This is part two of my Brisbane to Cairns vegan road trip series, we already picked up our Hippie camper, visited Noosa, ate a whole bunch of delicious vegan food, and spotted a koala in the wild so if you haven't read that post already you can catch up right here.
The Whitsunday's were somewhere that both Nick and I had crossed off of our list of places we'd be visiting on this trip because they aren't exactly a budget friendly place to get to and we just didn't think that we could afford it. The closer we got though the more we realised that we were both thinking that we wanted to go but thought that the other wanted to stick to the original plan. A frantic afternoon of planning and organising ensued and the next day we were off in a boat heading to the Whitsunday Islands with Whitsunday Bullet one of the more budget friendly options whose day trip included visiting a snorkelling site (great practice for me before our planned trip to the Great Barrier Reef) as well as a lookout point and the famous beach itself.
The peep's from Whitsunday Bullet even pick you up at your hotel / hostel / campsite and take you to the port so you don't have to do any pre planning you can just book and go.
The boat itself is brand new, launched in January 2017, and it seats 42 passengers which is a really nice size for a tour group as it means that you don't spend too much time getting onto and off of the boat when it's time for snorkelling or excursions and you also get enough individual attention from the crew.
Now I am always deeply suspicious when anyone says that they can cater for vegans; from outright lies (no this Yorkshire pudding that is exactly the same as the ones everyone else is eating isn't vegan so stop telling me it is), to sad salads, vegan catering isn't always amazing but it was on this day. I tore into the lunch bag before we even got to our first stop because I was so excited / anxious but Whitsunday Bullet nailed it. Rather than getting their usual caterer to whip up some kind of disappointing salad sandwich with a dubious smear of buttery spread they outsourced our meals to a vegan friendly cafe located near to their jetty on Airlie Beach pier. Our meals were different which was great as we have different preferences and could swap juices and things and the only thing that was un-swapable was the salad because Nick's was a Mexican bean salad with obvious chilli and mine was a pepper free falafel salad with quinoa and hummus.
The lunches also included raw balls, one PB and one cookie dough, which we loved, as well as a bar each, a Chia Pod, a juice, and a bottle of water. The juices were from concentrate and made by Coca Cola so I'd never buy them but they tasted good and provided us with some necessary pre-snorkelling sugar. The bars were awesome, one was a cocoa paleo bar that I would never have picked up in a shop (paleo is stupid!) but that was actually really good, and a raw Astral Crunch chocolate bar by The Chocolate Yogi who are on the approved list with the Food Empowerment Project. We both freaking loved that one. I won't go into my thoughts on Chia Pods because to me they aren't food but a slimy abomination. Almost every other vegan I know loves them though so I'm clearly an outlier and I appreciated the thought!
See? Catering for vegans isn't so hard! You just need to actually think about the fact that we need calories and protein (especially for a whole day of activities!) and fun treats just like everyone else.
Whether you hit the beach first or snorkel first depends on the tides and on our trip we went snorkelling first. This was a little unexpected as I hasn't realised that we might snorkel before lunch but it actually worked out well as I didn't have time to get anxious about getting into the water. One moment we were squeezing into our wetsuits and the next I was in the water gripping onto a noodle and learning how to swim with flippers on. From where I was a few years ago when I had to have therapy / swimming lessons to help me get over my fear of water (I couldn't even wash my face with water!) to being here actually snorkelling in the ocean was kind of a huge deal! We saw some amazing fish including a huge (and I mean huge) maori wrasse as well as fusiliers and, my favourite, colourful parrot fish. GoPro haven't gifted me an underwater camera yet so you'll have to do a quick Google search or use your imagination to see the fish!
Next on the itinerary was a birds eye view of Whitehaven Beach, the Whitsunday's most famous landmark. The boat dropped us off in a little cove and there was a little uphill walk to get to the lookout point but nothing too strenuous, I did it in flip flops which was totally fine. The view was honestly breathtaking. Everyone kinda fell silent when they reached the top, I could hardly believe how beautiful it was.
I'm not sure that these images need a lot of words to accompany them but I swear they haven't been retouched or anything. The sand really is this white and the sea really is that blue. Next we got back onto the boat and headed to the beach itself. It's a really long beach and our boat stopped at the far end. We only had about an hour and a half on the beach and because it was so hot we decided to just find a patch of sand, chill, and eat lunch rather than running all over the place frantically trying to snap the perfect photo. It was such a great place to sit, chat, and watch the world go by.
Finally we headed back to the boat ready to set sail for Airlie beach and the comforts of our camper van. I wouldn't say that I am a boat lover by any stretch but this style of boat really didn't get thrown around a lot and I think we lucked out with a very calm day.
