THERE is no doubt that the Whitsunday/Airlie Beach region is the premier boating area on the east coast of Australia, if not the whole of Australia.
As visiting boaties we are amazed at the lack of quality facilities for the local small boat community and visiting boats. Two days running we watched people with small boats trying to retrieve at the VMR boat ramp in a light north easterly wind. Both times people ended up in the water. During our many years of travel in Australia in our boat we have seen where local councils have applied good planning to boat launching and retrieval facilities. You would expect top notch facilities here, but unfortunately this is not the case.
The best system is where there is a pontoon or dock parallel to the launching ramp, so that people can tie up their boat where there is some protection from the swell, and where they can walk their boat on or off their trailer during the launch and retrieve process. Talking to local and visiting boaties they said that the problems here are parking where you could launch/retrieve in safety in all winds. (without having to pay a fortune in parking fees or even be able find a parking spot). Plus the fact that there is not adequate width on the ramps to handle more than one boat at a time.
For visiting yachties (not the trailable type) there is inadequate dinghy access ashore on the Cannonvale side where the supermarkets are. Some may say that visiting yachts are adequately catered for by the Whitsunday Sailing Club, which many make do with but, as this 'harbour' is unusable at low tide and always very crowded, this is not the case. Also, it would be nice if the ramp at the VMR area had a public tap close to the ramp. There is a small public wharf at Abel Point which has very limited space, at times, for dinghies, and where you can only tie up for thirty minutes (not even enough time to get to the supermarket and back). It is pretty obvious that somebody at council should have a look into this as not all boaties can afford to stay in the most expensive marinas in Australia.
It seems that Airlie Beach is suffering from a downturn in tourist numbers and maybe a large reason for this is the economy and lack of international tourists but one area of visitation that is growing is the 'sea gypsy' and 'grey nomad with boats' market. This year alone, we have been in and out of the Whitsunday area for over two months and are always spending money in the local economy. Multiply that by all of the visiting yachties and other boaties and there must be a good economic benefit from looking after their needs.
One of Australian boating magazine's current edition, has an article on visiting the Whitsunday area in your own boat so there is a free promotion to the above market. Please don't ignore it.
Geoff and Maz White