Goldsmith Island to Hope Island Marina
05 November 2008
November 6, 2008
The Whitsunday Islands, QLD, and New Zealand
When we left Hope Island Resort Marina on July 26 headed north, our objective was to visit the Whitsunday Islands located north of Mackay, further up the Queensland coast. By September 6 we were anchored at Goldsmith Island off a beautiful crescent beach where I found many small pieces of broken coral, bleached by the sun and polished by water and sand yet showing the intricate coral architecture on the surface. I think the smaller ones will make beautiful pendants.
After Goldsmith, we stopped at Shaw Island, then Lindeman Island, then Cid Harbor on Whitsunday Island, then Nara Inlet on Hook Island. All these stops are within a few hours sail from one another over beautiful blue waters, all in sight of the mainland or other islands. This area is the chief bareboat charter area in Queensland and does a brisk business during the winter season. It is also the source of numerous humorous (true?) tales, like the guy who sails away in the charter boat and then calls back to base saying he needs a new anchor. "But I don't understand" says the guy in the office, "you left on Monday morning with two anchors." "Yeah", says the charterer, "but today is Wednesday and I need anchors for the rest of the week." (Thank you, Geoff and Judy).
We had heard lots about Cid Harbor. All good and all true. We spent two nights at Cid. I counted 50 boats, mostly sail, anchored there on the second morning and the place is so large that it was not the least crowded. There is not much beach at Cid Harbor but the walk on shore through the forest to a second small beach is wonderful. The second night there we had sundowners on the shore with about twenty other couples and singles we had never met and especially enjoyed talking with two couples originally from Holland, both of whom had come to AU at least 40 years ago. We think the USA is the land of immigrants but AU may actually do us one better.
From Cid Harbor we motored an hour to Nara Inlet, a long narrow fjord with good holding all along its length. We saw aboriginal cave paintings there and fantastic rock formations along the shore where wave action has sculpted the rocks into interesting overhanging shapes.
Our next stop was Airlie Beach, on the mainland. There must have been 200+ boats anchored in the large bay and another 150+ in the marina there. We meant to stay only one night so we dropped the anchor, no drama, except that our only access to land was at the Sailing Club, no drama again, except that even though we tied the dink as far out on their floating dock as we could get, we nonetheless found ourselves seriously mud-bound (again, as at Kingfisher Bay) a few hours later when we returned from shopping. But up at the Club, the Coke was very cold and the breeze delightful so after hanging out there for two hours, the tide came up sufficiently that we could leave the dock and get back to the boat.
Airlie Beach was as far north as we had planned to go this trip so September 16 we started back to Hope Island. Going south we encountered many whales, singles and moms with young. On two nights we heard whale songs thru the hull. We dodged several whales while underway (both sailing and motoring) and wondered if they would have moved out of our way. We had a glorious sail for about 8 hours at 9 knots and were still sailing when we came even with Great Keppel Island. Rather then stop there we continued on and sailed/motored overnight to Bundaberg. Night time sailing in this area is no problem navigation-wise but worried me whale-wise. (I know they take the crab-pots in every night in Maine waters but I'm not sure that they park the whales at sundown in Ozzie Land.) In any case, we arrived alive at Bundaberg on the 21st and caught up with Twelfth Night. We ended up staying there longer then we had planed, again due to high winds in Hervey Bay and so shared a rental car with Jim and Christine. We spent two days with them and visited the Cania Gorge and the town of 1770, seeing lots of empty hinterland, bottle trees and a beautiful rocky coast at 1770.
As we continued south over Wide Bar Bay the question was whether to stop in Mooloolaba or navigate through Moreton Bay in the dark. We decided to do Moreton Bay and were glued to our two chartplotters and our paper charts for the next several hours. Moreton Bay is quite large and contains the approaches to Brisbane. It is loaded with shoal water and the shipping channel zigs and zags and sprouts off several different branches. There are also bright shore lights which confuse the picture royally. We navigated the bay safely, managing to avoid being run over by two freighters steaming at 17-20 knots in the shipping lane and then anchored successfully in a new anchorage about 11 that night in the pitch black. Two days later we tied up to our old slip at Hope Island Resort marina and it felt like old home week.
On October 14 we flew to New Zealand (for the second time since being in Oz) and rented a camper van for 10 days (a first for us non-campers) and proceeded to have a great time driving all over the south end of the South Island, spending our nights in "holiday parks." Our van came equipped with an excellent road atlas which gives location and info about the numerous camping facilities which range from rest stops with no facilities to "top 10" parks with electricity, water, dump stations, showers and toilets, laundry rooms, kitchens and grills and (often) internet access. At one park in downtown Dunedin we paid $40 for the night, all other times we paid from 25-30$NZ. All parks were clean and well managed.
Aside from the New Zealand scenery which is unremitting and indescribably beautiful, the country is welcoming, easy to navigate and has great food to boot. One of the highlights of our trip was an overnight cruise on the Milford Mariner (about 120 feet, 65 passengers) which took us out on Milford Sound (really a fjord) on the west coast of the South Island. We left the dock at 4:30 PM and returned at 9:30 AM the next morning and in the interim saw the fjord, which is only a few miles long, saw penguins, seals and two impressive waterfalls, had a fabulously good dinner aboard, were entertained by a very funny tour guide and in the morning poked our nose out of the sound into the Tasman Sea. This area gets 21 FEET of rainfall a year and when rainfall is heavy the sides of the fjord are covered with waterfalls and the top 9 feet of the water column in the fjord is fresh. The sides of the fjord are essentially vertical, allowing the cruise ships/boats to position their bows right under the waterfall. Ya just gotta' see it to believe it.
Other high points of the trip included a vist to Larnach Castle on Otago Peninsula, just outside of Dunedin; the drive along the rugged south coast of the island; the canola fields in full bloom just west of Christchurch; a salmon farm in the hydroelectric canal below Lake Tekapo.
Could we go back to New Zealand again someday? "You betcha!"
Susan and John