I love the Whitsundays

The rise of the Aussie Dollar...

Boathaven Resort - Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Well the Aussie Dollar is skyrocketing against the greenback, which seems impressive but not necessarily a good thing for the tourism industry.

For Australians, it makes overseas travel way more attractive, and as we have always been an exploring group of people, and this is causing a BOOM in international holiday bookings departing Australia.
For international visitors coming to OZ it makes Australia less attractrive as it is not the "deal" it used to be when the Aussie Dollar hovered around the .70 cent mark.

The backpacker market is feeling this as well, combined with the higher aussie dollar and the state of th UK economy, there is a sharp decrease in backpackers traveling to our region.

So as a hotelier you wonder if Aussies are going overseas and the international market is staying at home, who the heck is going to stay with us?

Well I am very happy that we are in a unique and amazing part of the world called the Whitsundays. Even though tourism will take a hit, and has taken a huge hit with the GFC in the last 24 months, the Whitsundays has stayed above other regions due to the fact that it is a truly beautiful and magical destination, and regardless of the state of the nation, the Whitsundays and it's islands will always draw visitors.  People are looking for something unique, value for money, and great service. The Whitsunday region generally covers all those request.
And since there are less travellers and more resorts, there are some really good deals to stay in the region and even the tour companies are offering specials during certain times of the year so the whole package becomes very well priced and definitly value for money.

So we say AUSSIE, AUSSIE, AUSSIE...Oi, Oi, Oi  ...and before you decide to go overseas calculate the cost of the flights, the passports, and everything else you need to go to a different country and you may just find the best deal is in your back yard.
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Airlie Beach - Small town with a big personality.

Boathaven Resort - Sunday, August 15, 2010
I have written about Airlie Beach before and I am very passionate about this region and what it has to offer. However, I was a bit naive in thinking that all small towns have a wonderful vitality and quirkiness about them. We recently went on a road trip and stayed over night in a well known small town that is 3 times the size of Airlie Beach.We went out for dinner and had to drive around and around before we could find something that was open after 7:30 p.m. besides the local McDonalds or Red Rooster.  Of course the best option we found was the local pub and even though it was a bit run down and could use a lick of paint we were happy to find somewhere that had people in it. The pub had about 10 people at the bar and 6 people sitting around the dining tables. The waitress looked like she was trying to serve drinks at the MCG for a grand final crowd. She was seriously stressed about the number of patrons that had desended on the pub and our group of four just took that number up by 25%. 
I will admit the steak was good and everyone had a great meal and it was relatively inexpensive for what you received. But the atmosphere was shocking. Nobody was talking or laughing except for us (of course everyone was staring at our table). Nobody was playing pool or watching the games on the TV. They came to consume food and go home. After our meal we went for a walk down the street and everything was closed, including the cop shop. There were no cars on the road, no late night shops, no parks with bands playing, nothing.  So we went to the hotel/motel, which was now all closed up as well, and went to our rooms for the night.
While I was laying there in the motel I was thinking that our town is 1/3  this size and it seems like New York City compared to this town. Why is it so boring? Then it dawned on me,  it's because of the continual influx of tourist we get to the Whitsunday region that keeps our town vibrant and full of life. I know this should not be a lightbulb moment, I have always known we have some of the shops and services only because Airlie Beach is a tourist town, but it never dawned on me that other towns that are much bigger are so boring because they do not have tourist. I love living in a small town (most of the time) but I could only do it if it was a tourist town. The tourist are the reason we have a variety of restaurants to choose from that stay open to the late hours of the evening,  we have specialised shops with the latest fashions and gadgets on offer, we have free swimming lagoons, sailing clubs, festivals, and so much to do. The tourist are the reason the government gives us more money for infrastuctures that we need. The tourist visiting Airlie Beach is the reason we have all the beauty therapist, repair places, mechanics, and distributers of a variety of products. The needs from the Whitsunday Island resorts is the reason a lot of the suppliers, that us smaller operators on the mainland use, are here in the town. The locals lives are easier and more productive because we are a major tourist destination so we have services like taxi's and limo's. Services that a town of our size would not have if it was not for the tourist.
So I just want to thank all the tourist that visit Airlie Beach every year,  because you are the reason my favorite town in the Whitsundays is so great. 

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Sailing - Bareboat Vs. Charter

Boathaven Resort - Friday, July 30, 2010
We get a lot of people that choose to stay at Boathaven Spa Resort pre and post sailing tours. so we get a lot of feedback about their experiences. Sailing in the Whitsundays is one of the most amazing things you could do in your life as it is the perfect backdrop for a sailing adventure.  We have calm seas due to the islands and reef system breaking the waves, beautiful scenery, plenty of safe inlets  to moor overnight, and Australian icons such as Whitehaven Beach to visit. So the question should not be "should I go sailing in the Whitsundays" as the answer is a profound yes. The question should be "should I sail myself (bareboat) or go on a crewed sailing adventure".  The answer to that depends on many things.

