 

I have to say I still love a snorkel but I do go diving when the chance comes around and my goal this next year is to become a certified diver. Most first time dive experiences are not as traumatic as mine but that is my life. Diving the Great Barrier Reef should be on everyones Bucket List!!

Boathaven Spa Resort

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Whitsunday Coast Vs. Whitsunday Islands

Boathaven Resort - Saturday, June 19, 2010

There is no arguing at all, if it was not for the Whitsunday Islands most of the tourist would not come here. The 74 islands that make up the Whitsunday group are amazingly beautiful, majestic, and definitly the main draw card to get people to come Whitsunday region.

The question is "Should we stay on one of  the Whitsunday Island Resorts or on the Whitsunday Coast

I know your thinking, this is a blog from a Whitsunday Coast accomodation website so of course it's going to be biased toward the Whitsunday Coast. Well,  I am going to try my hardest to be as accurate as possible about both options as they both have positve and negative attributes. I lived on the islands for 6 years so I have a good idea about both options.

Everyone going on holidays has this romantic idea of staying on a tropical island, drinking a frozen cocktail served to you around the pool, watching amazing sunsets whilst dining on the beach,  and no other people around you. Hey, it's what they show in the pictures so why would you not believe that is exactly how it's going to be. Believe me, it can be like this, but you need to do your research and pick the right island for what you are wanting. Remember the more secluded = the more expensive.  Picking the right island is key because once your there you can't decide at dinner that you would rather be somewhere else, there is no were to go.
If you can't afford the Whitsunday Island Resort you believe is the right one for you, please do not just find one that meets your pricing level and pick that one. When I say you NEED to make sure you do your research and pick the island resort that best suits your needs, i'm serious. I guarantee you that not all islands resorts are equal and it may be the only similarities they have are that they are surrounded by water.            If you have kids you need to make sure that they don't just "allow" kids but that they have a program for the kids and they "welcome" kids. Sitting around the pool reading the latest novel may sound like heaven to you but I can guarantee you that it is not the idea your kids have of a holiday.  If you are wanting Whitsunday Honeymoon then you may want to look for the "no kids" policy because the last thing you want to do is have screaming toddlers at every meal and pram jam in the lobby while your trying to book a Great Barrier Reef tour.

If your a foodie and expect a certain choice or style of foods,  call the resort and ask specific questions about your dining options. The worst thing that could happen is you arrive on the island with your five night, non-refundable holiday, and the only options are buffet breakfast, a seafood a la carte option for lunch, and a themed dinner buffet each night. If your not into seafood or prefer a lighter option you could be out of luck.  Most of the island resorts offer more than one dining outlet and some resorts have a large variety to choose from, but it's always best to check what is available and is it in your budget.  I can't tell you how many times I have seen families share a large basket of hot chips because they had no idea how expensive the meals were on the island they went to. There are some AMAZING food options on the islands so don't be weary, just be informed. Dining and beverages on islands are typically much dearer (not always but most of the time) than the same option on the mainland for obvious reasons.
On the mainland, Whitsunday Coastal region,  you have the most variety of dining options and prices from fast food outlets to upmarket dining on the waterfront. You also have the choices of food style like Chinese, Thai, Japanese, modern australian, steaks, seafood, pub style, Indian, Italian, and Mediteranean.  The downside is that you may need to get a taxi or hire a car to get to the restaurants unless your resort is located close to town. None of the resorts have swim up pool bars and 360 degree views of the ocean but most have ocean views.

Access to the Whitsunday icons, the Great Barrier Reef and Whitehaven Beach, can be limited on the islands. As most of the tours depart from the mainland,  they do not pick up from the island resorts. Some may pick up at one resort, or the other, but none of the resorts offer as many tour options as the mainland does. The islands either have their one tour that is owned by the island or they have one option to go see either iconic destination. It is also hard to travel in between islands. If you wanted to visit another resort island for the afternoon you will find it difficult if not impossible. While from the mainland you can access many islands in just one day.  It may be less expensive to go to the Great Barrier Reef or Whitehaven Beach from the islands as you are located closer to the tour destination. Both the islands and the mainland offer other tour options outside of the Great Barrier Reef and Whitehaven Beach, such as jet skiing, helicopter tours, snorkeling, and sailing adventures. You won't run out of options with either location.

Basically, if all you have ever thought about is having a holiday on a island then by all means do it, as you will regret it if you don't. If you just want to experience tropical islands then stay on the mainland and you will have the freedom to visit the Whitsunday Islands everyday. You will also have a choice of what you want to eat, how much you want to spend, and what style of tour you would like to take. And hands down, the mainland resorts are less expensive than the island resorts so you have more money to experience the wonders of the Whitsunday region.

To tour or not to tour...that is the question.

