The islands of the Southern Whitsundays are little frequented by yachties, other than as convenient stopovers on the way to somewhere else! We had been told these islands are worth exploring and we agree. In this post we take you to Scawfell, St Bees and Keswick Islands, where we spent five days.
We were itching to get back into cruising mode, which to us means easy little sails, beach walks with the pussy cat, snorkeling and small hikes and finally this is what we are doing!
Anchored on our lonesome at the western end of Refuge Bay, we had the quietest nights there after weeks of so-so anchorages affected by swell. It’s pretty, you wake up to birds singing, we had our own little sandy beach for Bengie to stretch her legs.
No bush walk there, and the island is heavily treed and rugged, but the appeal was the peace, and surprisingly the snorkeling. We did not expect much as the visibility was limited and the reef looked a bit like rubble. Rather than big colourful coral heads, you get bland sandy shades but amazing patterns in the hard coral and a variety of soft corals that sway in the current. Only small fish there, although a white tip shark did circle around and I could not help but yelp! We tried our $45 dinghy rope ladder there and are sad to say it is a waste of space! It swings under the dinghy as soon as you try to step on it… So impersonations of whales beaching themselves were seen as we heaved ourselves back in the good old fashioned way! We will order some decent ones as soon as we get internet coverage!
St Bees Island
We headed next to St Bees, had a nice little sail under main and jib and anchored in the Egremont Channel that runs between St Bees and Keswick.
We stayed there for three nights and used the dinghy to get to the snorkeling sites of the NW Corner and Homestead Bay. When you first get in the water there, you think: lots of rubble and brown algae. But both sites were interesting again! The NW Corner was a little creepy, with deep dark canyons possibly hiding big monsters, but in fact it was full of tiny little juvenile fish, gorgeous soft corals and lots of interesting tubes-like sponges.
The Homestead Bay at the SW end of the island was great fun. Big dinghy ride down the Egremont Channel which was an adventure in itself, particularly on the return trip with wind against tide! By the way, having a strong speedy dinghy is such a treat especially when the current runs at 4 knots! The bay was shallower and more open, with interesting soft corals we had not seen anywhere else. Lots of coral trout, stripy snappers, crayfish and other good to eat treats if you can catch them! We went back twice so Wade could catch us dinner with his spear gun, to no avail! I stayed out of his way focusing on sponges, soft coral and baby fish!
Connie Bay on the northern side of Keswick was our next dinghy trip from the anchorage. A feature of this site are the deep narrow canyons in the reef, where all sorts of fish patrol, some rather big! So Wade was ready with his speargun again, even put champagne in the fridge in anticipation of a big catch. Nothing caught! Wade was very disappointed and is still sulking. But I caught him in action at least!
The reef flats at low tide are just under the surface, sometimes not enough to swim over, so you follow the deep channels which meander like a maze. Interesting to find your way back at times!
Our next post will take us to Brampton Island.