5 reasons to escape to the Whitsundays this winter

5 reasons to escape to the Whitsundays this winter

If you prefer to escape the cold and holiday somewhere hot, then ditch the winter blues and pack for the sunny Whitsundays. When it comes to choosing whether to freeze or fry over winter, Aussies love a hot getaway, with 72.5 per cent preferring to head to a hot destination, according to a winter survey by travel website Wotif.com.

5 reasons to escape to the Whitsundays this winter

  1. Soak up the Vitamin D: In the recent Wotif.com survey, 34.8 per cent of holidaymakers revealed going to the beach was their top hot activity in winter, followed by 29.2 per cent favouring to explore new cultures, 24.7 per cent relaxing by the pool, 9.3 per cent drinking cold cocktails. You can escape the cold winter days and swap them for 22 degree days relaxing on the beaches at the Whitsundays. It’s the perfect weather to go on a GoDo Whitehaven Beach sailing adventure with time to relax and roll out your beach towel on the powdery, white sand.
  1. Swap hot chocolates for tropical cocktails: Relax on Hamilton Island and re-live your summer with refreshing cocktails by the pool or at one of the bars. The Hamilton Island Reef View Hotel has a range of refreshing cocktails on offer at the poolside Reef Terrace Restaurant.You can finish the evening with stunning sunset views sipping on a strawberry and orange ‘Summer Love’ cocktail at One Tree Hill, the Island’s hill-top lookout.
  1. Indulge and get pampered: Relax at Airlie Beach’s Pinnacles Resort & Spa and get pampered with Endota’s weekday June spa special. After your pampering, relax on the private verandah with views over the Coral Sea and Whitsunday Islands.
  1. See the underwater world: With the water temperature rarely dropping below 23 degrees, it’s just the right temperature to get up close with tropical fish and colourful coral species snorkelling or scuba diving along the World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef, one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Did you know you can even spend the night out under the stars of the Reef?
  1. Spot a whale: From July to October, whales are a common sight frolicking among the Whitsunday Islands and even occasionally out on the Great Barrier Reef. Those out on the water, the islands, or even just sitting in a café by the beach are regularly indulged by excited young calves and their mothers breaching out of the water, playing with boats and each other, and majestically gliding through the waters of the Whitsundays.


You might also like TravelLiveLearn.com Whitsundays Wonder 

Featured image by Richard Rydge, creative commons


Discovering history and travel in Cooktown Australia

Discovering history and travel in Cooktown Australia

Cooktown is one of those unique places in the world brimming with truly colourful characters from all walks of life. A quintessentially Aussie town of 2000 people and a destination of unspoilt beauty; here you may discover the very best of Australia’s coast, rainforest, bush, savannah and desert landscapes, which remain largely unchanged since the days when Captain Cook and his crew from England first spotted land.

From country folk donning Akubras, and the Indigenous locals proudly showing visitors around their traditional lands, to those who have migrated far north for a break from high-powered city lives, and bar staff with their thick Scottish accents − everyone’s got a story and they’re happy to tell it (or listen to yours). It’s difficult to resist conjuring romantic notions of living in a place like this, A Country Practice style (Aussie TV throwback reference!), as Cooper and I do consider little towns like Cooktown with much affection.


It’s actually mind boggling to discover that a little town in the far northern reaches of Australia might offer such delightful facilities, and the Sovereign Resort Hotel far surpassed our expectations. I mean, it looks lovely on the website − and honestly, it’s just as nice, if not nicer! There’s a shuttle service to and from the airport, the prices are great, inexpensive car hire available on-site, accommodation options are available depending on your needs, staff (particularly Sally) are absolutely lovely, rooms clean and spacious, restaurant divine, pool is perfect and you couldn’t ask for a more convenient (or pretty) location in the centre of town. Highly recommended, would stay here again without hesitation. Book online: Sovereign Resort Hotel

Cooktown aerial o town

While it’s the traditional town-Down Under experience you’ll enjoy in Cooktown, what may surprise you is the interesting history that seeps into every street corner, along the waterfront, trailing up and down mountainsides, throughout pubs, the post office and port. Cooktown has endured its ups and downs in terms of boom-times, but will forever maintain a critical position in Australia’s story.

