Sailing the Whitsundays – Disconnect to Reconnect

In today’s modern world, we are all getting busier.  We are time poor and with the invasion of social media in recent years, family time is rare, but more importantly -priceless.  The best way to really connect with each other is to disconnect yourselves from routine and what better way that escaping for a family holiday.  Unfortunately however, as the parent of teenagers, going away on holiday does not always mean disconnecting your children from their friends.  Social media has them glued to their phones and devices 24/7 right?

So when planning a quality family holiday, I had to consider something that would be amazing, an experience that would engage and enthuse everyone.   What better way to escape than a sailing adventure around the pristine waters of the Whitsundays discovering the idyllic tropical beaches, islands and reefs in the area.  Don’t own your own private yacht?  No problems, the team at Queensland Yacht Charters (QYC) are specialists in the Whitsundays region, plus they also have a fleet of luxury sailing boats to suit everyone’s needs.

Not only is a sailing holiday a great experience for those of us that don’t own our own 50 foot yacht, it allows the freedom to move around, have a unique adventure with the added bonus of limited phone and internet service so everyone really has to let go and unwind.  Even if only for a few days, completely switching off from reality will feel like you’ve had weeks away and you return refreshed and recharged.   The beauty of chartering a boat is that you are tapping into the years of local knowledge of experts to ensure every reasonable safety measure is followed and they can provide tips on hot spots for fishing, snorkelling, beaches and islands all away from the crowds.

QYC are one of the biggest and most popular Bare Boat Charter companies in the region.   They are a part of the World Wide Company – Dream Yacht Charters.  The world’s largest charter boat organisation.  They boast dream locations such as the Caribbean, Bahamas, Mediterranean, and of course, one of my absolute favourites, the Whitsundays.

QYC base is located at Abel Point Marina in Airlie Beach.  It’s a short 30 minute drive from Whitsundays airport in Proserpine and QYC can even arrange for transport to collect you on your arriving flight.  It’s best to plan to be in Airlie Beach the day prior to departure out on the water. This gives you time to familiarise yourself with the boat, do any shopping necessary and if possible, start your sailing induction.

For any boating holiday, what to take is fairly minimal.  You’re away from people, restaurants, towns and the need to dress up.  A small bag with swimmers, a few summer clothes and of course a camera are about all you need to take on board.  Even shoes aren’t required so the very process of packing for your trip is a simple and stress free exercise.

There is the option to have the food catered for you, or if you want to go all out, have a hostess and chef on board to take care of food and all your other needs.  However, part of the luxury of a self-charter holiday is going completely off grid, away from technology, television and any sort of civilisation.  It’s best to keep things simple and go back to basics with food. There are supermarkets a short distance from the marina as well as an amazing butcher (MBW on the Barbie Butchers), seafood supplier (Fishi’s) and bottle shops, chemists etc.  It’s important to remember when setting sail on a charter boat holiday, nothing can be done quickly.  The nearest location to get any sort of supplies, access to medical etc is usually hours away so plan well and you shouldn’t have any dramas. Even take a small medical kit with extra plasters, disinfectant, anti-nausea etc.

Once you’re stocked up, the next order of business before you can set sail is familiarise yourself with how the actual boat works, including a full briefing from the Charter Company.  The Whitsundays is the only place in the world where you can hire a charter boat with no boat licence at all.  You can pretty much have zero boating knowledge, and set sail on one of the most magical holidays you will ever experience.

Despite the yachts being 30, 40, 50 feet long, they are surprisingly easy to manoeuvre.  QYC spend about half a day giving you a complete overview, how to work pretty much everything and what to do in most situations.  Finally, as you set sail, a member of their friendly crew will come with you for the first hour or so to ensure you have understood all the instructions and are comfortable out on the water.  Even though it sounds unimaginable to be handed the keys to one of these majestic boats without a licence, there is no way the charter company will let you leave until they are confident that you are fully in control and capable.

Part of the briefing is mapping out a course for the time that you are out on the water, taking into consideration their extensive knowledge of local conditions, winds and protected coves to moor.  Charters are for 3 up to 10 days duration, take your pick.  Of course conditions can change quickly but even though there is no phone service, onboard is a VHF radio linking you back to reality with regular updates from the local Marine Authority as well as the charter companies to keep you well informed.  You also need to check in morning and evening with your location and plans, which also gives you the opportunity to go through any queries or issues with the base.  It honestly couldn’t be simpler.

There are 74 islands that make up the Whitsundays, the majority of which are completely uninhabited.  The choice is endless.  You’ve set sail, found your deserted island and you’re moored up feeling like you’ve been transported into lifestyles of the rich and famous.  This is truly living.  Many of the islands have great walking trails with magnificent views that stretch across the whole island landscape.  There’s something really bonding about being on a boat with only the company of your family or friends.  Teenagers who are usually glued to the television or in their rooms are suddenly free from the pressures that consume them and have time to really enjoy the whole experience.   We spent time playing board games, swimming, exploring the reefs and corals and even included stand up paddle boards on our boat for some extra fun.

