Australia, the lucky country, is blessed with more than 10,000 beaches. And Ken Duncan has pointed his lens up and down a vast number of them. Here he explores his favourites, along the east coast, through the Whitsundays and as far north as Lizard Island.


Some years ago I was on a photo shoot in Florida, hunting for beach images for a book I was doing on America. While I traced the coast for days, the local radio station kept promoting Florida as “the place with the world’s best beaches”. Every time I heard that I thought, “Mate, you need to get out more.”

Florida’s beaches are nice. But compared to Australia? Well, there’s really no comparison. I don’t want to sound like a galah but when it comes to beaches, Australia did exceptionally well in the draw. We could loan a few to other countries and still have thousands to play on. Our island paradise has all sorts too: sand, coral, pebbles, shells, squeaky, golden, white, red, grey and many more shades and textures between. There are a few magnificent stretches of beach on islands off our eastern coast that really make my heart sing, each with its own unique character. And all could be captioned with one of my favourite quotes: Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.

Let’s start with some national treasures from the Whitsundays. Whitehaven Beach and Hill Inlet on Whitsunday Island, just off Airlie Beach, are among my favourite places on earth. The sand at both these locations is just about pure silica. In bright sunlight it’s such a radiant white you’ll definitely need sunglasses.

The walk down Whitehaven Beach to Hill Inlet at its western end looks deceptively short, but in fact the beach is over six kilometres long. On a clear day, it just doesn’t get any better than this place for swimming. Big waves are rarely a problem as Whitsunday Island is protected by the Great Barrier Reef. One of the best ways to enjoy this location is onboard a yacht – then you get to stay when most of the visitors have left for the day, as tours are mainly between 10am to about 4pm.

If you do choose the long walk down Whitehaven, when you reach Hill Inlet it can really only be explored at low tide. You need to get across to the other side of the inlet to really see some of the great photo and exploration opportunities, and you need to be mindful of the tide changes. A far better way to really enjoy this place is by small-boat charters that come into Tongue Bay, west of Hill Inlet. You take an easy stroll over the hill, stopping to admire the view from the lookout, then follow the path down into the inlet. You really need hours for a thorough exploration of all that Hill Inlet has to offer. Take an esky with cold drinks and food and you truly will be in paradise. If you really want to impress your loved ones (or those you’d like to become loved ones), take them here. There are generally few people who make it to this haven, as numbers are restricted.

Two good locations from which to gain easy access to Whitsunday Island are Hamilton and Hayman Islands. Hamilton is a blast and offers all levels of accommodation, as well as a range of cafe and restaurant options and a host of other activities. You can shoot a 44 Magnum at the rifle range, race go-carts, practice your golf – you name it, I’m sure they can somehow arrange it. It’s very user-friendly for families, singles, lovers, even enemies, as you could lose them in the crowd. Children especially love this island as they can also misplace their parents and have lots of fun with newfound friends.
Hayman is the place to stay when you want to have a very intimate time and be totally pampered without any distraction from children, other guests or staff. If you’re the sort of traveller who needs to watch your finances, then this probably isn’t the place for you. There’s a wide range of activities and some great extra locations right on your doorstep like Blue Pearl Bay and Langford Reef for snorkelling. While you’re in the area, make sure you include a helicopter flight, as Whitsunday Island and the nearby Great Barrier Reef are stunning from the air.

Another great island getaway is Lizard Island, off the coast north of Cooktown. It has some of the highest-rated diving spots in Australia and is endowed with stunning natural beauty. It also has a five star resort that is a wonderful place to stay. Although if you’re looking to meet people, it’s probably not the spot for you. It’s really for couples or people who enjoy their own company. Some families holiday there but young children aren’t really encouraged as they may disturb other guests. This is a very intimate resort and guest numbers are limited. And it has some beautiful beaches, ones so appealing they could be used for romantic movie sets. On my last visit, as I waited for the right light – often for hours – occasionally a couple would wander in as though auditioning for a part.

Yes, we Australians are blessed with our inspiring land. This spectacular place we call home gives us great hope for the future. And there’s nothing like a great beach to help soothe the human spirit.

* Got a question for Ken? Email kduncan@australiantraveller.com – or for more of his work visit www.kenduncan.com


Protecting your photos //

There are two types of people who take digital photos; those who’ve had a hard drive crash and those waiting to have one. Since the advent of digital photography, there’s a great temptation to just keep on shooting, amassing gigabytes and even terabytes of data. Many people leave images on the card in their camera for months (a dangerous practise), and storage cards can also become corrupted, so in order to avoid that sickening feeling when you realise you’ve just lost or deleted treasured memories, it’s very important to save and back-up your images properly. But will the storage method you’re using even be around in 30 years? When your loved ones want to review your life’s adventures, will your history be lost in some ancient storage system?

For many, CD and DVD are the most common digital archiving methods. But even if they can be read in 20 years, will your information still be intact? Normal quality discs will most likely suffer disc rot before this time, so if you’re going to store on these mediums, use archival quality discs that will stand the test of time.

A good way to preserve large amounts of data is to use a high-quality raided back-up disc, which has two drives in a single unit and makes two copies of your info. If there’s a problem with one drive, everything will still be on the other one. The brand I use is Caldigit (www.caldigit.com). They make great equipment.

Maybe this article will be your personal reminder to properly back-up your treasured memories and not let procrastination catch up with you.

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