In 1770, as the traditional owners of the land, the Guugu Yimidhirr people, watched on with trepidation, Lieutenant James Cook and his crew ran their ship, Endeavour, aground. They had discovered Botany Bay in New South Wales (April 1770), and Seventeen Seventy in Queensland (May 1770) but on the way up towards Australia’s tip, the Great Barrier Reef seriously damaged the hull of the ship, and they had to stop here for 48 days (the longest onshore stay of this particular voyage of discovery). Cook named only one river in Australia, that being the Endeavour here in Cooktown, after the vessel his crew were able to save in these parts. Of course, he returned home to England and Australia would later be officially founded by Captain Arthur Phillip in 1788, but Cooktown was already firmly plotted on early maps of Australia by then.

The settlement gradually flourished and just under 100 years on, Cooktown was in fact the second most thriving town in Queensland with one of the busiest ports, all due to the Palmer River Gold Rush (1873). Stores, pubs, banks, gambling and even opium dens were flourishing in town, while 15,000 miners (10,000 being Chinese) prospected for gold along the banks of the Endeavour. Several buildings, many treasured artefacts, and most likely a few ghosts, remain here from that colourful period.

The Gold ‘rush’ was just that, a fleeting period in time which would indeed come to an end, leaving the future of Cooktown hanging delicately by a thread. I recently discovered a Sydney Morning Herald article from 1 November 1941 where the journalist, Hugh Henry, described the then “Ghost town of the North”:


“… A ramshackle wharf now seldom visited by large steamers; a dilapidated township with fine public buildings fast falling into decay, while hotels alone continue to do a thriving business; and a signal-station hill commanding one of the loveliest river views in Australia a wide estuary of sapphire gleaming under a sky of kingfisher blue. That is Cooktown today. Australia is a young country and it is natural to think of its history as one of uninterrupted progress. But no traveller can go far in Australia without being impressed by the number of towns with a record of past prosperity, and a present so deteriorated that it is difficult to establish any connection between them as they have been and as they are. Among Australia’s ghost towns Cooktown, on the far north coast of Queensland, occupies a prominent position. Tile residents of Cooktown reject any suggestion that their native place is dead, but in the next breath they are eager to discuss ways and means of resurrection.”


Cooktown view rom lighthouse

While Cooktown isn’t home to as many as its hey-day of the late 1800s, it does boast a friendly population of interesting people from all over the world, and indeed is a delightful place to visit. There’s a grand old building resembling an American plantation home on the main strip that’s for lease − I’m in love with it! Various glorious old structures are located around town, and make for a refreshing change to the mundane contemporary constructions that saturate most contemporary Australian locations. Equally beautiful is what Mother Nature has blessed this part of the world with − sublime coastline, divine hill-top views and inspiring landscapes as far as the eye can see.

I could literally go on and on about how many travel and recreational options there are on offer here, and as we’ve mentioned in our video coverage of the town, we’ve only just scratched the surface. It’s certainly a little place with not only a big heart, but history and adventure to boot. However, in pursuit of learning, combined with travel, here’s a few things we’d suggest you keep an eye out for:


Honestly, one of the top reasons to travel in Cooktown and around top end in the first place is for the opportunity to fly with Hinterland Aviation. The team (both in Cairns and Cooktown) are friendly, professional and fun. There’s free WiFi in the Cairns terminal, plenty of flight options per week to choose from, and while you can drive to Cooktown in around three hours, this service is convenient, easy and value for money. The scenery between Cairns and Cooktown is awe-inspiring, and seeing it from this vantage point − through the sizeable windows of a comfortable charter plane − is really a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and should be on everyone’s bucket-list. More at: Hinterland Aviation

Just 45 minutes, scenic flight − it’s flexible, convenient, great value and private − save time, energy and enjoy the landscape in a way that showcases its ultimate beauty− from above!