Bareboat Sailing - there are many options in the Whitsundays to choose from if you want to go sailing on your own with just your friends and family. There are privately owned yachts and small and large companies that have many yachts to choose from. Whitsunday Rent a Yacht and Cumberland Yacht Charters are two very popular mainland bareboat companies and we also have Sunsail based on Hamilton Island.
You do not need to be an experienced sailor to hire a bareboat but I believe to enjoy yourself you should have the basic skills. The Whitsunday region is a relatively safe place to sail as it is quite protected but I believe it's much better and more relaxing for everyone if someone on board has sailed before and has experience. The positives of bareboat sailing is the freedom it allows you to choose what you want to do, what you want to eat, where you want to go, and who you want to hang out with. Most of the boats are kept in excellent condition and have maintenance that can help you if you have any problems during your journey. The negatives would be for some that it is a hands on holiday. It's like camping but on the water in a luxurious environment. You prepare all your own meals, you need to be able to sail the vessel to the correct locations, you clean up after yourself, and your responsible for the yacht at all times. You have to provide your own provisions and if you forget something it's not convenient to restock. Cost wise it is much more expensive than shared crewed sailing but then you don't have the freedoms with the shared crew sailing that you get with bareboat sailing. Most charters are a minimum of 5 days so there is few options for short getaways.

Crewed sailing
- when I refer to crewed sailing I mean shared cabin crewed sailing. You can hire a skipper on a bareboat charter and that is not what we are referring to here. Crewed sailing offers an amazing abundance of styles of tours and types of yachts to choose from. You can have trips from 2 day/1 night all the way to 6 day/ 6 night journeys. There are boats that cater to the adventure sailor, backpacker, luxury with private cabins and bathrooms, divers, and a mix of others. There is a few good crewed sailing companies that depart from the mainland. Prosail - Maxi Yachts caters to the backpacker and adventure market, Explore Whitsundays - has a mix of and yachts with private cabins and Maxi's, or companies that have boats like Whitsunday Magic or Pacific Sunrise which specialize in couples and offer more luxurious surroundings. The positives about crewed sailing is that you can sit back relax and enjoy the scenery or get involved in the sailing if you wish. All your meals are prepared for you and there are crew that can take care of your needs and do most of the cleaning up. It is much less expensive than bareboat because you are only renting a cabin and not the entire boat and you do not have to purchase provisions.The negatives to some may be the lack of privacy, structured itineraries, and food options. (however I have been on a few of the shared charter boats and the food was fabulous on all of them) The biggest negative I believe is that you can't choose who else books the tour. So it's luck of the draw regarding what type of people you may end up spending the next few days  with.

There are a few things you need to consider before going on an overnight sailing adventure around the Whitsunday Islands. Both options are great but some will suit you better than others. The most important piece of advice I can offer you is to stay away from the dodgy operators. If something looks really cheap there is a reason for it. Stick with the bigger operators for the bareboats and make sure your crewed charter boat has the WCBIA logo and tick of approval.

Enjoy your sailing adventure!
Boathaven Spa Resort

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Whitsunday Coast Vs. Whitsunday Islands

Boathaven Resort - Saturday, June 19, 2010

There is no arguing at all, if it was not for the Whitsunday Islands most of the tourist would not come here. The 74 islands that make up the Whitsunday group are amazingly beautiful, majestic, and definitly the main draw card to get people to come Whitsunday region.

The question is "Should we stay on one of  the Whitsunday Island Resorts or on the Whitsunday Coast

I know your thinking, this is a blog from a Whitsunday Coast accomodation website so of course it's going to be biased toward the Whitsunday Coast. Well,  I am going to try my hardest to be as accurate as possible about both options as they both have positve and negative attributes. I lived on the islands for 6 years so I have a good idea about both options.

