Whitsunday wandering

Mackay – Bowen – Whitehaven Beach – Shute Harbour – Airlie Beach

In August 2018 Sigi and I flew up to the Whitsundays for a few days to enjoy the winter sunshine. Mike Cahill came with us as far as Mackay so he could visit his mum. I flew the first leg from Redcliffe to our lunch stop in Gladstone and Mike took over for the flight to Mackay.

Departing Gladstone

On the way we passed over Rockhampton and Shoalwater Bay military training area that was nonactive. Mike’s brother picked us up at the airport and took us to our hotel for the night.

Rockhampton from 8000ft
North of Rockhampton
Shoalwater Bay with the military runway
Approaching Mackay
On base RWY 14 in Mackay

That night we were treated to a fireworks display over the beach. It seemed someone was celebrating a wedding at the hotel.

The next day we had a walk on the beach at sunrise and later Mike took us for a tour of Mackay before heading out to the airport for our departure to Bowen.

Mackay beach

We followed the coast, orbiting over Cape Hillsborough.

From there we flew on over the bay to the Whitsundays, over Airlie Beach and on into Bowen on the Don River that flows underground most of the time. Water appears when it’s in flood apparently. It’s a great bit of coastline. Lots of beaches and the water is warm. We got a taxi to our cabin at Horseshoe Bay, a lovely area just to the northeast of Bowen itself.

Whitsunday Island
Don River at Bowen
Horseshoe Bay, Bowen

We had interesting visit to the local cinema that evening: Mission Impossible was followed by our taxi not turning up and being given a lift home by the cinema’s owner. Ben was one of the many volunteers who helped with creation of Baz Luhrmann’s film “Australia” ten years ago. He runs a very modern cinema within a heritage listed building.

Bowen cinema

The next day was a non-flying day – a time to relax. We caught the bus downtown to the Bowen “CBD”. Our tour started along the foreshore where Bowen’s role as home to the Catalina flying boats during WWII is commemorated. This is the “hard dock” where the Catalina flying boats were brought out of the water for servicing. Note the 10-12 knot sea breeze!

There a many many murals around Bowen. This one celebrates the role of flying boats around the second world war.

The foreshore is also where the film “Australia” was filmed in part with the town being recreated as Darwin in the 1940s for a few months in 2007. The Grand View Hotel nearby was one real building that was used in the film and is still in use today. The locals seem to think it’s over priced and over rated. We thought it was pretty good.

The Grand View Hotel

After a look in the local museum we had lunch there. Then it was back to Horseshoe Bay and a 2 hour walk around the headland of massive granite boulders with views up and down the coastline. This really is a great part of the country.

The next day was a good day for a flight over the islands. We invited our new friend Ben “the movie man” to come with us. He flew in the past and was eager to see what a Cirrus is like. He knows the area really well so made a perfect navigator to help us avoid controlled airspace around Hamilton Island. We took off from Bowen and passed over his cinema in Queens Beach then tracked over Horseshoe Bay and climbed to 3500ft for the flight over the bay to Gloucester Island.

Departing Bowen, looking along Queens Beach towards Horseshoe Bay
Gloucester Island

From there we followed the coast, descending to 1500ft and at Airlie Beach tracked over water to Hook Island and up the coast to Hayman Island then down the east coast of Hook and on down Whitsunday Island to Whitehaven Beach, seeing the fault line that the pure white sand comes out of to replenish Whitehaven Beach.

Whitehaven Beach, with Hamilton Island left background
Whitehaven Beach showing sand trench

Turning 180 degrees we headed back up the eastern coast of Whitsunday Island then tracked back to Airlie Beach, joined right base for Runway 14 into Shute Harbour Airport.

It’s a fancy sealed strip with Airpark. Base for scenic flights and sky divers. I did a “greaser” of a landing much to the delight of Ben.

Turning final on RWY14 Shute Harbour

Ben treated us to a lazy lunch at one of the resorts in Airlie Beach.

The view at lunch

Later it was back to the airport, a quick preflight and we were ready for the flight back to Bowen.

All aboard!

We took off over Shute Harbour itself, swung a left and passed by Airlie Beach again on our way back to Bowen.

Airlie Beach

Back at Bowen we caught a taxi to Horseshoe Bay and went for a swim and watched the sun set.

The next day it was time to head home. We flew the quick hop to Mackay where we refuelled MSF and met Mike who had brought his mum out to show her the plane. He offered her a flight but she refused. Likes to stay firmly grounded it appears. Then it was time to take off and head back to Redcliffe passing the coal loading terminal on the climb out.

Mackay Coal Loading Terminal

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