Boathaven Resort - Monday, June 07, 2010
We get a lot of people visiting and the most common question is "Should we take a tour and if so which one" and then I inveritably get the question "what do you suggest".
The main problem with this scenario is that there is SO much to choose from;  it's like going to Myers and asking a complete stranger what shoes should you get.  I always ask a few qualifiing questions so we can quickly narrow it do to a few options and then I advise the guest to take the brochures away and read for a bit and give us a call with their choice and we will book it in for you.

We have three types of guest when it comes to booking tours - "the ponderer",  the "yep sounds good", and the dreaded "assuminators"  and all have their positives and negatives.
"The Ponderer" - This is the game of 20 questions that never ends. I like these people because 1. it test my knowledge and I always feel like Einstien after they depart and  2. I know that in the end they are going to love their trip because they found the exact trip that suits their needs.  These people are challenging because they forget why they are taking a tour, to relax and enjoy themselves, and focus on the most minute details of the trip that at the end of the day will not make a difference to their experience.

"Yep Sounds Good" - seems like they would be the perfect people you want to book tours and they probably would if it were not for the fact that I actually care about your experience when you take a tour. These people will agree to whatever tour I suggest as long as it is in their price range. I could suggest a 1/2 day snail hunting expedition and I would get Yep sounds good - book us in. I am pretty good a reading people and have a lot of knowledge about the tours so I tend to get it right, most of the time. The issue I have with this group is that I actually sit up at night wondering if they had a good day because I know that the decision was totally mine.

"the Assuminator" - these guest assume there is a tour that can go to Whitehaven Beach and the Great Barrier Reef all in one day, and don't believe you when you say it is not possible. These people assume that even though you never said it , the tour they chose was serving full seafood buffets for lunch and want an explanation on the return as to why it did not happen. They will book the opposite of what I suggest and then get angry with me when they return because it was not the experience they assumed was going to happen. The one positive is that if you figure out they are assuminators before they book you can use a bit of reverse psychology and get them on a trip that they will really enjoy.

Anyway, enough about the guest, more on the tours.

In the Whitsundays, there are two main options to visit - the beautiful Whitehaven Beach and the iconic Great Barrier Reef.   The Great Barrier Reef is pretty simple, there are two tour companies that visit the actual Great Barrier Reef,  Fantasea Cruises and Cruise Whitsunday.  Both offer relatively the same experience and every seller of this tour has a their preferred fror what ever small reason but you could not go wrong with either of the choices.  Whitehaven Beach tours are as abundant as croc's in the NT. This is were you can come undone if you pick the wrong option for you. Almost all includes some form of snorkeling in a cove with fringing reef as well as a few hours on Whitehaven Beach. The differences would be type of vessel you are traveling in. Small, big, sail, motor cruise, slow, fast - all choices when going to Whitehaven. Some include bush walks, resort island stop overs, and Hill inlet lookout and all include some form of lunch. 
My top 5 ways to see Whitehaven Beach are:
1. Camira - Sailing Catamaran
2. Ocean Rafting - High speed rubber duck boat
3. Mantaray - small numbers, motor cruiser
4. By Helicoptor or Sea Plane w/ a picnic lunch
5. Voyager - Daydream Island, Hook Island, and Whitehaven Beach

And there are a few others worthy of a mention but this is a blog not a novel. 

And last but not least are the "don't fit in the box tours" that are actually some of my favorite of all the tours available in the region.
Most notable would be the EcoJet Safari which is a ocean safari you take on Jet Ski's with a small group and you jet ski around the Whitsunday Islands and up the Proserpine River with croc's (yes I said you jet ski with CROC's) and it is beautiful, fun, interactive, and very unique.
The Crocodile Safari is another that is an oldie but a goodie. This tour is great if you have kids but it's really good if your just adults as well. And no I do not have a thing for croc's, but they are very cool and we seem to have a fair few in the Proserpine River system. You get to see the wetlands as well and have real dampa and billy tea with your lunch, very Australian.
The new inclusion would be the 1/2 day Yellow Sub and snorkel adventure.  This is a great option if you have a late flight, have kids and do not want a full day out, or here just for a short stay but want to see something. You take a high speed boat out to Bali Hai Island for a snorkel (great place to see turtles) and then go in a submarine around the reef system to see all of the sites you could not see while snorkeling. It's quick, fun, beautiful location, and small numbers.

So the answer to the question "should I take a tour" is most definatly YES. Even if it is your 100th time to visit the region, always try and get out on the water or see something new because the Coral Sea is magical. It revives your soul and gives you memories for a lifetime.  If you can't get on a tour then at the very least go and take a drive to see Cedar Creek Falls or Dingo Beach. Don't come to the Whitsundays Coast and sit in your room reading a book, see what all the hoopla is about and be a tourist. Take the tour.

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