Great Barrier Reef Islands

Feb 10th, 2009, 11:04 AM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 4
Great Barrier Reef Islands

We are booked to make a tour of selected Islands along the Coast of Queensland later this year Hinchinbrook is not on the list. We are visiting Heron, Dunk , Hamilton , Fraser and Lizard Islands. We are mostly interested in diving / snorkelling and Ocean based activities on the Great Barrier Reef, although from this site we have learned of many land based activities on some of the Islands as well which would offer a nice contrast to the diving. I have read much here on Hinchinbrook, I am thinking we might be better to stay there for two days of outdoor nature related activities in place of the Whitsundays Islands. I am wondering if anyone has experienced both Islands (Hinchinbrook / Hamilton ) recently. We are just looking to see and experience as much of Australia as we can in such a short time . We are from Europe and enjoy most out door activities.
The itinerary we have chosen can be seen at the following address. http://www.daintreeair.com.au/gbrislands.html
We would be interested in other suggestions and or comments as well as we are still at the stage of planning where we can change destinations if we wish.
We thank you for your help.
This is by far the best forum we have found for information about Australia.

einshernfrau is offline  
Feb 10th, 2009, 02:08 PM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 1,116
If I were pick the best, most diverse set of Queensland islands, it would be Fraser, Heron, Hinchinbrook and Lizard. (What I mean by "best" is they all have fantastic reef- and/or nature-related attractions and have nice resorts.)

I would definitely not put Hamilton on the list..the most touristy of the lot.

You could add Dunk Island to the list, though being a continental island, Dunk would not be vastly different than Hinchinbrook and some of the Whitsunday Islands. Brampton Island (Whitsundays) would be another great choice in the continental island category...it is beautiful!


RalphR is offline  
Feb 10th, 2009, 05:10 PM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 3,908
I agree with Ralph on not having Hamilton anywhere near the top of the list and in fact would go further and say drop it - it is an abomination as far as my view of islands go, more like what one would see at Australias most touristry location and that's the Gold Coast and quite possibly something like what may be found on some Carribean Islands.

But do not forget the Whitsundays because of that one experience for there are other islands there though you need to take a boat trip to get to the reef proper for any diving.
One place you can stay that has fringing reef is www.hookislandresort.com and do make sure you get to Whitehaven Beach.
You may also want to consider some overnight sailing/diving trips of which many can be done from either the Whitsundays or Cairns.
http://ozadventuresailing.com.au/
http://www.thetourspecialists.com/tours-reef.html

Dunk Island only has a very small resort on part of the island and limited snorkelling opportunities.
Not sure on what snorkelling if any is available right at Hinchinbrook but a lot of the island has mangroved shoreline and I think Crocs do inhabitate the area.

So really depends on what you are after and the budget.
www.fitzroyisland.com.au will take you to a different site for it but Fitzroy is easily accessed from Cairns and though no real dive sites there nor any reef to speak off, there is some great snorkelling in channel between Little Fitz and the main island, there being enormous sea life there.
Bushranger is offline  
Feb 10th, 2009, 05:50 PM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 11,761
I don't care for Hamilton Is either; but if it's locked in as part of the overall itinerary and that covers everything you want to see, you might just have to take it.

It's not that it's unsavoury or dirty; just overly commercial and, to many of us locals, tacky, over priced and below par in value for money and quality.

Qualia is a new, very upmarket & expensive complex on Hamilton Island,but that's not where you will be accommodated on the itinerary you've posted. http://www.qualia.com.au/about-qualia-resort.aspx

I gather from your post that the overall itinerary meets your needs?
Bokhara2 is offline  
Feb 10th, 2009, 06:07 PM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,283
Hi Einshernfrau!

You do have a diverse list there as RalphR sez! I agree with not putting Hamilton Island on the list..it says it all upon your approach when you see a multi-story hotel - to me, as what Ralph and Bushranger say, it IS touristy..when you think "islands" somehow, a large multi-storied hotel just doesn't come to mind! (at least MY mind).

For the others mentioned:

Heron - it's the only one right ON the Reef - fantastic for snorkelling and if you're into birdlife.

Dunk - sorry to say on my last trip there, it's lacking; what I mean by that is that it's still a very beautiful island, but the resort itself is lacking in service and quality for what they're charging.

