Prince William scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef

By NewsCore – News.com.au

PRINCE William continued to win hearts in Australia Sunday as the second in line to the throne visited parts of the nation’s north-east, suggesting he may be back in Australia in a matter of weeks.

More than 2,000 locals from the flood-devastated town of Grantham, 62 miles (100km) west of Queensland state capital Brisbane, braved rain squalls and mud underfoot to see the future King, The Australian reported.

“I will have to come back, maybe we’ll have a honeymoon in Cairns?” he said to cheers from the crowd.

“I love scuba diving, I have always wanted to dive the barrier reef,” he told Tania Moore, who emigrated to Australia from Winchester ten years ago and had lined up in the balmy evening to meet the Prince.

“It’s much nicer down here, the weather at home is dreadful.

William met privately with families of those who had died when an “inland tsunami” tore through the Lockyer Valley on Jan. 10, destroying dozens of homes. Many of the 35 known dead from the state’s devastating floods were from Grantham.

The prince had earlier visited Ipswich, where he visited West Moreton Anglican College and met with locals.

“He’s been putting smiles on people’s faces, he’s really been reaching out to people,” Ipswich mayor Paul Pisasale told AFP of a visit which has been viewed as a public relations success.

Later Sunday he attended a country music concert in Toowoomba before traveling to Brisbane for a AU$500 -a-head fund-raiser for disaster victims, Sky News Australia reported.

Prince William is to marry fiancee Kate Middleton on Apr. 29 at London’s Westminister Abbey.

The popular prince — minus his bride-to-be — is on a three-day tour of disaster zones across Australia that were hit by both floodwaters and Cyclone Yasi, following an emotional visit to quake-hit New Zealand.

Despite the warm reception he has received Down Under, Australian prime minister Julia Gillard restated her belief Sunday that Australia — a former British colony — should become a republic.

“Inevitably, we will continue to debate and work through when this nation wants to become a republic,” she told Sky News Australia.

“It’s not a debate at the forefront of our national conversations at the moment, but I believe it will return.”

Australians chose not to become a republic in a 1999 referendum, but the issue remains contentious, AFP reported.

“I’m not going to make any date predictions on either the ascension to the throne of Prince William or the date of this nation becoming a republic,” Gillard said.

The prince wraps up his visit on Monday in Victoria, another region hit by floods this year.

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