James Cook Museum

Being one of Australia’s most historical townships you’ll find many displays and places to visit to learn about Cooktown’s past. Some of the town’s old colonial buildings can still be seen today and walking down Charlotte Street you’ll note great examples including the old bank building built in 1891 for the Queensland National Bank, the Post Office (1887), The Daintree Divisional Board Council Hall, now the RSL (1885), Jackey Jackey Store Building, now a café (1886), The Sovereign Hotel, now The Sovereign Resort (1874), and Seagren’s Store, now Seagren’s Inn (1880). Additionally you’ll not want to miss the beautifully restored convent building and a former boarding school for girls, now home to the James Cook Museum on Helen Street. Built in 1889, it features displays of an anchor and cannon from the ship Endeavour, some of Captain Cook’s diary extracts, and fascinating stories about life in early Cooktown. Entry is $10 (adults).

If you enjoy this museum and its historical offerings, you may also be interested to take a look at The History Centre on Charlotte Street (opposite The Sovereign Resort Hotel) which currently houses the Cooktown and District Historical Society, award-winning interpretive historical displays, and family research facility. Entry is $5 (adults).

Love old photos? Here are some fascinating images from old Cooktown.

Cooktown plane

Grassy Hill

The lookout on Grassy Hill with its 360 degree views of Cooktown, coastline, inlet and the sprawling hills in the distance is one of the area’s most popular attractions. The landscape seen today from the top of the hill has changed little since Cook and the crew of the Endeavour climbed Grassy Hill in 1770 to view the surrounding reefs. To most of us, Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef is famous, attracting tourists from all over the world. But to Cook and his crew it would have presented a real danger. From this vantage point, Cook would have been able to plot a safe course through the dangerous reefs to get the crew safely on their way back towards home.

The Cook Monument

Cooktown is rich in history and the Cook Monument commemorates Lieutenant James Cook’s landing on 17 June 1770. It was on this location the local Aborigines would have watched with caution and curiosity as the crew beached his ship the Endeavour, tethering it to a tree after its wooden hull was damaged on the reef south of Cooktown. It’s been told that because white people had never been seen before, the Aborigines thought Cook’s crew were ghosts! Interesting note: It was during this time that botanist, Joseph Banks, wrote the first European description of a kangaroo. How unique Australia must have seemed!

Captain Cook Cooktown

Cooktown Lighthouse

Cooktown Lighthouse on Grassy Hill was built in England and shipped to Cooktown, in 1885 to guide ships through the reef. Back then, Cook would have been very impressed by this technology!

Cooktown lighthouse

Cooktown view 2

Nature’s Powerhouse + Botanical Gardens

A two-minute drive from the town centre is the indoor Nature’s Powerhouse and historic Botanical Gardens. The Nature’s Powerhouse contains a stunning collection of works by local artists with a very strong emphasis on plants. The Botanical Gardens have a long history and were first established in 1878, only five years after Cooktown was established, and feature many of the plants used by the local Aboriginal people in their daily lives then and now. Many of the plant species were completely new to botanist Joseph Banks, who accompanied James Cook on The Endeavour and returned home to England with exciting clippings to study.

The Queen’s Steps

The Queen’s Steps were made for HM Queen Elizabeth II for her visit to Cooktown in 1970 to open the James Cook Museum, part of a yearlong celebration marking 200 years since Captain James Cook’s remarkable voyage of discovery.

