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Easter Weekend in Airlie Beach

(Reprint from News: March 28, 2002)

March 27, 2002


The next morning, my Camry and I continued heading south down Highway 1, bound for the town of Airlie Beach.  Driving in Australia is a lot different than driving in the U.S. because, among other things, most folks here don't drive faster than the posted speed limit, something that I still haven't gotten used to.  If the sign says 100 k.p.h. (62 miles an hour), everyone travels at 90 to 100 k.p.h. and hardly anyone drives faster.  Of course, back in the U.S., speed limits are more like "suggested" speeds and no one is stupid enough to actually drive at the posted speed limit.  That difference isn't surprising, though, because Australians are generally a lot more law-abiding than Americans, one of many things I really like about this country.


This was the Friday afternoon of Easter Weekend, which is a major 4-day holiday in Australia.  When I say major, I mean MAJOR.  Easter weekend in Australia is even bigger than Memorial Day or Labor Day weekend back in the U.S.  If you've been reading my website, you know that the biggest problem I had in New Zealand was visiting during their two-month summer holiday season, when everyone and their grandmother was out on the highways.  So with visions of the New Zealand experience dancing through my head, I was thankful to find a motel room that afternoon in Airlie Beach, one of the most popular vacation destinations in the country.  


Although it's a bit touristy, Airlie Beach is a nice place -- something like a small version of Key West, Florida.  There really isn't much of a beach there and what little beach there is, you need to be careful of this time of year because of the "stingers," or deadly box jellyfish (see News: March 25, 2001).  There's nothing like stepping on a box jellyfish to ruin your day.  A guy here had stepped on one a few days earlier and died, and a week before another tourist got stung by one and she died too.  Yep, don't mess with the stingers in northern Australia.


Airlie Beach is probably best known for being the jumping-off point for a beautiful archipelago just off-shore called the Whitsunday Islands, so-named by Captain James Cook back in the 1700s who sailed through them on Whitsunday (a religious holiday).  Well, he THOUGHT it was Whitsunday, but because he had unknowingly crossed the International Date Line earlier in his trip, it was actually, um, Whitmonday.  The Whitsundays are a beautiful group of islands, though, which I'll describe in more detail in my next update.


After unpacking at my motel room, I walked around Airlie Beach on Friday afternoon and discovered that it's a really great little town.  Like Key West, it's a bit lively and a bit laid-back... and it's also drenched with lots and lots of sun.  What made it even nicer was that, for some reason, it was packed with hundreds of beautiful young women.  As I strolled down the main street while passing endless groups of tanned, bikini-clad vixens, I honestly felt like I'd stepped onto another planet, especially after traveling across the estrogen-challenged Outback... but of course, I didn't stare.  Right out of a Beach Boys song, there were literally three girls for every guy here and it was that way all weekend, everywhere I went.  But hey, I'm not complaining.  


Another thing that reminded me of Key West was the regrettable abundance of t-shirt shops here.  Well, all right, there aren't nearly as many here as in Key West, where just about every other shop on Duval Street has a big sign outside that screams "Three t-shirts for $10!!" 


I strolled into one t-shirt shop and got a chuckle at one of the shirts that was prominently displayed, reflecting the risqué Australian sense of mirth.  It was a humorous comparison between women's chests and various kinds of fruits, and had a dozen comical drawings of topless women with the name of the appropriate fruit underneath, such as "Watermelons," "Cherries" "Bananas," and so forth.  I'm pretty modest and would never wear something like that, but I thought my Dad would get a laugh, so I bought it for him.  He's also pretty modest and would never wear something like that either, but he has a good sense of humor.


While continuing my stroll down the main street, I popped into an Aboriginal shop, wandered past a hundred didgeridoos, and chatted with a cheerful guy there named Mick.  After seeing me eye a didgeridoo, Mick suggested that I try to play it.  He didn't need to twist my arm because I've been curious about didgeridoos ever since I first saw "Crocodile Dundee."  I'm not much of a musician, however, and I proved it in my futile attempts to play one.  The trick, as Mick told me, is to put your lips together and blow like you're blowing bubbles in water.  Playing a didge is a lot harder than it looks, though – and in my case, it was a didgeridon’t.  


2-3217_Downtown_Airlie_Beach.jpg (46883 bytes)    2-3219_Playing_Didge.jpg (56796 bytes)    2-3221_Where_I_Had_Sunset_Dinners.jpg (67878 bytes)

Above left:  Airlie Beach, jumping off point for the Whitsunday Islands and my home during the busy Easter Weekend.  Though a bit touristy, Airlie Beach is pretty nice place.

Above center:  Trying to play a didgeridoo in Mick’s shop. 

Above right:  Palm trees on Airlie Beach.  As I discovered (twice, in fact), this is a great place to eat fish and chips in the evening while watching the beautiful sunset.



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