'Green Season' in the Whitsundays can bring rain, but the fun doesn't have to stop because of a bit of water.
For our tropical adventure, we're based in the beautiful coastal town of Airlie Beach, which is the heart of an incredibly diverse region and the gateway to the Whitsunday Islands.
It's raining when we arrive, so we call in to the Whitsunday Information Centre (Bruce Highway (192 Main Street) Proserpine)) to see how we can make the most of the weather.
The local guide gives us the low-down on all sorts of iconic experiences and a few hidden treasures that could keep us occupied for a lot longer than the few days we have.
We decide to join a Whitsunday Crocodile Safari Tour. Conveniently, they have a courtesy bus that transfers us to the tour's location, a short journey inland near the Proserpine River.
The day takes in wetlands in an open-air tractor-drawn wagon train, a delicious barbecue lunch, with damper and billy tea for afternoon tea (the campsite is fully undercover) and a river cruise; crocodile spotting on the vessel 'River Runner'.
The pace is relaxed, but the variety of flora and fauna is incredible. Our guide Steve informs us that the rain today changes the atmosphere making the conditions prime for wildlife spotting as we pass through freshwater wetland habitat, melaleuca forest and a mangrove ecosystem.
We see huge flocks of Magpie Geese, agile wallabies, resident brolgas performing their balletic dance, and the prehistoric splendour of the mighty salt water crocodiles.
It's a side of the Whitsundays we didn't expect to see, and it is pristine, peaceful and beautiful.
Our transfer drops us back into Airlie and we head straight for our self-contained suites at Summit Apartments and a glass of wine to wash down the sun set.
We've decided to venture back into town to a funky little bar/restaurant called Uber on Shute Harbour Road.
Situated above street level and with its plush furnishings and rich red hues throughout, it is the perfect place to while away time, sip a few cocktails and nosh on some tasty food fuelled by the fresh, local produce. The South East Asian chic, chilled tunes and relaxed patrons fit beautifully with the tropical location.
We don't stay out too late, however, as we have an early start for our half-day safari with Ecojet Safari.
As owner Nick said when we booked: 'You're gonna get wet on a jet ski anyway', so we figured we'd get out and get amongst it.
The safari departs from Montes Reef Resort at Cape Gloucester about an hour away from Airlie and takes us through some of the most beautiful waterways, beaches and rivers in the region.
Once out on the water and away from the coast, we outrun the grey clouds towards beautiful blue skies and a pretty fringing reef with loads of marine life. Snorkelling here is like being in our own personal tropical aquarium.
Heading up the river system at Cape Gloucester against the gently pattering rain, it feels like we are the first explorers and we are lucky enough to see dugongs, crocodiles, and turtles in and around the beautiful mangroves.
Crocs two days in a row! I'd never seen one in the wild before now.
After a lunch at Montes served with a big dose of views over the Coral Sea it's time to head back and check out an eclectic store back in Proserpine (25 minutes drive away) called Colour Me Crazy.
Started 15 years ago by Robin Shelbourne-Vernon in a tiny former saddlery, Colour Me Crazy has since grown, patching a series of smaller stalls into one big bohemian bazaar that takes over an entire laneway off the main street of Proserpine. The store sells everything from jewellery and homewares to clothing and garden supplies and is known for its riot of colourful wares hanging out the front.
And guys, if the ladies can't tear themselves away, you can always plonk yourself down on one of the old tractor seats in front of the 'Boys' Bar' for a complimentary cup of tea or coffee and read a magazine.
As we head back to Airlie for our final night we reflect on what has been a surprising and energising trip.
Now if only we could decide what's for dinner.
We only had a couple of days, but armed with the information we gleaned from the Whitsundays Information Centre we could have kept going for a lot longer. Here's a sample of what to do in the wet:
- Big4 Adventure Whitsunday Resort has a huge schedule of fun for kids during the wet - from table tennis and mini golf competitions, to scavenger hunts and kids club games. Many other resorts have family activities on during the wet.
- Why not indulge your body with a spa treatment? Options include Spa Hayman (Hayman Island), Spa qualia (qualia Hamilton Island), Endota Spas (Airlie
- Beach), and Rejuvenation Spa (Daydream Island)
- Enjoy the rainforest in the rain - on the Whitsundays Great Walk (closed February/March) - Highlights include wandering through majestic tropical rainforest and using your senses to watch for the blue flash of a Ulysses butterfly, smell lemon myrtle flowers in summer and listen for the distinctive call of the wompoo fruit-dove.
- Get amongst it. The summer rain isn't cold, so why not get out and do all the water activities you'd planned - snorkelling, sailing, cruising and exploring the Whitsundays. Just because it is raining in Airlie Beach doesn't necessarily mean it's raining on the islands, or at the Reef, so make sure you check with local operators as to the conditions of the day.
- What? It's blowing 25 knots and it's raining? GREAT! The choppier the sea, the more fun the adventure ride on Ocean Rafting gets. Always the last boat to cancel and often heading out in windy wet conditions, operators of the Whitsunday's adventure boat ride Ocean Rafting say 25 knots will give you an exhilarating wild ride (if you dare).
For more information visit http://www.queensland.com/en-AU/Explore-Queensland/The-Whitsundays
Word Count: 1009
Author: Tourism and Events Queensland
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