WHERE AUSTRALIA SHINES
JOHN HESSELWOOD cruises along Queensland’s coast, highlighting a few of the more popular boating locations along the way...
Having such a vast coastline, Queensland is blessed with myriad waterways suited to boating. It’s hard to single one out, but the three at the top of my list are The Whitsundays, The Great Sandy Strait and Moreton Bay and its southern islands.
The Whitsunday Islands is without doubt one of the prettiest places in the country – and for good reason. The Whitsundays is a group of more than 150 islands and islets surrounded by brilliant turquoise-coloured waters off the sub-tropical central coast between approximately 20° and 21° south latitude. Most of the islands are uninhabited, pristine national parks. Seven of the islands have resorts.
Defining nature at its best, Whitehaven Beach (on the east side of Whitsunday Island, the largest of the islands) is perhaps the most popular destination in the Whitsundays. The crystal clear, azzure waters and pristine silica sand of Whitehaven stretch for over 7km.
There is a huge rise and fall in the tides in this part of the world and, given the right conditions, it can get very rough. There are many sheltered waterways, though, that will ensure it is the perfect cruising or sailing destination.
There are a number of excellent all-round anchorages, and although many of them can become crowded, it is always possible to find a nice quiet spot. Of course, if you want something a little more upmarket for the night, Hamilton Island is always worth a visit.
Providing many of the essential services for boaters and travellers is Airlie Beach on the mainland. The shopping areas are open seven days a week, while dining and entertainment options in and around Airlie Beach range from silver service resort dining to cafes and cheap eats. There are also clubs and bars to provide plenty of entertainment well into the night.
THE GREAT SANDY STRAIT
About 800km to the south is where I grew up with boats, Hervey Bay – the northern gateway to The Great Sandy Strait. Separating the mainland from Fraser Island, the strait is a sheltered waterway that provides excellent protection from the season’s prevailing winds – southeast in winter and northeast in summer. It’s here you’ll find enough space and freedom to leave your cares far behind for a week or two.
To the north is Platypus Bay, which is famous for whale watching when the humpbacks and their calves make it home for a while on the southern leg of their annual migration. The bay is edged by the pristine, white sand beaches of Fraser Island and is a perfect place to spend the day before heading south into The Great Sandy Strait.
After cruising along the eastern shore of Woody Island past Little Woody and Duck islands, you are soon at the first ‘must stop’ anchorage – Fraser Island’s world-renowned Kingfisher Bay resort, where boaters are more than welcome.
Heading south from here, Fraser Island boasts fantastic scenery as a backdrop to an abundance of sheltered fishing spots. There are also plenty of reminders of the once thriving timber cutting industry at anchorages such as Garry’s and McKenzie’s Jetty. Garry’s Anchorage is the most popular stop-over in the straits for cruising yachts. As one boater put it – being tucked up in Garry’s during a howling southeaster is like being home in front of a fire on a rainy winter’s night.
The Great Sandy Strait has more than its share of fascinating estuaries and anchorages with matching descriptive names such as Teebar and Snapper creeks and little islands like Pannikin, Slain, Dream, Tooth, Round Bush and Moonboom.
Heading further south toward Tin Can Bay, the mainland is dotted with quaint fishing villages such as Tinnanbar, Maaroom, Boonooroo, Tuan and Poona.
Navigating The Great Sandy Strait does take a lot of care as it is dotted with endless sand banks, but the channels are very well marked and charted.
At the bottom of Fraser Island, the strait spills out into the Pacific Ocean at Inskip Point where the Wide Bay bar often presents a challenging crossing into the wild blue yonder.
On my doorstep now I have the cruising grounds of Moreton Bay and its southern islands between Brisbane and the Gold Coast.
At the northern end of the bay are some magnificent anchorages off the eastern side of Moreton Island such as the famous Tangalooma Wrecks, Lucinda Bay, Sand Hills and Days Gutter. To the east lie the historic islands of St Helena, Green, North Stradbroke and Peel which offer good anchorages and excellent fishing.
Further south on the eastern side of North Stradbroke Island you find the peace and tranquillity of Myora, with its freshwater spring, or a quiet anchorage a little further south called the One Mile. Across the way is the fabulous beach at Horseshoe Bay on the southern side of Peel Island and when the wind comes from the south, you have the perfect protection of the Lazaret on the northern side.
The most protected part of the bay for those seeking calmer waters is surrounded by a series of islands right down to the Gold Coast Broadwater. The inhabited islands include Coochiemudlo, Karragarra, Lamb, Macleay and Russell. In this tranquil waterway you will find protection no matter where the wind is blowing from and there are several marinas and many anchorages along the way.
Many say that Moreton Bay is Australia’s best keep secret when it comes to boating grounds, but it really is no secret, nor is the rest of Queensland’s vast coastline.
MOST IMAGES COURTESY: Tourism Queensland