Lizard - think "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous"... it's expensive -is it worth it? Yes. If you're going to "splurge" this is where you want to do it. Every single client I've sent there in the past 15 years raves about it and while it is expensive, they felt they got their money's worth, and many felt it was the highlight of their trip.

Hinchinbrook - from "Lifestyles" we go to eco-friendly and moderate. People who go here don't necessarily care about amenities. It's all about the nature trails, the beach, the snorkelling and getting back to nature. You'll probably meet more Australians here than on any other island.

Fraser - a unique environment - the largest sand island in the world..that doesn't intially sound that interesting, but when you go out on a tour in the rainforest, you'll be struck by how QUIET things are - that's because while there are lots of streams,etc, there are no rocks to make any kind of noise....just a different experience than you could have anywhere else. The Lodge there is stunning with good food and service.

So, a very diverse list..you just have to figure out what appeals most to you!

Hope this is helpful!

Regards,

Melodie
Certified Aussie Specialist
wlzmatilida is offline  
Feb 13th, 2009, 03:31 AM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 26
I think you'd be very disappointed if you didn't include The Whitsundays. They are the nicest islands along the coast with some excellent attractions above and below the water.

You should cruise overnight here and if time allows get a cruise that includes the outer GBR in it's itinerary. The islands, beaches and bays you visit are the total opposite to Hamilton which I consider a blight on our region.

Boats like Pacific Sunrise, Whitsunday Magic, Kiana, Whitsunday Dreamer and a few more all do island and outer GBR tours and accommodate divers.

This will be the highlight of your trip to OZ, it is a very special place and cruising is the best way to experience it.

The diving around the islands is very good and the outer GBR, well it's the GBR. Whitehaven Beach will also be on your agenda and although I wouldn't bother diving there, it is a beautiful spot. The islands you visit won't have resorts on them, they will be looking the same as when Jimmy Cook spotted and named them a couple of hundred years ago.

Your biggest challenge is picking the right boat as there are still a couple of dodgy operators around. Due to this I recommend you get in touch with some LOCAL Whitsunday agents that specialise in cruises and get their thoughts.
Here are a few good ones.
Libby & Bob www.whitsundayaccommodation.net
Kerry www.vacationsaustralia.com
Mike&Tina www.whitsundaybookings.com
All are LOCAL and know what they represent.

I honestly think you'd be doing yourself a disservice if you dropped The Whitsundays off your island list because they will blow your socks off. cheers airlian
airlian is offline  
Feb 13th, 2009, 10:11 PM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 5
I went on to daintreeair.com and checked out the itinerary Frau spoke of. Seems as though she is on Hammo for just one night. Looks like she has an option of sailing or kayaking or a number of other activities. Under those circumstances I think Hammo would be just fine.
On the other hand, Hinchinbrook Island is famous for rainforest, lovely creeks and small waterfalls during the wet season. Fishing is big time in the channel between the Island and the mainland, as is mud crabbing, prawning and dugong spotting. Mud crabs, prawns, dugong , mangrove jack , barra , gts etc all inhabit the immediate area of Hinchinbrook along with many birds and reptiles. There are several resident Lizards which reside in the area as well which sort of puts one off swimming in the Ocean too close to the mangroves or Estuaries or the channel somewhat ,although everyone to their own I suppose.
For a feed of fish and a dose of rainforest Hinchinbrook is the go. For some of the best sailing in the world along with magnificent beaches and turquoise water itís difficult to beat the Whitsundays, unless of course youíre lucky enough to be visiting the Lizard group which it seems from the Itinerary Frau is going to do anyway.
Looks like an awesome way to see the East Coast no matter which Islands she stops off at. I can only imagine how fantastic it would b to simply Island hop all the way up the coast without the hassles of buses, boats , transfers and the like.
Go for it Frau, which ever Islands you do , you can be assured of an amazing adventure which most of us Aussies can only dream about.
P.S Do you require a baggage handler.

