Airlie Beach

by John on January 6, 2014

We were recently asked by an old friend if there was anything to do in Airlie Beach if they came to the area on holiday. They said that they knew the Whitsunday island resorts had plenty of things to do, yet have never heard that Airlie itself was somewhere a family could have fun.

I had to be careful in answering that question, because if I scoffed too hard at their suggestion there was nothing to do In Airlie Beach, I could offend them. Yet how do you tell someone that there is actually more to do in Airlie Beach than on one of those awesome tropical islands without sounding biased.

To be very honest, many of the cruises to the Great Barrier Reef or other popular Whitsundays attractions like Whitehaven Beach, commence from Airlie Beach, picking up from the resort islands along the way. There are certainly more restaurants in Airlie Beach, bars, a larger choice of accommodation options plus a few adventure activities to keep the most daring traveler excited. Plus we have the largest swimming lagoon in Australia right by the sea.

You can save a lot of money by choosing to spend time at Airlie Beach instead of one of the island resorts. Simply by being able to shop at one of the large supermarket chains, a family can save many, many dollars on the food bill. There are a large variety of cruises, both day and overnight, right from Abel Point Marina and Airlie Beach is small enough to walk wherever you need to go.

As you know, every picture tells a story, so I will show you a few of the activities and tours you can enjoy right from Airlie Beach. All activities come with free pick up and return from your chosen accommodation. The full list is just too large for one blog post, over the next month we will add some more exciting activities to make you consider making Airlie Beach your base to explore the beautiful Whitsundays.

Overnight Cruises


One of the options for saving money while seeing the Whitsunday Islands and Great Barrier Reef, is to take a cruise where you live on board for several nights. This type of cruise comes with everything supplied including accommodation and food, so the only extra expense is drinks. Most of these are sailing yachts or tall ship adventures and most are roughly around $300.00 to $400.00 all inclusive. Typical cruises are Tongarra, Atlantic Clipper, Boomerang, Anaconda III and Solway Lass just to name a few. They are not luxury cruises, just a great affordable way to spend time in the Whitsundays.

Sky Diving

Sky Dive

Airlie Beach Sky Dive will pick you up and take you to Whitsunday Airport Shute Harbour. Give you training and then take to the skies for an awesome jump with the best views of the Whitsundays you could ask for. Not for the faint hearted, yet one of the greatest experiences of a life time. You can’t do this staying on an island, you must come to the mainland for this activity.

Great Barrier Reef

You can fly over the Great Barrier Reef with Air Whitsunday in a seaplane, GSL Aviation on a scenic flight or take a helicopter with Heli Reef Whitsunday.

Probably the best option is to spend a day at Reef World with Cruise Whitsundays. Here you can snorkel or scuba dive right on the outer Great Barrier Reef. Lunch and snorkeling equipment is provided and you have the option (extra expense) to scuba dive or take a helicopter flight to Heart reef.

Whitehaven Beach


This is the place that most visitors to the Whitsundays want to see and the location we take our friends and family. It doesn’t matter if you stay in Airlie Beach or one of the islands resorts, you need to take some type of cruise or flight to get to Whitehaven Beach. Most cruises to Whitehaven Beach start from Abel Point Marina, so if your not staying on Hamilton Island, you will need to take one of these cruises.

Our preferred cruise is the Full Day Cruise with Cruise Whitsundays. During this cruise you get the experience of snorkeling on a fringing reef, walking up to Hill Inlet Lookout and spending a few hours on Whitehaven Beach. There are many other cruises which also do a similar itinerary such as Ocean Rafting and Whitehaven Express

There are other tours and sailing cruises that just visit Whitehaven Beach. We really stress that a tour that includes Hill Inlet Lookout in it’s itinerary is the one to take.

That’s enough for this post. We will add more suggestions in the near future. Just consider Airlie Beach as a base to explore the Whitsundays. The island resort are great, no one will argue about that, yet Airlie Beach is also a great option with lots of choice and money saving opportunities.


Rubyvale Gemfields

by John on July 7, 2013


Some people like playing lotto, others like taking a punt on a racehorse and others like to dream of finding a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. If you spend some time fossicking in the gem fields of Central Queensland, you just might find that pot of gold. Who knows? At the very least, you do have a fairly high chance of coming away with something of value.

We recently took a drive out to Rubyvale via Clermont. It was our first time in the Queensland gemfields and it really was a good experience.

We visited the Miners Heritage site, which takes underground mine tours, and then tried our luck with a bucket of dirt. Sadly we didn’t find our fortune, but we did go home with a few small sapphires and a nice zircon that could be cut. Our daughter also found a sapphire large enough for cutting, so it was a good day for all.

There are other mines where you can fossick. We chose Miners Heritage primarily for the underground tour.


The underground mine tour was really interesting and informative. Most gems are found in ancient river beds, just on top of the crust of the earth. Going down the mine tunnel is an easy walk and you get a real thrill looking at the actual crust of the earth, once your right down on the floor of the mine. Another interesting sight was how the digging tool leaves its mark on the tunnel. It’s amazingly soft dirt and an easy dig, especially with the modern tools af today.