The Cemetery and Chinese Shrine

The Cooktown Cemetery and Chinese Shrine is just outside the centre of town, and offers insight into how tough life would have been for the early pioneers. The styles of graves indicate religious groupings but surprisingly there is a virtual absence of Chinese and Aboriginal graves, despite burials of both peoples being recorded. Many of the events and individuals that contributed to Cooktown’s development are remembered however; and keep an eye out for notable old graves, like that of the oldest identifiable burial place, of Rev Francis Tripp who died on the 20 May 1874 at the age of 46.

Cooktown cemetary

The Powder Magazine Building

The Powder Magazine Building was built in 1874 to store explosives. It is thought to be the first brick building constructed on Cape York Peninsula. Interestingly, no nails were used in the building in order to prevent sparks when barrels of gunpowder were being moved.

The Milbi Wall

A unique attraction in Cooktown is the Milbi Wall, a one metre high curving wall, around 12 metres in length, made of hundreds of ceramic tiles and divided into three sections, each telling history from an Aboriginal perspective.

  1. •The first tells the stories of the creation of the Cooktown area (sometimes called Dreamtime stories), and is important to the culture of the first Australians.
  2. The second section of the wall represents first contact with Europeans.
  3. The third section centres on the 1967 Australian Constitutional referendum, when the Australian people voted to give Aboriginal and Torres Strait people full equality, including voting rights.

Cooktown Milbi Wall

Fisherman’s Wharf

A beautiful spot for a stroll, fishing or even some alone contemplation-time. This was once, during the Gold Rush, one of the busiest ports in Queensland. It’s also the starting point of the River of Life Walkway which meanders through parklands to the Post Office, with plaques dotted along the way explaining the stories behind the historic sites you on your path.

There’s a handy WELCOME TO COOKTOWN  map which you will find at information centres and hotels/motels which outlines these landmarks and more, making a driving or walking tour of the town easy and fun, ensuring you don’t miss a thing.

Cooktown boats

There are also copious tour options on offer in the area which take visitors on excursions to surrounding coast and bushland, for more history, fishing, hiking, swimming, driving, animal-spotting, Reef adventures and more. One of the most renowned and popular options leaving from Cooktown is award-winning Guurrbi Aboriginal Tours, which takes guests on a magical tour through surrounding lands, exploring life as it was and discovering ancestral rock art sites, lead by Willie, the traditional story-keeper of the Nugal-warra clan. As one guest has said on their website, the excursion is, “An amazing journey of story and dreaming, birthing and beginning”.

Cooktown is a great place to snorkel, fish, spot a crocodile, explore the Outback or just relax. Pristine beaches, incredible mountain views, cascading waterfalls, and excellent fishing are just some of the wonderful experiences to be enjoyed in this region. More information: TourismCapeYork.com

Travel essentials

In Cooktown you’ll find everything you need for a break away. There’s a pharmacy, newsagent, IGA supermarket, plenty of pubs and cafe options, take-away and huge bakery offering breakfast options and delicious Chinese dishes for lunch.

IMG_2029 (Copy)

Have you been to Cooktown or any awesome little Aussie spots? Share your adventure and travel tips with us on FACEBOOK and TWITTER.


Wonderful Whitsundays

Wonderful Whitsundays

Travelled: to Qualia Resort, Hamilton Island and Hayman Island.

Lived: like a Queen! And experienced a sea plane for the first time.

Learned: humans really shouldn’t feed wildlife – the rubbish we eat completely ruins not only the eco-system but a wild animal’s natural ability to live, hunt, protect itself and grow.


Already unsure as to how this particular weekend could get any better, Tamara impressed me by taking us to one of the jewels in Hamilton Island‘s gleaming crown – Qualia – an ultra-exclusive, private retreat that offers guests ‘Qualia-only’ beachfront, dining and spa space. We were privileged to join an early morning yoga class overlooking the ocean (the epitome of Zen), followed by a delicious breakfast in Qualia’s long pavilion.

As I indulged in Eggs Benedict with a special touch of avocado and spicy tomato, I couldn’t help but gaze out at the ocean and mountain views thinking, “how on Earth did I end up here?”.