Everyone going on holidays has this romantic idea of staying on a tropical island, drinking a frozen cocktail served to you around the pool, watching amazing sunsets whilst dining on the beach,  and no other people around you. Hey, it's what they show in the pictures so why would you not believe that is exactly how it's going to be. Believe me, it can be like this, but you need to do your research and pick the right island for what you are wanting. Remember the more secluded = the more expensive.  Picking the right island is key because once your there you can't decide at dinner that you would rather be somewhere else, there is no were to go.
If you can't afford the Whitsunday Island Resort you believe is the right one for you, please do not just find one that meets your pricing level and pick that one. When I say you NEED to make sure you do your research and pick the island resort that best suits your needs, i'm serious. I guarantee you that not all islands resorts are equal and it may be the only similarities they have are that they are surrounded by water.            If you have kids you need to make sure that they don't just "allow" kids but that they have a program for the kids and they "welcome" kids. Sitting around the pool reading the latest novel may sound like heaven to you but I can guarantee you that it is not the idea your kids have of a holiday.  If you are wanting Whitsunday Honeymoon then you may want to look for the "no kids" policy because the last thing you want to do is have screaming toddlers at every meal and pram jam in the lobby while your trying to book a Great Barrier Reef tour.

If your a foodie and expect a certain choice or style of foods,  call the resort and ask specific questions about your dining options. The worst thing that could happen is you arrive on the island with your five night, non-refundable holiday, and the only options are buffet breakfast, a seafood a la carte option for lunch, and a themed dinner buffet each night. If your not into seafood or prefer a lighter option you could be out of luck.  Most of the island resorts offer more than one dining outlet and some resorts have a large variety to choose from, but it's always best to check what is available and is it in your budget.  I can't tell you how many times I have seen families share a large basket of hot chips because they had no idea how expensive the meals were on the island they went to. There are some AMAZING food options on the islands so don't be weary, just be informed. Dining and beverages on islands are typically much dearer (not always but most of the time) than the same option on the mainland for obvious reasons.
On the mainland, Whitsunday Coastal region,  you have the most variety of dining options and prices from fast food outlets to upmarket dining on the waterfront. You also have the choices of food style like Chinese, Thai, Japanese, modern australian, steaks, seafood, pub style, Indian, Italian, and Mediteranean.  The downside is that you may need to get a taxi or hire a car to get to the restaurants unless your resort is located close to town. None of the resorts have swim up pool bars and 360 degree views of the ocean but most have ocean views.

Access to the Whitsunday icons, the Great Barrier Reef and Whitehaven Beach, can be limited on the islands. As most of the tours depart from the mainland,  they do not pick up from the island resorts. Some may pick up at one resort, or the other, but none of the resorts offer as many tour options as the mainland does. The islands either have their one tour that is owned by the island or they have one option to go see either iconic destination. It is also hard to travel in between islands. If you wanted to visit another resort island for the afternoon you will find it difficult if not impossible. While from the mainland you can access many islands in just one day.  It may be less expensive to go to the Great Barrier Reef or Whitehaven Beach from the islands as you are located closer to the tour destination. Both the islands and the mainland offer other tour options outside of the Great Barrier Reef and Whitehaven Beach, such as jet skiing, helicopter tours, snorkeling, and sailing adventures. You won't run out of options with either location.

Basically, if all you have ever thought about is having a holiday on a island then by all means do it, as you will regret it if you don't. If you just want to experience tropical islands then stay on the mainland and you will have the freedom to visit the Whitsunday Islands everyday. You will also have a choice of what you want to eat, how much you want to spend, and what style of tour you would like to take. And hands down, the mainland resorts are less expensive than the island resorts so you have more money to experience the wonders of the Whitsunday region.

Could the Gulf Coast Oil Spill ever happen to us.

Boathaven Resort - Sunday, June 13, 2010

I watch every day with fear and tripidation with what is happening in the Gulf of Mexico and the environemental disaster that is unfolding each minute. It's a subject that I hold dear to my heart for a few reasons.
One, I grew up in that area of the world and lived and played along the Gulf of Mexico for almost 20 years. I know that it's not these peoples livelihood that is being effected it's the rest of their lives, FOREVER. Everything I did, when I lived along the coast, was connected to the ocean. The food we ate, our sport, our outdoor lifestyle, and our income was somehow connected to beach, the sea, and the vast wetlands around us. This one disaster will be handed down to many generations to deal with as we will not know the long term effects until they happen. Unless they come up with some sort of cleanup system that not only cleans the surface oil but the blobs of oil (the size of footy fields and from some reports small towns) that are floating beneath the surface and close to the bottom of the ocean. The southern part of America will be recovering for a while and the after effects will be felt around the planet for years to come.

