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Saturday, June 23, 2018

Fidlers ON the Reef!

After NZ and some time in Sydney, we set off for a tour around some east coast Aussie cities: Hamilton Island, Hobart and Melbourne. If this all feels ridiculous, it was!

Hamilton Island is part of Australia's Whitsunday Islands in Queensland, and is known as the commercial centre for the area thanks to its close proximity to the Great Barrier Reef.

While lovely, Hamilton Island is a bit manufactured; what I mean by that is most everything is owned and run by one company. Though there are restaurants of different cuisines, many food and beverage items cross-over from menu to menu. It's still a magical place, though!

The island is mostly car-free. Our accommodations included a "buggy" for transport around the island. What fun! Seat belts must be worn, driver's licenses are required, and each buggy is registered / plated.

Though the driver sits on the left-hand side, they also drive on the left-hand side! Those are some serious right turns.

A boat bringing a box truck full of island supplies

Beautiful sunset + buggy parking
We had a pretty full itinerary for our time on Hamilton Island: swimming at our pool, snorkeling (and SCUBA!) at the Reef, a day cruise around the islands, golf / spa / kids club and KOALAS!

Our first full day was a ~3 hour boat ride from Hamilton Island to the Heart Pontoon above Hardy Reef. (It should be noted here, the Great Barrier Reef is a collection of *thousands* of smaller reefs; Hardy Reef is one of the reefs that makes up the GBR.)

Cruise Whitsundays, who provided this map, took us to Hardy Reef.
The boat ride to the pontoon was choppy and long. There were plenty of ginger tablets and motion sickness bags to go around. No further elaborations required.

Once aboard the boat to the pontoon, the sales pitch began - underwater camera hire, upgraded snorkel gear, photos, SCUBA lessons and first dives, helicopter rides and much more.

Nani and I took the plunge and signed up for SCUBA lessons and were able to do our first dive at the Reef. Incredible! I personally didn't care much for the sensation of SCUBA, but the sights were awesome. Giant, colourful fish swimming all around! Oh my!

Ready to test my SCUBA skills!

Nani with a humphead wrasse fish!
We could hardly get E out of the water to do anything but snorkel. He absolutely loved it!

The ride back to "Hamo" was equally as treacherous as the way out to the pontoon. And it was cold! M and I cuddled up in towels and dozed off for a bit.

I don't remember what we did the rest of that (late) afternoon and evening, but I'm quite certain we were all in bed asleep at a very reasonable time. What a fun-filled and tiring day!

Day three included a bit of R&R. The boys went to the clownfish club and had a great day - scavenger hunts, the amazing race, loads of activities, sport, and fun all day!

The ladies had lunch, shopped a bit around town and went to the spa.

The men had a chance to play 18 holes at the Hamilton Island Golf Club. Papi noted it was one of the more difficult courses he's played.

Day four was another full day! We visited Chalkies Beach, hiked to hill inlet, snorkeled the coral gardens and walked along Whitehaven beach. We also saw the beach where a few scenes from Pirates of the Caribbean were filmed. I swear there were more stops than just those on our itinerary -- it felt like we were on and off the boat all day and hardly had a chance to enjoy much.

Hill inlet photo op

Whitehaven Beach

The fam
Our boat captain was super strict on making sure we wore stinger suits if we were in the water. He was less concerned about stingrays and more concerned about Irukandji. Irukandji are nearly translucent teeny tiny venomous jellyfish.

The boys rocking the stinger suits
How cute are Nani and Papi? They went snorkeling off the back of the boat!

Day five was departure day. We snuck in a quick morning visit to WILDLIFE Hamilton Island. A few mornings per week, visitors can pay a small fee to hold a koala. Queensland is the only state in Australia where visitors can hold koalas. (It can be quite disruptive for the koalas sleep cycles; the staff at WILDLIFE Hamilton Island assured me their koalas are rotated and held only when they're awake -- but you have to be careful to hold them almost uncomfortably so they don't snooze on you.)

From our koala encounter, we raced to the airport and set off for Hobart, Tasmania! Read about that next time!

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