This continued to play on my mind as Linda and I wandered down to the guests’ private pool and beach-front (pictured below) to snap a few photos. Lucky patrons lazed on comfy sun beds, soothed by the lapping ocean and warm environment, no doubt admiring the view which included a whale playing in the inlet!

Next we were in for a real treat! The five of us, along with our belongings, were packed carefully on board an Air Whitsunday sea plane – destination: super exclusive, beautiful Hayman Island. Grinning like a 5-year-old I held on tight to my handbag as we took off across the ocean. Gliding over coral reefs and Whitsunday islands of all shapes and sizes, we stared in awe at the beauty that we, as Australians, so often take for granted. A highlight of the flight was the fly-by of spectacular Whitehaven Beach  – a stunning and iconic Queensland location, popular for weddings and tourism photo shoots.

Take a 60-second flight with us:

The sea plane engines quietened as our pilot guided us down on to the water, and we gently sailed our way into Hayman’s ‘backyard’. I have always dreamed of visiting Hayman.

As a teen – a child of hard-working parents, doing their utmost to provide a decent education for their kids – I attended a private school brimming with ‘privileged families’, and I recall some of my classmates telling stories about Hayman. It sounded so flash, high-end, luxurious. Let me assure you, it is.

Serene, absolutely beautiful, and I now am the one who is privileged to have visited. Walking through the doors into my sensational pool-view apartment, I was overwhelmed by the now familiar, “how did I get here?” feeling. In fact, thanks to Hayman (and all of the Whitsundays, actually), my enthusiasm and delight for travelling ‘in my own backyard’ has been renewed. Hayman Island really is a paradise, second to nothing witnessed on the Travel Channel, anywhere in the world.

From the mouth-watering fine-dining menus, peaceful spa treatments, landscaped gardens, open air gym, tennis facilities and beaches to the water sport activities, island hopping adventures and reef diving, it’s all here (and more!) – indulgence and fun at your fingertips. Save your pennies people, this spot is worth it. Whether you’re in a beach villa, pool-side or lagoon-view apartment, it’s all luxury and five-star service. And why would you travel overseas to experience paradise when you can support local operations like this? Enough said.

Any Whitsundays experience will provide ample opportunities to do whatever you fancy – rest, relax, exercise, indulge. The Whitsunday Islands are sublime; everywhere we went the service was excellent and amenities certainly five-star. See you all again soon, with any luck ;-)


  • The world’s largest coral reef system.
  • In 1981 was deemed a World Heritage Area.
  • Spans an area almost one and a half times that of the UK or roughly the area of Germany.
  • Comprises just over 2900 individual reefs; around 760 of these are fringing reefs, which can be found on sections of the mainland shores and islands.
  • The reef includes 900 islands, 600 of which are continental islands, such as those 74 in the Whitsundays; others are coral cays formed though build up of coral.
  • The GBR is home to 10% of the world’s fish species; includes 1625 species of fish, 400 species of hard coral, more than 150 species of soft coral, six of the world’s seven species of marine turtle, 30 species of whales and dolphins, 133 species of sharks and rays, 215 species of birds and approximately 1300 species of crustaceans.
    [Sources: Great Barrier Marine Park Authority (GRMPBA), UNESCO, Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM), Great Barrier Reef Foundation]


Featured image by Paul Benjamin, creative commons
Whitsundays wonder: part one

Whitsundays wonder: part one

Travelled: to Airlie Beach and Hamilton Island, Whitsundays, Queensland, Australia.

Lived: like a princess

Learned: that the Whitsunday Islands are supremely beautiful, brimming with awesome holiday options for anyone seeking fun, fitness, rest, relaxation, fine dining and fabulous cocktails.


I grew up in Far North Queensland, right on the doorstep of the Great Barrier Reef, but never before have I ever seen it as I did on the weekend, in all its spectacular glory. I was invited on a Whitsundays experience and flew down the coast from Cairns to Hamilton Island this past Saturday.

