Budget travel: How to do the Whitsundays for under $100 per day
Think a holiday to the glorious Whitsundays is too expensive and out of your price range? Think again!
Wake up under canvas, meet some new friends, sail the islands, sample the local cuisine, kayak with dugongs and enjoy the Great Barrier Reef. It’s all possible for much less than you’d think.
Whether you travel by yourself, as a couple or with a group of mates you don’t have to spend a fortune to understand why this part of the world is one of the most desirable and aspirational travel locations on the planet.
Over the last three years I’ve managed to uncover some real gems dotted around Airlie Beach and the 74 islands that make up the Whitsunday group, so it’s about time I shared these secrets with you.
If, like me, adventure is something you relish, then take to the water for a camping trip with a difference. Pack your life into dry-bags, plot your route on the map, grab a paddle and take to the sheltered waters that surround the islands.
Imagine cooking freshly caught fish on the barbeque, sipping a cold beer as the sun sets on your first day, and preparing to camp on a sandy beach. It’s my idea of heaven.
You could climb to the top of the island’s peaks, walk along Whitehaven Beach, snorkel with thousands of fish, devour a good book… or if you’re really lucky, spot an elusive dugong.
Salty Dog Sea Kayaking and Whitsunday Camping offer some of the best package deals for your own Voyage of Discovery, much like Captain Cook 240 years ago.
Everything you need can be hired including kayaks, safety gear, tents, camping kit – they’ll even book your camping permits for you.
What’s the damage? $60 per person, per day (plus food) based on two people for six days.
Experiencing the Great Barrier Reef is a ‘must-do’ if you’re in Queensland and you don’t have to break the bank to do it.
Blue Pearl Bay, Butterfly Bay and Luncheon Bay all offer sheltered snorkel and dive sites and you can get to them all in one day. In a single snorkel session at Langford Spit I managed to photograph all of these stunning hard and soft corals.
Illusions offer a two island sailing cruise in one day. Jump on-board at Abell Point Marina, sail across the Whitsunday passage, don a snorkel and mask (or SCUBA gear for a little more) and have fun with the fishes.
What’s the damage? $85 per person (add $70 for a dive).
Airlie Beach is one of THE backpacking destinations in Australia with its glorious lagoon, tropical weather, access to the islands and vibrant nightlife.
There’s a multitude of backpacking options available but for a consistent experience, the YHA network wins my vote. It’s clean and tidy, with fresh sheets every day and group activities most evenings means you feel part of the travelling world.
Having your own room and ensuite bathroom needn’t cost the earth though if you’re looking for a bit of privacy.
What’s the damage? YHA Airlie Beach – $88 per night for double room with ensuite (members pay $69).
Now here’s one you probably wouldn’t have thought possible. Chartering your own yacht to cruise around the islands!
Plan your trip with a group of around eight mates, ensure at least one of you has the relevant marine skills to sail the boat (skippers can be hired too), pack your sunscreen, swimmers and snorkel and set sail for a secluded inlet.
Bareboats are THE way to get out on the water and live the yachtie-tottie lifestyle without having to be a Formula One driver or own a coal mine. You could cruise along Whitehaven Beach, explore the Ngaro Aboriginal Sea Trails, climb to the top of Whitsunday Peak or just drop anchor and watch the sun go down as your rib-eye steak sears on the barbeque beside you.
What’s the damage? A bareboat charter with Queensland Yacht Charters costs around $55 per person, per day for a 39-foot mono-hull (based on a seven day charter).
After all of that frenetic activity above and below the water you’re bound to have built up quite an appetite.
Airlie Beach Hotel‘s Localvore Tour showcases the Whitsunday region’s locally grown produce with a visit to nearby farms to see how coffee, lemon myrtle and ‘beefalo’ is produced. The tour culminates with a 100 per cent localvore dinner to taste all the goodness you’ve just seen.
What’s the damage? The Localvore Tour departs from Airlie Beach Hotel once a month, visits three farms and returns for a three-course dinner at the hotel for $79 per person.