The second reason I think about the BP oil spill is that I now live in another part of the world that is on the coast and maintains a delicate balance to produce some of the most spetacular scenery Mother Nature has on offer. The Whitsunday region and more importantly, the Great Barrier Reef, would never survive an environmental massacre like the Gulf of Mexico is taking right now. I know we do not have drilling wells after the Royal Commissions, federal, and state governments ceased allowing petroleum drilling on the Great Barrier Reef. (A study in 1990 concluded that the reef is too young to contain oil reserves-thank god) Oil drilling remains prohibited on the Great Barrier Reef, yet oil spills due to shipping routes are still a threat to the reef system, with a total of 282 oil spills between 1987-2002. Thankfully none of them have caused permanent damage and been quickly contained.
I know it's safer for the liners to travel inside the reef system than the outer edge, because if they do have a mechanical problem they can anchor up and repair themselves in calmer waters. The waters on the outer part of the Great Barrier Reef are to deep to anchor and the vessel could possibly end up crashing into the the reef system because they can not anchor. But we should make sure it is mandatory that all ships that pass through are double hulled, have a Reef Pilot on board that knows the waters, and has the most modern environmental clean up procedures on board. Hefty fines (like billions of $) should apply for any breaches of these rules. 

I don't ever want to be in a position like BP and the USA are in now, talking about what they should have done and how they will prevent this in the future. There is no future for most of the families along the Lousiana coast that rely on these waters. Even if they get it clean, who is going to eat an oyster from the gulf region in the next 10 years? Who is going to even think about planning a fishing trip to the Lousiana wetlands when they assume it will be tainted with oil and tar balls?  Who is going to move to these regions knowing most people are out of work?

The Whitsunday Islands and reef systems are some of the most beautiful parts of the world and I hope one day everyone will get to witness a whale breaching in turquoise waters, a sea turtle swim between your legs while your casualy checking out the vibrant corals, or a mantaray leap out of the water and then glide along next to your boat. If we are diligent about keeping it clean then someday everyone can witness these amazing sites for many generations to come.

NO question is ever silly...just some are hard to answer

Boathaven Resort - Wednesday, June 09, 2010
Being in the hospitality industry in a world class holday destination is great, we get to meet a lot of people from all over the world, every day is a bit different, and people are generally in good spirits because they on holidays.
However, we do get some strange request every now and then and some questions that we can find a little difficult to answer. Or at least answer correctly.

An example of some things people have asked us in the past:

  • We are coming up in October, is it going to rain while we are there?  Im pretty knowlegable on all things about the Whitsundays but I have not yet figured out how to exactly predict the weather. So Ill say this, if your coming to the tropics it will most likely rain sometime during your stay in February & March all other months it's just pot luck. Best time to visit the region is actually the less popular months (none of us can figure out why) May, June, August, and September are may favorite months weather wise.
  • Are there sharks in the ocean in the Whitsundays?  Well this one always makes me smile because it's an ocean and yes there are sharks in every ocean on the planet. What I can say is that the sharks have an abundance of food due to the reef and they are very rarely seen. Most of the ones we have in our area are harmless.  They have no interest in us as a food source. I have snorkeled in these waters for 13 year and I have only ever seen a 2 foot long Black Tip Reef Shark which as soon as he saw my shadow he took off. We only have one recorded shark bite in our region, that I am aware of, and it was no where near the Great Barrier Reef. 
  • How do they keep the islands staying in the same area? I know your going bullpoop, no one ever said that. But it is true in fact 3 people have asked me that question since I lived here. So for those that are not aware, please note that the Whitsunday Islands do not float on top of the water, they are the peaks of mountain ranges that are covered by the sea. 
  • Can you please have someone come up and get rid of the chirping lizard in our room?  The chirping lizards are Gecko's and they are as much a part of the tropical environment as the palm tree's and the coral. I can get rid of that one and as soon as I get back into the office you will have spotted another one. Gecko's have no care of star rating they are in Backapacker hostels all the way through to 5 star resort accommodation and in every home in Queensland. Don't worry no one is infested with geckos but you will see one or two while visiting the Whitsundays. And no they are not poisenous. 
  • Im going to ask my girlfriend to marry me, do think if I book the Spa Suite will she say "yes"? Now we are not sure if this guy was just really nervous and that question came out wrong or what, but I had to put him on hold because I laughed so hard coffee came up through my nose. I advise him that he could book a tent and she would say "yes" if it was the right girl for him. I also booked him on a romantic Helicopter Trip to Whitehaven Beach with a champagne picnic basket just to seal the deal. He was stoked and yes she did say "yes".  They are coming back for their honeymoon on the Lovers Champagne Getaway package next year.
So that is a glimpse of the questions we get on a daily basis, my friends say I should write a book about it all. But when your booking a holiday just remember, NO question is a stupid question because it's your holiday and you want it to be perfect. Just be prepared you may not get the answer you expected to hear.

To tour or not to tour...that is the question.

