Whitsundays: Life's a beach

The Great Barrier Reef near the Whitsundays. Photo / Supplied
The Great Barrier Reef near the Whitsundays. Photo / Supplied

It was touted as "the best job in the world" - living on Queensland's Hamilton Island for six months as "caretaker", promoting the Whitsundays to the world. Of 34,684 applicants the world over, including Kiwi TV presenter Clarke Gayford, Ben Southall won.

Almost a year later, the Brit is still working. He was in New Zealand recently, halfway through a worldwide tour singing the region's praises. Southall's contract officially finishes in June next year, however, he won't be leaving Queensland. Instead, the professional charity events manager will raise money for the islands he cared for.

"I want to spend three months with a group of kids kayaking the length of the Great Barrier Reef - to not only fundraise but to also increase awareness of climate change. People don't go to Antarctica or the Arctic, but they do go to Great Barrier Reef, so they would be able to see the change."

What was the personal high-light of his stay? "Having two humpback whales swim under the hobie cat [yacht], off Lindeman Island.

Plus watching turtles come ashore, lay eggs and then seeing those eggs hatch."

Here are Southall's top 10 Queensland must-dos:

Ben's 10

1: Hamilton Island. If you want to cram loads into a short holiday, there's everything on offer there from sailing to bushwalking, diving or relaxing in a spa.

2: Lizard Island offers an awesome unique luxury holiday in some of the most dramatic surroundings on Great Barrier. It's a beautiful place with extensive underwater gardens full of coral, giant clams and some of the reef's best diving.

3: The Outback, and especially Longreach, offer a different view of Queensland with vast open spaces, the occasional town or village with pockets of life and some real characters. Plus you can visit the Qantas museum and walk on a Boeing 747 wings.

4: The islands of the Torres Strait offer a taste of culture and tribal history very different to that of the Aborigines. The islands have a Pacific feel to them and the sense of community is fantastic. Laughter and floral clothing is the order of the day here.

5: The Gold Coast is one of those places full of life and high energy living with something going on all the time, be it theme parks, surfing or the outrageous nightlife. Sleep is for the weak.

6: Great Keppel Island has the largest number of beaches of any island I've been to, with 18 different sandy locations. Solitude and nature surround and with the major resort currently not open there's no better time to find a piece of paradise all to yourself.

7: Lady Elliot Island is an example to the rest of the world. It generates all its own power in an environmentally sensitive way, handles and recycles its own waste and the discrete resort is tucked out of the eyeline of the beach. In my opinion the diving was the best on the entire Great Barrier Reef.

8: Bedarra Island is the ultimate in luxury. Individual villas make it one of the most special and romantic places in Queensland.

9: Daydream Island is all about family fun - from touch-pools full of reef life to a 19-hole golf course for the kids, and water sports galore.

10: The Daintree Rainforest in Tropical North Queensland is another unique location. It's where the rainforest touches the reef and as it's 150 million years old has the complete history about the aboriginal way of life.

- Herald on Sunday

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