webby is offline  
Feb 20th, 2009, 02:26 PM
  #8  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 4
We have now been offered the option of meeting a small sail boat at Shute Harbour in place of going into Hamilton Island. The sail boat tour being offered is two days and nights offering both diving and snorkelling which seems very appealing. We are still a little undecided on Hinchinbrook Island and would appreciate would appreciate from any one that has recently visited the Island.
Many thanks for the information and opinions.
einshernfrau is offline  
Feb 20th, 2009, 03:29 PM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 26
I don't know too many quality cruises leaving from Shute Harbour, the vast majority of cruises depart from Abell Point.
I am not sure who is doing the arranging for you but if they are not local I would be very careful. There are boats here that are not up to standard. Let us know which boat and I can give you my honest opinion. 2day/2night cruises only give you 1 full day around the islnds. It takes the rest of your first day to sail out to the islands and they leave back for port straight after breakfast on the third. Sometimes you get to see more on a 1 day trip. airlian
airlian is offline  
Feb 20th, 2009, 04:53 PM
  #10  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 4
Thank you Airlian, We are flying into the Shute Harbour and the boat departs from Airlie Beach which I assume is the Marina you are referring too. We do not have much time hence the two day sail. We would be happy to sail to a lovely reef to overnight on the boat and conduct two or three dives during our time there. We have been given several different choices of sailing catamarans. I like the Whitsunday Dreamer as it is small and we enjoy catamarans. Do you know this boat ?
The team at Daintree Air in Cairns are helping us organise the tour all the way along the Qld Coast. They are based in Cairns. We have read many great reports on their private air tours. We had friends do a tour across the top of Australia with these people many years ago. They still talk about how wonderful it was now; I would be surprised if they use boats that are not very good. We have read many wonderful reports here about Hinchinbrook so we are attempting to fit this Island into our itinerary as well.
einshernfrau is offline  
Feb 20th, 2009, 09:11 PM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 26
I think you'll find it is Whitsunday Blue. They are the same boats but it is called Dreamer on the 3day/3nighters and Blue on the 2 dayers. Good cruise as long as there is no weather as they are fairly small. The island cruise will take in some nice dive spots like Blue Pearl Bay as well as Mantaray Bay and if you push hard enough they may try for a night dive. They will again do their best to get to Whitehaven and more often than not do.

The airport you'll fly into is Whitsunday Airport about half way between Airlie and Shute Harbour. It is well into the process of becoming Australias first aviation residential village. It will cost you $15-$20 for a cab into Airlie.

I have never heard of Daintree Air but there is around 800km's between The Daintree and The Whitsundays. I do know that the best scenic flight or any flight I have done is in The Whitsundays as the islands and The GBR make for a beautiful view. So if possible try a scenic flight here Whitehaven looks spectacular from the air. www.airwhitsundays.net

The choice of boat is good and you can only do what you can in the time you have so although a longer cruise would have been preferable I think you'll love it.

It is a bit of a pity because the islands we have here are the best on the QLD coast and you won't have time to do them justice, but that just gives you another reason to return and I know after your short time in The Whitsundays that is exactly what you will want to do. the nicest place in Oz. cheers airlian
airlian is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2009, 11:55 AM
  #12  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 4
Thank you for your detailed information airlian.
We had planned to spend a little more time at Lizard Island only because we have heard the reef is very good.
Are you suggesting we spend that time in the Whitsundays and maybe forget about the Lizard Island.
How would you compare the diving in that area compared to the Whitsundays.
Thanks.
einshernfrau is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2009, 12:59 PM
  #13  
 
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 26
The diving around The Whitsundays is very good. If your cruise was a little longer and your agent knew their boats you would be on a cruise that included the islands and the GBR and you can't get better than that. the Whitsundays are 74 islands very closely packed together which means there are plenty of options. The bays aorund the north end of Hook Island are very good and you will go there.

You have to remember that the vast majority of people that visit the Whitsundays do the resort islands and express their opinions based on the snorkeling off those islands. The resort islands here do not have very good coral and people tend to think that is the same throughout the islands. Surprise, surprise, where there are no resorts the coral and sealife are very good (no reefwalking on these reefs in the bad old days).

I have talked to many people that had been told that the coral here is no good only to be very pleasently surprised when they get there and rate it way above anywhere they had been further north.

There are some good spots further north but there are just as many down here. As for snorkeling off Lizard I think you'll find our reefs compare very well to Lizard Island and The Whitsunday Islands themselves cannot be compared to any of the islands on the coast, they are the most beautiful islands in OZ. chers airlian
airlian is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2009, 01:54 PM
  #14  
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 3,908
I think airlian is a bit over the top in stating the vast majority of people who visit the Whitsundays rate snorkelling at the Resort Islands.

