Airlie beach is a tourist town situated in the north-east coast of Australia, Gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and home to the 74 Whitsunday islands. It is a mainland base full of fun and adventure for travellers on-route to the reef. As you walk down the main street you will be greeted with boutique stores, cafes and bars at every corner. Offering tourists an abundance of different things to see and do, making this a must-see destination for anyone traveling through Queensland.
Things to See
During the day, most people hang out at the Airlie Beach lagoon, which is a man-made swimming area with a family-friendly park and beach. Here you have access to free barbecue’s and an amazing view of the bay, try to get there early as it is a popular spot. Every Saturday morning, the Airlie Beach markets are held on the Esplanade, a great place to buy souvenirs, try local cuisine or simply browse and take a walk by the water. While you’re at it, say hello to the local artist, who creates sand sculptures for tips, he is a friendly man that has been around for years. For the explorers there is a 3.7 kilometre bicentennial boardwalk that goes from Airlie beach into Cannonvale alongside the water, nice scenic walk, guaranteed you will stop many times to take some pictures.
During the night, you will find most locals and tourists enjoying a nice cold beer at Magnums or Beaches. Both of which are backpacker bars and provide hostel type accommodation at affordable prices. Airlie Beach is a vibrant town renowned for its exciting nightlife every day of the week. Crowd favourites are the Mama Africa’s bar and nightclub and Boom Nightclub, offering cheap drinks and great DJ’s. If you love live music check out Paddy shenanigans it is a lively Irish pub that offers a good atmosphere.
Like I mention, you could stay at either Beaches or Magnums however there are various options around town. If you have extra cash, go on an overnight sailing trip and wake up in the middle of the great barrier reef, a bit pricey but an amazing experience. If you have your own tent, camp on the many beaches scattered around the area. Ask the locals first on where you can obtain information for camping. Keep in mind you may have to pay for a permit in some areas however it is not that expensive.
Tours and Attractions
Growing up in this town I remember seeing more tourist than locals flow in and out of the streets, only stopping in for a night or two as they bypass to the islands and The Great Barrier reef. The activity list is so extensive, so I’ve put together some recommendations.
Snorkelling or Scuba Diving
You’re on the largest coral reef in the world!!! need I say more… the colours are so vibrant and the marine life is breath-taking. Either try it yourself (rent equipment) or pay for a tour (more expensive). I’ve done snorkelling all over the place however never had the pleasure of trying scuba, I imagine it would be amazing especially here.
Sailing or Fishing
It is going to be pricey! Shop around, compare prices and if you happen to meet a skipper/captain in a pub, wouldn’t hurt to befriend him. If by chance you don’t succeed, maybe just book the sailing trip and take a fishing line with you, you never know!
There are 74 islands that make up the Whitsunday’s, your probably only going to get to see a few so here are my two favourites
Cheapest and smallest of all the inhabitable islands, very beautiful. 30 minutes away from the mainland and great for a day trip or 24 hr getaway. Amazing beaches and lovers cove is a great place to watch the sunset.
Situated in the heart of the great barrier reef lies Whitehaven beach. This island is part of the Whitsunday islands national park, one of the worlds most unspoiled beaches. Only open to the public during the day as it is a protected area, the sand is super white and squeaks under your feet.
For the Adventure Seeker
Great for the adventure seekers and something to tick of the bucket list. I did this for my 24th birthday it was an amazing experience one I will never forget. Best view of the Whitsundays.
Whitsunday Crocodile Safari
Be a crocodile hunter like Steve Erwin and take a tour down the Proserpine river with Whitsunday crocodile safari. Enjoy the full outback experience while your only 5 minutes away from civilization. Enjoy bird watching, discovering lizards, mammals and of the course the kings of the river, the fresh water crocodiles. A tractor ride through the forest, a BBQ lunch, billy tea and damper are also included, for the authentic Australian experience.
Waterfalls and Jungle trails
Want to get away from the tourist things? Take a few days off and go hiking through the Conway circuit! It is a 30 kilometre trail through majestic rain-forests, impressive mountain ridges, cliffs and amazing scenery. Roughly takes 5 or 6 hours by mountain bike or up to 3 days of walking and camping out under the stars. There are 2 campsites along the way offering water, toilets and storage containers. Take enough food and water with you and beware as the conditions can be rough. Recommended for the experienced hikers. If you want a shorter circuit take advantage of the other trails like the kingfisher circuit which 2 kilometres, the Wompoo Way 7 kilometres or the Honey eater circuit which is 8 kilometres, all with amazing views and scenery.
Cedar Creek Falls:
about 25 minutes out of town you will find a hidden waterfall in the middle of the luscious rain forest. Cedar creek falls is home to fresh water turtle, fish, lizards, birds and butterflies and provides visitors natural rock pools with refreshing waters for them to swim. You can hike up to top and get amazing view, some even jump off but do be careful. Up the top there are hiking trails through the forest leading to smaller rock pools hidden away from tourists, great if you want to get closer with nature. Don’t forget to take insect repellent as the mosquitoes can be fierce otherwise it is 10/10.
There are several local hang outs unknown to tourists and can be hard to get due unless you have a car. Here are some of my favourite local beaches in the area.
Dingo beach is a small township off the Whitsunday coast, about 30 kilometres from Airlie beach heading towards Bowen. It offers visitors sandy beaches, crystal clear waters and is a great fishing spot. People often camp here by the beach or come for day trips, great spot for lunch as the have free BBQ’s by the water and an enclosure to swim in.
The Whitsundays well-kept secret, an isolated Eco resort off the beaten track. It is but a stone throw away from Dingo, follow a dirt path about 10 minutes. This amazing beach is only occupied by locals mostly and is so breathtaking, perfect if you want to relax away from the crowd and enjoy something spectacular.
Conway beach is located 30 minutes away from Airlie, It is a popular spot for fishing and crabbing as it is situated at the mouth of the Proserpine river. Not a spot for swimming as there are crocodiles in this river. Just exploring the beach itself is beautiful. If you walk all the way around to the right you will see a rock cliff commonly used as a jumping platform for para gliders.