This place is a hidden gem. We didn’t pick it, but more it picked us. Airlie Beach is located 1100 kms north of Brisbane and 600kms south of Cairns on Australia’s east coast. For most people Airlie Beach will be the access point to exploring the amazing Whitsunday Islands, but the town itself has its own appeal. We ended up here as we were preparing to board a sailing yacht. The boat however was in the final stages of a retrofit so therefore we became live-a-boards in the marina while the boat was getting upgraded.
So much to do in this small town of approximately 2000 people. The couple hundred metre main street primarily thrives on cruise ships and ferries bringing the tourists in for the day. Once we started to learn the cruise ship schedule we could avoid the crowds and enjoy the beauty of the town all to ourselves. Here are a few things that kept us busy:
📍The lagoon – This is a beautiful pool fully equipped with lane swimming, kids section, shaded areas and lifeguards on duty. It has gradual entrance acting like a true beach feel surrounded by amazing green grass. There is even sand surrounding one of the edges. This really is the perfect spot to hang out day in and day out to beat the heat. The shallow kids pool has full shade cover to keep the sun off. Showers, change rooms and toilets are right there too.
📍 The beach – There are two beaches the locals use that are equipped with floating bumpers with weighted nets to keep the jellyfish and crocodiles out. Rumour has it the sand has been trucked in too making it a beautiful beach to relax and enjoy. The actual Airlie Beach is mainly a mud flat when the tide is out and lined with mangroves. Multiple bottles of vinegar are on site just in case you should come in contact with one of these unwanted stingers.
📍 Airlie Creek Track – A 2 km out and back track following a creek on a shaded trail to rock pools. Right now it’s currently dry, but would make a great hike and cool down if the water was flowing. This trail follows a creek gradually up to natural rock pools. Along this hike you can encounter native birds, fig trees, some tropical plants as well as lizards, spiders and butterflies. It is an easy walk, with an elevation gain of only 70 metres.
📍 Tide pools and sea shells – We found an amazing little spot that has multiple tide pools to search for all the little living creatures that the tide brings in. Here you will also find zillions of tiny shells. You can spend hours sifting through some of mother natures beauties and so many of them are in perfect condition. The girls ask to go here daily. When the tide is up there are minimal shells however, so this is one we definitely need to time right.
📍Playgrounds – Along the waterfront adjacent to the walking path you will come across multiple play grounds. These extend from simple swings and climbing features to an astounding 5m heigh rope ladder with multiple enclosed tubes. Everyone of all ages will find some sort of entertainment in these parks. There are even a few placed next to some of the pubs and restaurants so us adults can relax with a cool refreshing drink while the littles burn off some energy.
There are many great places to eat too. Lots of the restaurants have special deals and boast live music in the afternoon. If you time it right it makes for some very affordable eats. We tend to go to Sorrentos for the 2 for 1 pizza between 3:00 – 4:00 pm. They make delicious thin crust pizza with a variety of other yummy dishes. Happy hour starts at 4:00 pm, so if you really time it right you can do both pizza and well as drinks. Not to mention, the sea side views are second to none overlooking both the bay and the marina.
There are a few grocery stores here that seem to switch sale prices daily, so paying attention to this saves a lot when needing to stock up on things. It also does mean frequenting the store regularly to cash in on the deals.
Shannon even got to do one thing on her bucket list while here.
For just over a week we needed to stay off the boat. We started by searching for a place online and then after seeing prices of places we chose to go directly to the property to see what kind of deal they could give us. The in person prices were far better than the online ones. The bonus was we also got to see the amenities beforehand. Be sure to ask if they have any weekly deals as sometimes they are cheaper than booking for 6 nights.
Although not planned, we spent just over 6 weeks in Airlie Beach. Tyson worked on the boat most days while I explored new areas with the girls. After nearly a full retrofit of a previously neglected boat we were all eager to cast away and set sail to new places. We made a couple small outings to test some of the systems out but never for more than a short distance before returning back to shore to adjust our findings to improve the outcome.
Hopefully we will be soon raising the sails and making our way up the east coast in search of crystal clear waters and endless adventures.