Want a Hamilton Island experience minus the resort ridden, tourist brimming cesspool vibe AND for a poor man’s price? Go to South Molle Island! This is the cheapest way to do the Whitsunday Islands. South Molle Island, one of the 74 islands in the Whitsundays, is pure paradise; clear green water, great bush walks, nothing but birds, butterflies and snorkelling. When my friend and I stayed there in 2012 we basically had the island and the creepy abandoned resort to explore entirely by ourselves! This little island hop isn’t for the precious types; there are no showers, only a pit toilet and the curlew birds sing a kinda scary lullaby as you fall asleep (a mixture of a bird purring and someone wailing in pain).
Why South Molle is cheap:
There is only one resort on the Island and its almost completely shut down. The rest of the Island is National Park so all you have to pay is a $5.40pp/night Camping Fee! Camping is the cheapest way to do the Whitsundays, and you don’t need luxury to enjoy these amazing islands!
How to get there:
Once you arrive at Airlie Beach head over to Shute Harbour another 20 minute drive. You can get to Shute Harbour using Whitsunday transit buses and vans if you don’t drive. Catch a transfer boat from Shute Harbour to South Molle (30 mins). Tickets cost around $65 return. If you have lots of time hire a double kayak with a friend for a few days and do a camping/kayaking tour of all the islands.
Where to stay:
On South Molle camp on the tip of the Island at Paddle Bay. Paddle Bay is more secluded and smaller than Saddle Bay so you may have the campsite to yourself like we did. While we were there we saw a whale and her calf swim by from our tent! If it’s not too windy this tip of the island is the BEST vantage point because you see the water from both the front and back of your tent.
Eating and drinking:
There’s NO shops on the island so take all of your supplies to cook yourself. ONLY Contained camping stoves are allowed. It’s easiest to cook simple things like sausages and bread and 2-minute noodles or just eat fruit. Make sure you take lots of fresh water as there are not taps either. If you are lucky the Resort nearby might be throwing a party for Intrepid Tour guests that you could crash to buy some alcohol.
What to do:
- Take your own hammock to hang up on nearby trees to ensure ultimate beach camp chillaxing
- Do a massive bush walk of the island. There are countless beaches and breathtaking landscapes that change from tropical bushland to stark treeless scrubland in a matter of minutes
- Go to Mid-Molle Island for a change of scene, attached to Paddle Bay on South Molle by a sand bar that becomes engulfed by water during high tide. The snorkelling there is pretty good but nothing too special
- Check out the abandoned resort; Adventure Island Resort
The Abandoned Resort
One afternoon we went to Adventure Island Resort with our cameras and hardly-contained excitement. Going to this resort is like stepping into a scene of Jurassic Park 2. The rooms are overgrown with vines, the doors and windows have come off and once-expensive mattresses and TV’s have been claimed by thousands of spiders and bugs. You can just walk around and rummage through stuff and wonder “What the flip happened here? Why was it abandoned so swiftly? Why were all these really expensive beds just left here and why did I bother camping when there are beds right here!?” There’s an old staffroom which is set up as if someone still lives there with shoes on the ground, clothes in the draws and knick-knacks on the shelves. Only part of the roof has collapsed, water-logging everything in sight. There are leaves and dirt everywhere and even an audio mixer that must have been expensive when purchased, now ruined. In the pool area are deserted shop-fronts with products still set up as if the casual shopper might still be interested in dusty, decomposing, painted shells.
We found out later that the hall and pool are still sometimes used and are both maintained, and a couple of the rooms are still functioning as accommodation. Though other than the Intrepid Travellers I don’t know who would be interested in staying in such a creepy place. Definitely take your camera for some cool photos.
We went to South Molle Island as part of a Sydney to Cairns Road Trip. See the full Itinerary here.
Place: South Molle Island
Currency: Australian Dollar (AUD)
$1 USD = $1.08 AUD
I was there: September 2012