Alissa Jenkins finds five low-carbon alternatives to enjoying the hell out of your break in the Whitsundays.
1. Indulge in barefoot paradise
Unlike most luxury stays, Paradise Bay Island Resort is a solar-powered eco resort on Long Island. Better still, there’s no phone reception, no internet, no kids and no more than 18 guests allowed at any time. But don’t be fooled by the rustic feel, the menu is five-star using local and seasonal ingredients. The waterfront bungalows are nothing to scoff at either, each with a king-sized bed, rainwater showers and Molton Brown amenities. And when you’re not making use of the day spa, the pool or waiting for sunset canapés, the resort has a skipper on hand to take you wherever you fancy.
2. Get back to nature
The Whitsundays is a camper’s dream with countless campsites and idyllic weather. Among the favourites is Crayfish Beach on Hook Island. The beach itself is set in a small cove between two mountains, sheltered from winds. The campground is set back among native trees but you’ll need to be self-sufficient. Another is Dugong Beach on Whitsunday Island – popular among locals and shaded under a dry rainforest. If you don’t want to sail or kayak there, Whitsunday Island Camping Connections run transfers, supply camping gear and food. Alternatively, Big4 Holiday Park at Airlie Beach has won many awards for its amenities, pool and atmosphere.
3. Follow in the footsteps of the traditional owners
The Ngaro Sea Trail combines seaways with bushwalks across South Molle, Hook and Whitsunday islands, featuring culturally significant landmarks to the traditional owners of the area, the Ngaro people (residing in the Whitsundays for over 9000 years). The trail is largely self-guided with kayak-friendly stretches that you can also access by small boat – be it private, charter or commercial. The walks vary from 200-metre strolls to seven-kilometre hikes across whole islands, covering open forests, grasslands and rainforest. However the real highlight is the ancient rock art sites and postcard-perfect lookouts.
4. Explore the islands without a carbon footprint
Sea kayaking is one of the most leisurely ways to see the colours of the reef, and all it requires is some muscle, not motor. You can either hire a kayak and head out on your own, or jump on board a guided tour. There are several operators around Hamilton Island that run guided kayaks for children and adults, for instance Salty Dog Sea Kayaking (don’t be put off by the name) run great tours from half-day to six days. Or if you want to try something different but equally eco-conscious, Whitsunday Stand Up Paddle provides both boards and tours for first-time stand-up paddle boarders, including free photos and stinger suit hire.
5. Do your bit
Eco Barge Clean Seas, a not-for-profit environmental organisation dedicated to protecting marine life in the Whitsundays, runs a voluntourism project where anyone can help them pick up marine debris from the islands. The trips usually run twice a month but are dependent on weather so contact the office beforehand. The experience includes a day trip on board their 10-metre commercial barge, which takes up to 10 people to a local beach where the day is spent collecting rubbish that has blown in from as far as New Zealand and Tasmania. Morning tea, lunch and cleaning equipment is all provided and it’s a feel-good way to see the Whitsundays area and to help keep it beautiful.