I can't fault Whitsunday Bullet at all, they were beyond helpful when we were snorkelling; staying in the water on surfboards to help weaker swimmers, checking that everyone understood the equipment, and trying to point out sea turtles (I was always too slow to spot the elusive creatures). They took photos of us at the lookout point too and they seemed genuinely into their jobs. I'd definitely recommend this excursion as a great way to see The Whitsundays especially if you're a vegan traveller because they have that whole lunch thing nailed.
The morning after our epic excursion we drove north powered by the residual happy feelings from our amazing day out. We got pretty excited about roadside attractions like this huge mango and couldn't wait to get to the location of our next adventure.
Magnetic Island wasn't on my radar at all before we arrived in Australia but Nick did some research and learnt that it would be a good place to spot a koala. I was so in and that was before he told me what kind of car he'd rented for the day. It was basically a Barbie jeep and I can't resist something pink and ridiculous. I loved it! I've never been in a open topped car before and it was so fun.
After picking up the car we went for a hike following The Forts Trail which was much more challenging than I thought it would be! It was super hot and like a fool I'd dressed for the beach in a bikini and a black dress. It was still amazing though and we made it the whole way round. At least I was smart enough to throw on my trainers and some shorts to prevent thigh rub! There were a couple of highlights including this lookout point and finding another koala.
The forts lookout point, Magnetic Island
I say finding but it turns out that in Australia people are super rad and they make an arrow out of sticks pointing towards trees where they've seen koalas. How friendly is that? We never would've spotted this little cutie otherwise and I think that it's our best koala sighting yet. She was pretty low down in the tree compared to the last koala and you could properly make out her ears, nose, and paws. She didn't move around a whole lot but she did eat a few leaves whilst we stood quietly watching her being careful not to freak her out.
Just when you thought that this post couldn't get any cuter Magnetic Island is also home to a large colony of rock wallabies. I'd seen wallabies in the wild during my time volunteering at Farm Animal Rescue but none this close up and rock wallabies are different to regular wallabies.
Aren't they just the cutest animals? The belly floof on the one in the first picture kills me. There are signs and adverts suggesting that you can feed the rock wallabies as well as an approved list of foods but a lot of the people living there would prefer that you let them forage for their own food and I'd agree. Humans should not be feeding wild animals. If you're in the area Magnetic Island is definitely worth the day trip. It's just a short ferry ride from Townsville and you can get around by bus, bicycle, or car. Vegan eats are not prevalent but we weren't looking very hard because I made us an epic packed lunch, we did stumble upon some excellent vegan chocolate sorbet by the gorgeous beach at Horseshoe Bay though.
We set off from Townsville early the next morning and about an hour into the journey we came upon this, another huge mango. I was so excited! This spot is called The Frosty Mango and they do indeed sell frosty mango. They had a whole case of amazing sounding fruity sorbets which were all labelled dairy free and I grabbed a scoop of the sugar free mango. I mean how could I choose anything else?
This was pure blended frosty mango and it was unbelievably delicious. I scoffed it so fast and if it hadn't basically been breakfast time I'd have grabbed another scoop immediately. If you're driving up the Bruce Highway you have to stop here. Roadside mango joints aside we were eating pretty well elsewhere; these cocoa lamington bars made by Naturally Nood reminded me of a Nakd bar crossed with my favourite Aussie treat and I was pretty into them.
Annoyingly I spaced out about checking the Food Empowerment Project's app when I was picking these off of the shelf so I need to check in with them before buying them again as I'm trying my hardest to avoid any cocoa that could have originated from slave labour.
Our only major miss of the whole trip was this purchase, Oliana Foods Feta, which was unbelievably awful. You can't just take a block of rubbery vegan cheese, make it extra salty, package it in water and sell it as feta! There was no crumbly texture and both the mouthfeel and taste were all wrong. We tried a little bit each but ended up putting the rest on the free shelf at our hostel in Cairns.
These Field Roast sausages on the other hand were super delicious, they were a bit of a splurge as imported foods are even more expensive in Australia than they are in the UK but after a long morning of driving we pulled into a rest stop, fired up our camp stove, laughed at the serving size, and proceeded to eat half of the packet each on some soft white bread rolls. Such a perfect meal.
Sadly that was also one of our last roadside meals. Our road trip was finally over and it was time to go back to living and cooking indoors again. Lily, our lovely Hippie Camper, looked after us well and whilst sections of the journey involved long days of driving, Australia is so huge, we would definitely consider taking another Aussie road trip.
Did this post make you want to visit Australia? Are you into road trips? Have you ever seen any unusual and hard to find animals in the wild? Let me know in the comments! Next time I'll be blogging about vegan eats in Cairns and our snorkelling trip to the Great Barrier Reef so stay tuned.
This post was sponsored in part by Whitsunday Bullet. As always all views and opinions are my own.