How to do the Whitsundays in 72 hours: road-tested by ‘Honey Badger’ Nick Cummins
While filming the most recent instalment of National Geographic’s documentary series, Meanwhile in Australia, Nick ‘Honey Badger’ Cummins was flat out like a lizard drinking in this idyllic part of the world.
Strap in and have a good Captain Cook at how you can do a long weekend in the Whitsundays like the Honey Badger.
10AM: Attack it at pace
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Hanging with the fishes today out at Bait Reef. Green zones like this are always good spots to see big fish. Highlight today was a school of 12 huge Bumphead Parrotfish crunchin a few stony corals and a chilled Hawksbill… 👍 day out with @exploregroupaus @queensland @_markfitz and @jarrodmeakins (snorkeller) #thisisqueensland
Day one and like the Badger we’re heading straight for the biggest icon of them all, the Great Barrier Reef.
Tip: While the islands have fringing reef systems, the outer reef is the place to be. For coral for days, the south-west side of Border Island is my pick, while Manta Ray Bay off Hook Island has resident Giant Trevally’s and Maori Wrasse that are awesome to snorkel with.
For the reef-seeker who prefers a bit of downtime and a range of other reef activities including helicopter flights (hello!), Cruise Whitsundays’ Hardy Reef Pontoon is for you. Alternatively, if you prefer to be face down in the water for as long as possible, Explore Group’s Bait Reef tour has your number.
PM: TAKE A CHILL PILL
A cold beer sitting on the front deck of the boat as you pass the Whitsunday Islands is a cracking way to finish your day. When back on land (both companies pick up and drop off at Hamilton Island and Airlie Beach) there’s time to enjoy the sunset before heading out for dinner.
For fine-dining in Airlie Beach, look no further than the Chef Hatted Walters Lounge overlooking the Port of Airlie Marina. Other top spots include Hemingways Restaurant at Abell Point Marina and local stalwart Fish D’vine.
Set up shop for the night (that’s Badger for a place to sleep) at one of the many accommodation options in Airlie Beach here.
AM: Win the morning, win the day
Up at sparrow-fart (AKA dawn) and back on the water – we’re heading like a bull at a gate to one of the best beaches in the world – Whitehaven Beach.
For group tours, it’s hard to beat Ocean Rafting. The award-winning tour races you to the beach with plenty of time to enjoy the famed silica sands and the short walk up Tongue Point to the Hill Inlet lookouts.
With two new lookouts, there’s never been a better time to snap some shots to blow up your gram’ after you’ve enjoyed all this ridgy-didge beach has to offer.
If you’re craving a more personal experience, a day on Whitsundays Paradise Explorer, skippered by John Henderson who has been charting these waters for 18 years, is the way to go. From hidden snorkel spots (ask him about giant clams) to the Whitsundays newest walking trails, John will create a memorable one-of-a-kind day for you and your group of up to six.
8AM: One last dig before you say hooroo (goodbye)
It’s time to pack up and head north on a little adventure before departure. The first stop will make you say “oh my god” mainly due to the views, or maybe because it’s the name of the place. We’ll let you decide.
Enter Cape Gloucester, Hideaway Bay and Oh My God Hill. These beauties are local faves with palm tree lined sandy beaches (perfect for the gram), secluded coves and views out to Gloucester Island.
Tip: There are more shades of blue in the waters around Hideaway Bay than the paint-sample section at Bunnings. In the words of the Badger himself, this part of Queensland is just full of it so make sure you have your phone handy to snap some shots for the ‘gram.
PM: FOLLOW THE MANGO
Charging on a little further you’ll land in Bowen – you might know it as the mango capital of Australia but, after you leave, it’ll be the hidden cove capital of Australia to you.
Set yourself for Greys Bay first, before heading a little further up to Horseshoe Bay. From here, leave the car and take the easy 2.5km Cape Edgecumbe Walking Trail that traverses Murray Bay and ends at Rose Bay.
Be sure to pack your fins, mask and snorkel as Bowen is one of the only places on the Queensland Coast where you can walk from the shore and explore the fringing reef. Horseshoe, Rose and Murray Bays’ all have coral coverage to check out in the right conditions.
When you’re in this part of the world, it’s hard to say no to fresh prawns from Birds Fish Bar at the Bowen Fishermen’s Seafood Co. Pick up a pack and head back to one of the bays for that perfect Queensland beach-side picnic.
For the 50-minute drive to the airport pickup either a coffee (the apple pie is good too) from Jocheim’s Café in the middle of town or a mango sorbet from the Visitor Information Centres (either on the Esplanade in Bowen or at the Big Mango on the Bruce Highway).
And that cobbers, is how you tackle the Whitsundays like the Honey Badger. So, what are you waiting for? Attack it with pace and get yourself to the Whitsundays quicker than two shakes of a sauce bottle.