While many may visit for the resort islands, the majority for the Hamilton Island abomination, most people going I would expect know that they have to go further out to find the GBR.
If they do not know before arrival and are interested in the GBR, a simple question of where is it will garner the answer.

I haven't been to Lizard Island but the "Cod Hole", one of the planets premier dive locations is up taht way as are I believe what is referred to as the ribbon reefs.

The Whitsundays are great as islands go but they are no way as highly rated for diving as the Cod Hole and outer reefs. airlian's enthusiasm is tinged with the bias that only a local will always bring in seeking more visitors to a particular area.

If it is diving experinces you are after as well as island experiences, you would not be disappointed if you can make a couple of days in the itinerary available for Townsville/Magnetic Island and do the Yongala, one of the planets rated wreck dives - http://www.prodivetownsville.com.au/yongala.php
Bushranger is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2009, 09:56 PM
  #15  
 
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 26
Lizard is not The Cod Hole nor is it The Ribbon Reef and it is a long way to get to from Lizard.
Bushranger the best snorkeling in The Whitsundays is nowhere near the resorts. The best island snorkeling can not be accessed from Hamilton Island as they have no trips going there.

The best snorkeling on the GBR in The Whitsundays is at Line and Black reefs and nowhere near any of the tourist pontoons.
Yes the Cod hole is good as are The Ribbons but I have seen better and must say much better in a lot of places on the GBR not only here in The Whitsundays.

The question was about comparing diving and snorkeling around Lizard and The Whitsunday Islands and the truth is that Lizard doesn't hold a candle to The Whitsundays best island snokeling spots of Mantaray, Luncheon, Blue Pearl Bay, Border Island, Chalkies Beach, The Coral gardens and many more spots that island resort guests cannot access. And then we move onto The GBR.
As for Yongala , good dive , I have dived it over 20 times but you won't find any coral there it is a shipwreck. There are a couple of nice big cod that can sometimes try to get too familiar with you, but totally different to any island dives and it is a long way from Lizard, in fact it is closer to The Whitsundays than Cairns.

By the way we have 9 island resorts here and they are all different to HI.

Tell me where you have dived in The Whitsundays and how you can rate anything without that first hand knowledge. I have dived the Cod hole and The Ribbons over a dozen times each as well as Lizard and many more spots up and down the coast and stand by my comments with the benefit of personal experience.

You haven't even been to Lizard so how can you say I am over the top.

The topic is GBR islands and I know as much as anyone about them hence the reason I comment on them and not about places I have never visited, I prefer to rate things with my own eyes and I am sure einshernfrau would not be disappointed with what she finds in The Whitsundays as it certainly leaves Lizard Island in it's wake.

Years of skippering cruise boats and instructing divers have given me this knowledge, it has been a charmed life. So if I choose to pass on the knowledge I have built up over the years, who are you to dispute it without without any sort of evidence besides what you have heard. I am a born and bred Nth Qlder and this is my backyard. You talk about what you want and I will talk about what I know. cheers airlian
airlian is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2009, 10:04 PM
  #16  
 
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 26
Here are a few more excellent Whitsunday dive spots
The Pinnacles and not far away is The Woodpile and if the wind is a dreaded northerly Saba Bay can be very good. There are plenty more as well this is just a few, all are different and each have something special. cheers airlian
airlian is offline  
Feb 26th, 2009, 09:44 PM
  #17  
 
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 5
Yep it certainly seems as though you have been about airlian.

I commend you on your knowledge and enthusiasm surrounding the Whitsunday Group of Islands which I have also been lucky enough to have dived and snorkelled considerably over the years.

I have also dived many other places on the Great Barrier Reef and PNG such as Kavieng , Rabaul , Tulagi and several other spots in the Solomonís as well as Ningaloo etc etc. I think all of the above areas offer something unique, beautiful, interesting and unforgettable. I have looked at the itinerary proposed by frau and think itís just fantastic. I even offered my services as the baggage handler.

From my experience the reefs surrounding the Lizard Group are about as spectacular and rich in marine life as the ordinary Mr and Mrs Joe Blow could ever hope to see, unless they have the time and money of course to visit more exotic faraway places. The clam garden at Lizard island for instance offers quality reef of many different varieties as well as Turtles, Rays, and any number of colourful fish. The bonus is of course the reef is easily accessible to everyone young or old, fit and not so fit, great swimmers and people who maybe do not swim that much.
But thatís not to say what you have in the Whitsundays is not good, it is better than good.