You see how the early miners, equipped with just a small shovel, short handled broad pick and a hessian bag to collect the dirt, labored for hours and hours to get down to the earths crust, where the valuable sapphires are found. Luckily the ground in the area is very stable so a mine shaft doesn’t need supports to shore up the ceiling or walls. As long as the miner digs the shaft with a dome roof, safety is assured. Larger flatter roof areas do need to be supported.


The ancient river bed is perhaps just a quarter of a meter in depth, yet can hold many gems if your lucky. Digging anywhere in the gemfields doesn’t guarantee that you’ll even hit an ancient river bed. If you dig down to the earths crust and miss the river bed, you must fill in the hole and start again. Luckily today’s miners have a huge drill that can sink a shaft in a day, making life easier and more profitable.

The tour guide is usually an experienced miner from the local area, so it is more than interesting to listen to them, as they pass out great knowledge. You are some forty meters underground but at no time do you ever feel claustrophobic. The tunnels are well lit and large enough for the biggest person to walk through with ample room.


When you come back to the surface, you can purchase some nice gems from the shop or buy a bucket of dirt and try your luck at the Fossicking Park.

Someone will show you the technique which involves sieving out the sand, washing the remaining rocks, tipping the collection onto a table and hand sorting the spoil for those elusive gems. If you think you can see a gem you are usually right. They do look different from most of the common rocks, so are quite easy to recognize. If you hold it up to the light and can see through it, it is usually a valuable gem. Now the only questions remaining, is it big enough to be cut and polished and are there too many flaws in the gem?


You get a little plastic bag to put your gems into and when you are finished with fossicking through your bucket, you can take your collection back to the shop and an experienced person will look at them for you and grade your find. Simple and quite thrilling. Most finds are small sapphires but you never know. That’s why it’s thrilling.


You can go and fossick for gems in unclaimed areas by purchasing a license, digging your own hole and hoping that the gods will smile upon you. You can rent the necessary equipment, which is great if your staying for a for days or even several weeks. If you strike it big, you may stay forever, like so many of the local residents.

Rubyvale and the near by town of Sapphire are well known for the quantity and quality of the gems that have been recovered in the area. There is a “Big Sapphire” at Anarkie and the small community of Willows is another mining town that is situated in the central Queensland gemfields.

There is plenty of accommodation options available in the gemfields, with hotels, motels and caravan parks in each town. It’s a easy drive from larger towns such as Clermont or Emerald, ideal for a day trip. The gemfields are roughly a 4 hour drive from Rockhampton via the Capricorn Highway.

It’s an interesting area and well worth visiting. You could be the one to find that next big gem.

(Images copyright @ Tanya Puntti. Used with permission.)


Whale Watching Tours

June 17, 2013

It’s that time of the year where people along the east and west coast of Australia turn their attention to the sea. The warmer tropical climate of Queensland and north West Australia not only beckons those wishing to escape the colder southern winter, the yearly migration of Humpback, Minke and Southern Right whales from the [...]

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Daydream Island

June 6, 2013

We recently spent time on Daydream Island in the Whitsundays, practicing photography techniques that will elevate our skills to a higher level. My partner, Tanya, has underwater photography gear that produces some amazing images. We chose Daydream Island as a practice ground for the easy access to tropical waters and because we know the position [...]

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White Walkers

May 31, 2013

We decided to get out of the home office yesterday for a break and took our lunch to the lookout at Shute Harbour. It wasn’t a particularly good day, a little overcast and quite windy, yet it’s very hard not to get a nice view overlooking the Shute Harbour jetty and the Whitsunday islands. No [...]

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Full Day Cruise

May 18, 2013

Hill Inlet Aerial Our last blog post highlighted Cruise Whitsundays generous May special for Whitsunday locals. A two for one deal where if you purchased a full day cruise to Whitehaven Beach, you receive a full day cruise to Hamilton Island for free. At the time we stated that this was an extremely generous deal. [...]

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May Specials

May 9, 2013

Cruise Whitsundays have just announced one of the best specials for the entire month of May. If you book either the Great Barrier Reef Adventure at Reefworld, a full day cruise to Whitehaven Beach or a thrilling day of sailing aboard Camira, you then receive a full day cruise to Hamilton Island, absolutely free. It’s [...]

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Hardy Reef Waterfall

April 25, 2013

We blogged about our recent trip to Hardy Reef with Cruise Whitsundays on 23-4-13. What we didn’t show you among the images we uploaded was the amazing waterfalls that occur as the tide turns from low to incoming. The coral of Hardy Reef is exposed at low water. (There was a time, many years ago, [...]

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Great Barrier Reef Cruise

April 24, 2013

There is nothing quite like a visit to the Great Barrier Reef. We consider ourselves fortunate to live in an area where visiting the reef is simply a decision to take a cruise on any given day. We can awake in the morning, look out the window and if the sky looks great, get ourselves [...]

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Air Whitsunday 40th Birthday Seaplane Flight

April 21, 2013

It is a remarkable achievement for any tour company to successfully operate their business in the same area for 40 years. This week Air Whitsunday celebrated that very achievement and gave locals the present, $40 scenic flights over iconic Whitehaven Beach. As locals we snapped up this very generous offer. We made the birthday flight [...]

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