Boathaven Resort - Monday, June 07, 2010
We get a lot of people visiting and the most common question is "Should we take a tour and if so which one" and then I inveritably get the question "what do you suggest".
The main problem with this scenario is that there is SO much to choose from;  it's like going to Myers and asking a complete stranger what shoes should you get.  I always ask a few qualifiing questions so we can quickly narrow it do to a few options and then I advise the guest to take the brochures away and read for a bit and give us a call with their choice and we will book it in for you.

We have three types of guest when it comes to booking tours - "the ponderer",  the "yep sounds good", and the dreaded "assuminators"  and all have their positives and negatives.
"The Ponderer" - This is the game of 20 questions that never ends. I like these people because 1. it test my knowledge and I always feel like Einstien after they depart and  2. I know that in the end they are going to love their trip because they found the exact trip that suits their needs.  These people are challenging because they forget why they are taking a tour, to relax and enjoy themselves, and focus on the most minute details of the trip that at the end of the day will not make a difference to their experience.

"Yep Sounds Good" - seems like they would be the perfect people you want to book tours and they probably would if it were not for the fact that I actually care about your experience when you take a tour. These people will agree to whatever tour I suggest as long as it is in their price range. I could suggest a 1/2 day snail hunting expedition and I would get Yep sounds good - book us in. I am pretty good a reading people and have a lot of knowledge about the tours so I tend to get it right, most of the time. The issue I have with this group is that I actually sit up at night wondering if they had a good day because I know that the decision was totally mine.

"the Assuminator" - these guest assume there is a tour that can go to Whitehaven Beach and the Great Barrier Reef all in one day, and don't believe you when you say it is not possible. These people assume that even though you never said it , the tour they chose was serving full seafood buffets for lunch and want an explanation on the return as to why it did not happen. They will book the opposite of what I suggest and then get angry with me when they return because it was not the experience they assumed was going to happen. The one positive is that if you figure out they are assuminators before they book you can use a bit of reverse psychology and get them on a trip that they will really enjoy.

Anyway, enough about the guest, more on the tours.

In the Whitsundays, there are two main options to visit - the beautiful Whitehaven Beach and the iconic Great Barrier Reef.   The Great Barrier Reef is pretty simple, there are two tour companies that visit the actual Great Barrier Reef,  Fantasea Cruises and Cruise Whitsunday.  Both offer relatively the same experience and every seller of this tour has a their preferred fror what ever small reason but you could not go wrong with either of the choices.  Whitehaven Beach tours are as abundant as croc's in the NT. This is were you can come undone if you pick the wrong option for you. Almost all includes some form of snorkeling in a cove with fringing reef as well as a few hours on Whitehaven Beach. The differences would be type of vessel you are traveling in. Small, big, sail, motor cruise, slow, fast - all choices when going to Whitehaven. Some include bush walks, resort island stop overs, and Hill inlet lookout and all include some form of lunch. 
My top 5 ways to see Whitehaven Beach are:
1. Camira - Sailing Catamaran
2. Ocean Rafting - High speed rubber duck boat
3. Mantaray - small numbers, motor cruiser
4. By Helicoptor or Sea Plane w/ a picnic lunch
5. Voyager - Daydream Island, Hook Island, and Whitehaven Beach

And there are a few others worthy of a mention but this is a blog not a novel. 

And last but not least are the "don't fit in the box tours" that are actually some of my favorite of all the tours available in the region.
Most notable would be the EcoJet Safari which is a ocean safari you take on Jet Ski's with a small group and you jet ski around the Whitsunday Islands and up the Proserpine River with croc's (yes I said you jet ski with CROC's) and it is beautiful, fun, interactive, and very unique.
The Crocodile Safari is another that is an oldie but a goodie. This tour is great if you have kids but it's really good if your just adults as well. And no I do not have a thing for croc's, but they are very cool and we seem to have a fair few in the Proserpine River system. You get to see the wetlands as well and have real dampa and billy tea with your lunch, very Australian.
The new inclusion would be the 1/2 day Yellow Sub and snorkel adventure.  This is a great option if you have a late flight, have kids and do not want a full day out, or here just for a short stay but want to see something. You take a high speed boat out to Bali Hai Island for a snorkel (great place to see turtles) and then go in a submarine around the reef system to see all of the sites you could not see while snorkeling. It's quick, fun, beautiful location, and small numbers.

So the answer to the question "should I take a tour" is most definatly YES. Even if it is your 100th time to visit the region, always try and get out on the water or see something new because the Coral Sea is magical. It revives your soul and gives you memories for a lifetime.  If you can't get on a tour then at the very least go and take a drive to see Cedar Creek Falls or Dingo Beach. Don't come to the Whitsundays Coast and sit in your room reading a book, see what all the hoopla is about and be a tourist. Take the tour.

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