Visibility was pretty much perfect, as you can see from the photos! Usually airline passengers will only view the deep blue below, but over the weekend the reef was showing off, and looked entirely magical from above.

I waited a short while at Hamilton Island airport before boarding the ferry to Airlie Beach, a pretty, hilly ocean-side paradise set within the Whitsunday Islands.

While, like Cairns, Airlie Beach offers fun for party-goers and backpackers, there is also a luxurious resort culture here that presents a playground for adults (without the noise or crowds at the bar).

Resorts are built into the hills around Airlie Beach, overlooking the ocean, and we stayed at Pinnacles Resort & Spa which I’d highly recommend for its large, lush rooms, views as far as the eye can see, and easy proximity to everything in town. Room number 6 is the way to go, although I’m told by all our group that every room was divine (and HUGE). Particular highlights are the vast balconies that include a yummy spa bath and views of the Whitsundays.

We indulged in a fabulous dinner at Capers at the Beach Bar & Grill with none other than the Executive Chef, Tim Whitehorn. The divine set menu we sampled was enough to ensure we understood why the likes of Nicole Kidman, Matthew McConaughey and Hugh Jackman have also enjoyed a meal or two here.

A highlight? the Twice cooked pork belly, prawn, chorizo sausage, scallops, cauliflower cream & crispy prosciutto main, only to be matched by a dessert of strawberries and passionfruit with mango sorbet.

Interesting to note – place five gals with iPhones together in front of beautifully presented cuisine, then check out Instagram for live streaming of foodie pics.

It seems ‘food porn’ is the new favourite pastime of anyone with a camera and an eye for colour; and really, what better to photograph then food that looks like this…?

A peaceful sleep and beautiful sunrise later, it was time for brekky. Capers was so good that we returned again the next morning.

After guzzling as many pancakes, strawberries, delicious pork topped with pineapple, fresh fruits (locally grown, of course) and muesli, we wandered around the corner to Airlie Day Spa & Hair Studio for a bit of pampering.

This lovely establishment is conveniently located in the centre of town and caters to any and all beauty needs – both in-salon or by appointment to your room! Toes (Linda), manicure (me), and a couple of facials (Felicity and Meren) later, we bid farewell to the friendly team at Airlie Day Spa and went to meet our Whitsundays media familiarisation (‘famil’ in journalist speak) guide, Tamara, who was taking us on our next adventure to Hamilton Island.

We ferried across the channel keeping a keen eye open for whales splashing about in the sparkling blue.

A number of excited Japanese tourists raced outside in the breeze and indicated there were sightings to be had, but no such luck by the time we got to the deck.

It didn’t matter too much because in no time we had arrived at Hamilton and were distracted by the island’s many charming attributes.

Following check-in at the fabulous Reef View Hotel, we toured the famous Whitsundays holiday destination by electric buggy (no vehicles allowed here) before settling in for a divine relaxation massage at Spa Wumurdaylin.

We were all fairly sleepy by the time we finished ‘work’ on Sunday, but Linda and I powered on and ventured into the village for an evening ice-cream and martini (it was important to us to ensure our meal contained all essential nutrients required for a healthy diet).



The Whitsundays

  • 74 Islands including Hayman Island, Daydream Island, Hamilton Island, Whitsunday Island (and Whitehaven Beach), Long Island and North & South Molle Islands.
  • Getting there: Fly or drive to Proserpine (Whitsunday Coast Airport), Airlie Beach or Hamilton Island (airport).
  • Things to do: Snorkel, dive, sail, eat, relax, hike, explore, camp, golf, dine, swim, jetski, shop, party, indulge.

Start planning at: tourismwhitsundays.com.au


60-second PREVIEW: We take a sea plane to Hayman Island! 

Featured image by Paul Benjamin, creative commons