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Why is the Whitsundays such an icon??
Its amazing what leaving home can do for your perspective. I sit now in a wifi cafe in the Caribbean heat, sipping ice coffee and contemplating my Airlie Beach home and all that is wonderful about the Whitsundays.

Describing my home to friends and relatives in Puerto Rico, it is difficult to give the Whitsundays a description that befits its beauty. Paradise is a word overused even more so in the Caribbean than in Queensland, so how else can one capture the wonder that is the Whitsundays? And what makes it such a must-see land mark icon of Australia?

Factually, the Whitsundays is a tropical sub rainforest region, about 1,125 km north of Brisbane and 650 km south of Cairns. The Cumberland and Northumberland island groups make up the 74 islands commonly known as the Whitsundays or the Whitsunday Islands. These islands form the largest offshore island chain on Australias east coast, and are uniquely positioned as the gateway to the heart of the Great Barrier Reef, Earth's largest living organism.

It is, however, the crystal blue Coral Sea that sparkles invitingly in the tropical sun; the deeply lush, green rainforests that cover the mostly uninhabited islands; the wondrous underwater coral gardens that fringe the islands. the pristine, white beaches that beckon bare feet; the feeling of freedom, wonder, and delight as you encounter one of the worlds most unique and spectacular locations. It is all these that let you know that here you are connecting with a place of deep significance and natural beauty, a place of retreat, of relaxation, and of adventure.

As a place of pilgrimage for tourists as far flung as Europe, South America, Asia, and North America, as well as Australians and New Zealanders, the Whitsundays has a well-deserved iconic status. Over half a million tourists each year are captivated by this icons offerings. It captures all that is Australian in its sunshine, beaches, tropical waters, and adventure possibilities as well as offering remarkable sights unique and wondrous in their beauty unlike anything else on Earth.

Here is where whales can be seen on their migrations north, where turtles bob above the waters and snatch at seaweed below, where rainbows of tropical fish flit about corals of weird and wonderful shapes, where dugongs and manta rays glide slowly by, where reef sharks play in the shallows, and anemones wave their fronds in underwater gardens.

I might be biased as a lover of being on the water, but sailing among these tropical island wonders is really the most perfect way of enjoying their beauty. This is the way to see the Whitsundays in all the best lights: at sunset, at sunrise, in the deep heat of the day, in the lazy afternoon... and to be hushed to sleep by whale song and rocked awake by softly lapping waters.

Hmm, perhaps it is time for me to come home?

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