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 Story & Photos by Graeme and Isabelle Hurst, SY “Quiet Achiever”

Your dreams have come true; you have arrived at the Whitsundays and when safely anchored in one of the delightful sheltered inlets, you soon see the islands are every bit as beautiful as your dreams had promised. The handsome hoop pines and shady she-oaks right down to the water's edge, the tall peaks, crystal-clear water and white sandy beaches they are all there beckoning. Now you are eager to get ashore and stretch your legs, so are there any goods walks to be enjoyed?

Yes is the answer. They seem to be a bit of a secret, but we have found that some of the islands offer lovely walks that provide an excellent opportunity to explore interesting and at times spectacular scenery while also maintaining a healthy level of fitness. Most of the islands are National Parks, and have well-maintained paths and viewing areas that are well-sign posted. The variety of walks will suit all interests with their abundance of tropical flora and fauna and scenic views that are the stuff of glossy travel literature. The walking tracks will suit most levels of fitness and stamina, from the leisurely coastal stroll to the challenge of climbing a mountain.

We enjoy our walks and took the time to search out many of them, and would like to share our favourite locations with you.

Brampton Island

Brampton is one of the few islands with a path that allows you to walk right around the whole coastline. The track is well maintained and relatively easy, but it is a longish walk taking about 2 3 hours, so it is advisable to take some refreshments. Like all the islands in the Cumberland Group, the moist south easterly trade winds prevail, creating some interesting diversity in the flora. The south eastern side of the island is moist, lush and very tropical with its shady overhead canopy, and a delightful variety of green leafy plants, vines and maiden-hair ferns. The track passes by beautiful Dinghy Bay on the southern side of the island, which makes a very worthwhile diversion, particularly if you remembered your birthday suit! Nearby there are picnic tables among a stand of tall hoop pine where the breeze usually provides cool relief as it sighs through the shady trees.

The western side of the island is dry and more sparsely populated with hardy shrubs and eucalypts that cling to the arid terrain. Look carefully and you may see a lace monitor quietly foraging in the undergrowth. In the north-eastern corner of Brampton is the welcoming resort where you may relax by the pool with a cold drink, or take a refreshing shower.

Leading off the circuit track near the airstrip is the summit track that leads up to the highest point of the island with two splendid lookouts offering magnificent views of Brampton and the neighbouring islands. The summit track is all uphill, and may be best planned as a separate adventure. It takes you through more lush vegetation as you wind your way endlessly upwards. The views are well worth the walk, and there are some welcome seats at the lookouts to assist your recovery in the gentle breeze that often drifts in. Also look out for the 4000-year-old cyclad near the track in the grounds of the resort.

South Molle Island

The only anchorage at South Molle is in the northern bay off the resort, so the walks all start and end from across the golf course behind the resort. South Molle Island has a number of lovely walks and our two favourites are the Spion Kopf track, and the walk to the summit.

The Spion Kopf track is possibly the most exciting walk in the Whitsundays, with much of it cut out of the side of a steep spur and offering unobstructed views across the spectacular coastline and surrounding islands. The grass trees are the dominant plant and their beauty adds to the exhilaration of this walk. While the 90 minute walk winds its way uphill to an impressive lookout, it is not a strenuous walk, except for a steep section near the end.

The walk to the summit is longer and there is not much shade along the way, but the views across to Shute Harbour and Daydream Island make the effort worthwhile. Share the Spion Kopf track to the junction and allow about 2 hours for the round trip. On the return trip, look out for the colony of fruit bats in the branches above the track as you near the resort.

Visiting sailors are welcome at South Molle, and the pool is a great way to cool off after the walk. Consider planning your visit for a Friday and enjoy the seafood banquet and South Seas Island floorshow good fun!

Whitsunday Peak

Rising up from Cid Harbour, Whitsunday Peak is the tallest mountain in the area, and the route to the top is by far the most challenging! While the track appears well-formed at the start near the camping ground, once you turn uphill at the junction, it soon becomes a narrow, steep and difficult climb over some very rough terrain. Most of the track is under the tall canopy of the forest and takes you past some magnificent stands of Hoop Pine, perhaps the tallest that remain in the islands after the loggers went through more than 100 years ago. Cid Harbour was once the site of a saw mill!

After climbing the first peak, the track drops down into a saddle before rising again for the strenuous haul up to the summit. At this stage the track is hard to follow, requiring you to keep a lookout for the coloured ribbons in the trees marking the way. The terrain is very rough leading up from the saddle, and the person who marked the track does not appear to have put much thought into avoiding the most difficult sections as you scramble over rocky outcrops rather than skirt around them. It all adds to the challenge and sense of achievement once the trees thin out and you reach the pinnacle.

From the summit, the views are magnificent in every direction, and the whole Whitsunday Group can be seen clearly. Make sure you bring your camera as well as lots of water for this 4 hour round trip.

Long Island

There are two good anchorages at Long Island, and both are off resorts who make yachties very welcome. To the north is Happy Bay and the Club Crocodile Resort, while further south is the classy Peppers Palm Bay Resort in Palm Bay. The delightful forest walks are accessible from either resort. There is also the highlight at the Peppers Palm Bay Resort of mooring close to the beach with the stern of your boat tied to a palm tree! All the facilities of this peaceful up-market resort are made available to you.

Leading up to the north of the island is the 3.5km circuit called the Whitsunday walk, which takes a comfortable hour to complete. Winding through lush rainforest which is part of the Molle National Park, the track is well made and features comfortable inclines. There are magnificent elevated views of the Whitsunday Islands from the eastern section. An interesting detour at low tide is a walk out to Pelican Island on the eastern side of Long Island.

Meandering south is the Sandy Bay track, which connects the Club Crocodile Resort to the Peppers Palm Bay Resort before heading south to Sandy Bay. The walk is 5.9 km if you leave from Club Crocodile, and should take 1-1.5 hours. The rainforest and canopy gives welcome relief from the hot sun and gives occasional coastal glimpses through the dense foliage. You may also see a wallaby along the way. There are pretty detours to

Fish Bay and Pandanas Bay that are well worth exploring.

Nara Inlet

One of the shortest of our favourite walks is the walk up to the aboriginal cave on the eastern shore of Nara Inlet. It is believed the Ngaro aboriginals occupied the cave on their fishing expeditions to Hook Island before white occupation. There are remains of aboriginal artwork on the cave walls, some of which have been touched up for better display. There are also some fine specimens of the ancient Zamia Palm (Calas Media) in the area.

The track continues on past the cave where there are several good lookouts offering fine views down Nara Inlet and some great photographs of your yacht at anchor. The path can be taken right through to the head of Nara Inlet where it meets a dry river bed that has some rocky outcrops that form a large waterfall during the wet season. The adventurous can follow the rocky creek bed for some distance inland.

A dinghy is required to get to the start of the track which leads off a small beach up some steps that have been formed into the side of the rocky cliff. The walk to the cave takes about 10 minutes and is not hard, while you should allow up to an hour to explore the rest of the track through to the top of Nara Inlet.

While these are our favourite walks, there are other good ones to consider at Hamilton Island, Airlie Beach (Marina to Sailing club take your swimmers for the lagoon), Whitehaven Beach, Lindeman Island and Tongue Point on
Whitsunday Island with its fabulous view of Whitehaven Beach. Hope you have as much enjoyment as we did.

There are no doubt many other good walks, and maybe other Coastal Passage readers would like to share them also.