Thursday, January 1, 2015
One of the last places to see on our Aussie list were the Whitsundays. Our original plan was to take a sailing cruise but with a toddler that was out of question. Instead we spent 3 nights on each Long Island and Hamilton Island. We spent the first three days at Palm Bay resort on Long Island and we have enjoy it a lot. The resort is very small and our bungalow was practically on the beach. Although the sand was a bit scarce our son enjoyed being on the beach or at the pool all day long. The free kayaks were also quite nice since it was easier to reach the snorkeling spot about 150m out. The coral was not very large but it was very diverse with most of the coral types being present. Also there were quit a lot of fish species. The only downside was the current which made the water a bit murky. Diving couple of meters made the view much clearer though. The second part of the trip on Hamilton Island was not that nice: too many people, the only beach was usable only in the morning (with the afternoon tide the water was far away and the beach was rocky and muddy) and the pool at our accommodation was small and toddler unfriendly. From Hamilton we have taken a tour to ReefWorld and one to Whitehaven beach. Reefworld was a disappointment since I did not see anything I haven`t seen before. The reef was certainly big but that was about all. The good part of Reefworld was the heli ride which provided an overview of the area. Whitehaven beach was certainly nice and we would have spent more time there. Our bad planning meant we could not take advantage of the lowest tides of the year at Hill inlet....everything was already booked. The same happened at ReefWorld ...all fly/cruise tours were booked so we had to spend extra for the heli tour on top of being on the boat 2 hours each way.
Last August we had a short escape to the Cook Islands (Rarotonga).... We have selected the place based on recommendations from friends who visited the Islands before. With a bit of delay let`s try and remember the good and the bad. The trip was quite short from Melbourne with a stop in Auckland. We have rented a house close to Muri beach and we got a car for the first three days. Although there is a bus going around the island every 30 min or so I think it is more convenient to have your own vehicle....particularly since we often found ourselves pursuing the sunshine. Rarotonga is quite small with the main road following the coastline (32 km) and a secondary road about 200m further inside. There is nothing much to see on Rarotonga except beaches and some tracks to the mountain peaks. The nicest beaches are in the southern part, e.g. Muri Lagoon and so on. However, we often had to use the western beaches where weather was better. Provisions are available from a hand full of supermarkets with the biggest one being located in Avarua. However, the food variety is quite small and fresh produce are scarce...one of the main negative points. The beaches are nice, particularly Muri lagoon but nothing extraordinary. The climb to the peak (the Needle) is not very difficult and you are supposed to have quite a nice view from the top. Unfortunately we arrived in bad weather with very low clouds and rain so we did not see much. In Muri there are some dinners and every couple of days a night market with food stands which was enough for us. One of my main disappointments was the general dirtiness, stray dogs and rubbish all over the place, particularly on the western beaches. For such a small and touristic place this far from acceptable. Also, the inland road is littered with abandoned properties and dump sites. Overall, I would not recommend Rarotonga. For the amount of money spent to get there is not really worth. Probably staying on one of the smaller islands is a better choice. We did a one day trip to Aitutaki and I think we would probably go back there. The place is smaller, less touristic, no dogs, much cleaner and the lagoon is quite nice.