But Lizard is Lizard. On a good day pound for pound itís difficult to go past it for those who are a little short on time but are willing to pay a little extra for real quality.
Hinchinbrook , Well I do not want to get into an argument here but Hinchinbrook is not really my choice for diving or snorkelers but I think itís one of the most picturesque Islands in the world and boasts excellent fishing.

Webby
webby is offline  
Feb 26th, 2009, 11:57 PM
  #18  
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 3,908
http://www.divingcairns.com.au/pdf/sofmap.pdf shows Lizard in relation to the Cod Hole and I have not referred to snorkelling at Lizard itself nor of reef at the Yongala - it is after all a wreck dive.

As I said, somewhere over the top pushing his own backyard as tourist operators will do.
Bushranger is offline  
Feb 27th, 2009, 06:15 AM
  #19  
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 3,908
Oh, and you wanted to know airlian where you're over the top!
You need to re-read your own posting more closely for
" You have to remember that the vast majority of people that visit the Whitsundays do the resort islands and express their opinions based on the snorkeling off those islands. The resort islands here do not have very good coral and people tend to think that is the same throughout the islands."

to which I replied
"I think airlian is a bit over the top in stating the vast majority of people who visit the Whitsundays rate snorkelling at the Resort Islands.

While many may visit for the resort islands, the majority for the Hamilton Island abomination, most people going I would expect know that they have to go further out to find the GBR.
If they do not know before arrival and are interested in the GBR, a simple question of where is it will garner the answer."

I think you will see that I'm half agreeing with you but not about the ignorance of people as to where the GBR is!

I haven't been to Lizard Island but the "Cod Hole", one of the planets premier dive locations is up taht way as are I believe what is referred to as the ribbon reefs.

The Whitsundays are great as islands go but they are no way as highly rated for diving as the Cod Hole and outer reefs. airlian's enthusiasm is tinged with the bias that only a local will always bring in seeking more visitors to a particular area.

If it is diving experinces you are after as well as island experiences, you would not be disappointed if you can make a couple of days in the itinerary available for Townsville/Magnetic Island and do the Yongala, one of the planets rated wreck dives - http://www.prodivetownsville.com.au/yongala.php

You go on airlian to say

"Lizard is not The Cod Hole nor is it The Ribbon Reef and it is a long way to get to from Lizard."
Strange, you can include in a trip to ribbon reefs and Cod Hole an air return via Lizard Island - have linked a map for you on proximity - and then

" Bushranger the best snorkeling in The Whitsundays is nowhere near the resorts." - think we had already established that. and

" The question was about comparing diving and snorkeling around Lizard and The Whitsunday Islands and the truth is that Lizard doesn't hold a candle to The Whitsundays best island snokeling spots of Mantaray, Luncheon, Blue Pearl Bay, Border Island, Chalkies Beach, The Coral gardens and many more spots that island resort guests cannot access. And then we move onto The GBR. - "
Well that may be a question in your mind I care little of for I 'm just providing info to einshernfrau.

and then even more amazing!

" As for Yongala , good dive , I have dived it over 20 times but you won't find any coral there it is a shipwreck. There are a couple of nice big cod that can sometimes try to get too familiar with you, but totally different to any island dives and it is a long way from Lizard, in fact it is closer to The Whitsundays than Cairns."

If you can read properly I made no allusion to the Yongala being anywhere near Lizard Island.

" You haven't even been to Lizard so how can you say I am over the top."
And again read what my comment on being over the top was related to - it was you who posted it!

All the rest of your drivel is just your own feel good fullness.

Bushranger is offline  
Feb 27th, 2009, 01:05 PM
  #20  
 
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 59
Any opinions regarding WEATHER? We are planning to do a 3 day/2 nite liveaboard out of Cairns towards the end of next week.

I am a little nervous of the weather reports. Lots of showers & t-storms noted I don't mind a little rain, I just worry that it will negatively impact the diving as well as churn things up and lessen the visibility. I know March is part of rainy season...

So we're planning to GO FOR IT, but would appreciate any tho't
HorizonBound is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -

FODOR'S VIDEO

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 12:09 PM.