The Gold Coast Bulletin - Gold Coast Eye - - ESCAPE EYE - WORDS: ANN RICKARD For more of Ann’s ad­ven­tures go to an­

Ask Wikipedia just ex­actly what a cay is and it will tell you it is “a sandy is­land on the sur­face of a co­ral reef”. Good enough in­for­ma­tion for us, peo­ple who cau­tiously trust Wikipedia.

It will also tell you it could be pro­nounced “keys” or “key” but we pre­fer to say it how it looks, “cay”.

We were off to Sud­bury Cay, a place you may not be fully ac­quainted with, but as sug­gested, it is a sandy is­land … this one about two hours sail­ing out of Cairns.

I’d seen pho­tos of this glo­ri­ous cay, a small patch of shim­mer­ing white sand float­ing serenely on the sur­face of a deep and vivid blue ocean with a cir­cle of pure aqua wa­ter sur­round­ing it. It looked like a pic­ture that had been Pho­toshopped. It was far too ex­quis­ite to be real.

But there we were, ap­proach­ing it on a pri­vate boat af­ter sail­ing out of Cairns, past the man­groves, along an es­tu­ary where we were told we may see a crocodile bask­ing on the banks (we didn’t, very pleased).

A small stop at Mis­sion Bay, then Tur­tle Bay, to gaze in won­der at the gi­ant rock for­ma­tions on shore, gi­ant dream­like sculp­tures, soar­ing from the em­bank­ment, some bal­anc­ing their own small for­ma­tions on their tips … all against a back­drop of the Mur­ray Prior Range moun­tains, shaded colours of mauve and green, in­fin­itely fas­ci­nat­ing in their unique Aus­tralian beauty.

Tur­tles aplenty here.

Al­ready, the an­tic­i­pa­tion was high. So much un­spoilt beauty, so close to Cairns — vel­vety blue ocean against green rain­for­est — vis­tas so spec­tac­u­lar and nat­u­ral peo­ple would hap­pily travel from the other side of the world to see for just a day.

Then it was on to­wards and past Fitzroy Is­land, where the rain­for­est meets the reef, as the tourism peo­ple tell us, a very ac­ces­si­ble is­land from Cairns by a reg­u­lar ferry.

Ma­rine life, walk­ing trails, a mod­est ho­tel, wa­ter sports … fam­ily friendly.

It looked tempt­ing to stop at one of the pub­lic moor­ings and jump in the deep blue wa­ter but we were on a mis­sion, the en­chant­ment of Sud­bury Cay and its float­ing colours just around the cor­ner.

The ap­proach was ev­ery­thing and more than ex­pected. First the sight of the cay in the dis­tance, the white sand peek­ing out from the deep blue of the ocean, then the pure turquoise of the sandy-bot­tomed rib­bon of wa­ter en­cir­cling the cay.

“Is this real?” is the first thought. It is a post­card, a cal­en­dar, a tourism brochure. Noth­ing can be this ex­quis­ite. But it is. Ide­ally you need this place to your­self, but there are usu­ally a cou­ple of boats hov­er­ing in the wa­ter and no one should re­sent shar­ing.

Ten min­utes to take our gear off the boat — food, wine, cham­pagne, chairs, um­brel­las, fish­ing rods — and then it was sim­ply a mat­ter of sit­ting back and mar­vel­ling.

The wa­ter lap­ping gen­tly at the white sand is Bom­bay Gin clear. Warm. Pure. Clean.

You must float in this unique wa­ter, look down to dart­ing fish: co­ral trout, black tip reef shark, long-tails, span­gled em­peror. No need for a snorkel, in our opin­ion.

It is pinch-your­self stuff, a dis­be­lief that any­thing could be so pris­tine, so sim­ply glo­ri­ous.

We were on a pri­vate boat but there are small char­ters that will take you out twice a day — not so comfy we are told, more back­packer-style sail­ing, where they must tie up at a free pub­lic moor­ing a dis­tance away from the cay and have their pas­sen­gers get in and swim to shore.

There is also a com­mer­cial boat that stops on Sud­bury Cay at sun­set ev­ery Fri­day evening where the crew dis­em­barks with eskies of good­ies be­fore the pas­sen­gers gen­tly step off, sit, sip and ab­sorb the sun­set beauty … and prob­a­bly think, as we did, “is this real?”

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