Five nights on a charter, feeling like Christopher Columbus discovering the unknown, honestly equates to five weeks on a regular holiday.  The simple pleasure of disconnecting from the world makes time stand still.  Days spent lazing in the water and on beaches, often with not another person to be seen.  It’s easy to wind down and simply focus on your family and friends around you, or just get lost in another world in a good book.  Chartering a boat is an indulgence that many never consider as a holiday option, however the benefit of not requiring a boat licence with QYC makes it all so easy.  Once you have enjoyed the experience, you will be sure to return.  You can’t put a price on the value of reconnecting with family and spending treasured time together, it’s one holiday I will not only remember forever, but return again next year for more.

 

 

 

Gold Coast’s Most Instagramable Locations

It’s the new trend. We are all travelling more and with this, comes sharing our adventures on Social Media.  Often, a great “Instagramable” location can determine our destination choice.  In fact, many people travel to a location purely with the aim of getting that perfect “Instagram shot”.

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Sunshine Coast Hinterland

The Sunshine Coast is one of Queensland’s most popular tourist destinations.   After all, it boasts beautiful beaches and great seaside towns that provide a perfect getaway, particularly for visitors from South East Queensland like the Gold Coast.  Yet for the many of those that vacation to the Sunshine Coast, they miss some of the best that it has to offer – its gardens and natural landscapes.
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Sanctuary Cove Festival

Just 20km out of Surfers Paradise there is the delightful village of Sanctuary Cove, accessible by a picturesque winding road along a lake – or if you’re really lucky, by boat via the Broadwater. Even though so close to the glitter of Surfers Paradise, it’s like being in another world. The Sanctuary Cove Marina Village is a gorgeous little oasis with cute shops, great restaurants and bars and loads of atmosphere.

I was fortunate enough to be invited to stay with my family at the Intercontinental Sanctuary Cove for the weekend of the Sanctuary Cove Festival. Held on Sunday 1st of October, the one day festival brings the village to life. It has something for everyone – an array of luxury boats and cars for the adults, cooking demonstrations and my personal favorite, cocktail making presentations and for the children, there is a dedicated “Kids zone” with jumping castles, face painting, entertainment and more. It was fantastic to see so many people turn out for this Festival which added to the party vibe of the Village – and the best part of all, totally FREE. These days, it seems everything we do, we are dipping into our pockets to pay for one thing or another, so a free day out, aimed at the whole family is refreshing.

 

First – obviously a room at the Intercontinental is not part of the “free” entertainment, but a weekend away here was a great family getaway without having to battle airports, highways etc. Nestled amongst beautiful trees and gardens, the Intercontinental has a fabulous lagoon pool with a sandy beach that is huge. If you’re up early in the morning, you can even see the wallabies wandering around the grounds which was pretty cool – only in Australia I guess! The newly refurbished Club Lounge has a great afternoon high tea and perfect place for pre dinner drinks. They also offer breakfast, but one thing I absolutely love about all Intercontinental hotels is their amazing buffet breakfasts. It is one of the best of any hotel I have stayed in.

After spending some time hanging out at the hotel, a short walk to the Marina Village and we spent the day wandering around everything that the Sanctuary Cove Festival has to offer. The displays of some of the worlds most expensive and admired luxury brand cars were a popular attraction and it was great to have staff on hand to open up the vehicles and let you get up close and personal and really experience the lifestyles of the rich and famous. With brands like Maserati, Aston Martin, Ferrari and plenty more and price tags in the hundreds of the thousands, this was clearly one of the busiest displays of the day. Lining the boardwalk next to the Marina, with multi million dollar luxury boats as a backdrop, its no surprise we spent a LOT of time here. My personal favorite was the Aston Martin and conveniently parked right next to it, was my hubby’s dream car, a Rolls Royce Wraith!

Every local restaurants and cafe in the area was bursting at the seams with crowds stopping for a refreshment or lunch. They were packed with a fun festival vibe. Even though we would love to have tried all the tasty delights on offer, the ones we did sample were first class. Lunch was at Io Esco Café Cucina, authentic Italian food that is to die for – I could actually have just stayed right here for the whole afternoon, but we moved on to a sneaky afternoon wine at The Cove Tavern, sitting back watching the activities, whilst enjoying yet more food – the sensational bar snacks on offer. The Festival finished at 4pm so it was back to the hotel, a lazy chill by the pool for an hour before freshening up, pre-dinner drinks in hotel Club Lounge followed by dinner sitting next to the water at Black Angus Bar and Grill. Specializing in “hot rock” steaks where you cook your own steak or seafood (or both) on a sizzling hot rock at your table, its lots of fun and ideal for a unique night out. Our girls absolutely loved it. It is a bit pricey, but worth the expense as a treat. Black Angus is definitely somewhere you have to try at least once – although to be honest, once you try once, you’ll definitely want to go back.

Thank you to Intercontinental Sanctuary Cove and Sanctuary Cove Marine Village as well as Ruby Communications for a great weekend. If you get the chance, make sure you put this day on your calendar for next year, we will most certainly be back!

Underwater Heaven at Lady Elliot Island

Easily one of the best places in Queensland to visit for incredible, up close underwater wildlife experiences is Lady Elliot Island. Not only is this a beautiful natural environment, but the opportunity to swim so close to turtles, manta rays and so many other marine life are just mind blowing.

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