Circumnavigation of South Molle Island

by Rod

in Sea Kayaking

I planned a paddle around the Molle Group of Islands in the Whitsundays for a Sunday trip. I am not sure if it was the predicted 25km paddle distance, the 2 hour car drive each way, or the all day commitment, but I couldn’t find any takers. Col said he had to work Sunday, but could go Tuesday so the trip was rearranged for the following Tuesday. It is a huge day, leaving Mackay at 5:00am arriving at Shute Harbour around 7:00am on on the water by 8:00am. It has been awhile since we had been to Shute Harbour so although it hadn’t changed much, it was nice to be back going for another paddle in the Whitsundays.

The Whitsunday Islands were not going to show us the sunny face today though, it was overcast with showers following us around for the day. We had a 10 – 15km head wind as we headed out of the harbour towards the southern end of South Molle. We didn’t mind because any day paddling, is better than a day working. We noticed as we paddled over a couple of the shallow reefs the steep short choppy waves would build to 2 – 3 foot for added excitement. The best part about paddling around the Whitsundays is that a lot of the islands are so close together. It is only 5 kms between Shute Harbour and South Molle and in that short distance we paddled past house covered points and the small islands of Repair, Tancred and Shute.

160830-south-molle-1Col near South Molle

Once we reached South Molle we continued along the eastern coast past the inviting islands of Denman, Goat and Planton Islands. I was expecting a bit of assistance from the wind once we started heading north, but all of a sudden the breeze died. The sun came out momentarily and it was beautiful paddling past the cliff faces and small beaches of South Molle. In places behind the small islands the water was smooth as glass and then we would come out of the shelter of the island and would be in very choppy conditions again. This was caused by the wind and the tidal currents around the islands.

160830-south-molle-7South Molle Resort Beach

As we rounded the northern end of South Molle we decided to call into the Resort’s beach for a smoko Break. Just before 10:00am we landed on South Molle Resort’s beach between the two piers. The resort has been closed for a number of years, but looks like the caretaker must be taking good care of it. The lawns and surrounding still looked like they were in fairly good condition. For fear of being chaced away we set up camp on the stone wall which runs along the top of the beach. We decided with the weather conditions, it was not worth to continue the paddle around North Molle so we extended our stay before packing up for the paddle back to Shut Harbour.

On the way back we just managed to paddle across the shallow courseway between South Molle and Mid Molle and then we set a course for Shute Harbour. Finally we had the breeze behind us so we didn’t waist any time putting up the sails. Just as we passed West Molle or as it is commonly called Haymond Island there was a huge splash only meters behind us, but we turned around too slowly to see what it was. Later we realized it must have been a whale because we could see the spout of water now a couple kilometers ahead of us. This was confirmed by the sight of a party yacht doing circles trying to get a better look at the whale.

160830-south-molle-10Between South Molle and Planton Islands

The tidal currents in the Whitsundays can take you by surprise if you are not aware of them as it did us. We thought we were doing quite well with the crossing, the breeze although it had dropped off was still pushing us along as well we were paddling and seemed to be doing quite well until I looked back and saw Haymond Island  still quite close to us even though we had drifted across the channel. We were in fact paddling against a 3 – 4 km current and we were making very little ground, just doing a huge fairy glide across the current. As well as the current we also had to avoid a couple yachts making there way around from Airly Beach. They were also fighting the current and going much slower than they normally would. We decided to make a more direct route towards the mainland and then follow the coast line around to Shute Harbour to avoid the main current.

We were back in Shute Harbour around 1:00pm where we packed up the kayaks had some lunch and then headed back to Mackay.

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