DRIVES AND ROAD TRIPS

Tropical delight. Your guide to QLD’s Airlie Beach and surrounds

Paradise like. Welcome to Airlie Beach. Credit: Jules Ingall

As we welcome BIG4 Whitsundays Tropical Eco Resort to the network – joining existing BIG4 Adventure Whitsunday Resort – we thought it was a great opportunity to shine the spotlight on the relaxed town of Airlie Beach.

Popular Airlie Beach Lagoon. More on this prized attraction below. Credit: Tourism & Events Queensland

Think Queensland holidays, think the Whitsundays.

This region instantly springs to mind when thoughts turn to a Sunshine State getaway.

Warm, sunny days; palm trees blowing in the breeze; easy access to sparkling beaches and glittering islands. And so much more.

At the heart of the Whitsundays region is Airlie Beach, which makes the perfect base for a Queensland break. And we’re about to introduce you to the best of this pretty town and its surrounds.

Airlie Beach is a class above. Credit: Tourism & Events Queensland

Airlie Beach by the numbers

  • Where: 20km northeast of Proserpine, 110km north of Mackay.
  • Nearest capital city: 1100km north of Brisbane.
  • Founded: 1936.
  • Population: 1200 (approx.).
  • Average winter temperature: 24C/12C.
  • Average summer temperature: 32C/22C.

There's plenty of warm weather to soak up in Airlie Beach. Credit: Tourism & Events Queensland

Gateway to the Whitsunday Islands

A huge part of Airlie Beach’s appeal is its easy access to the famous Whitsunday Islands. A few key facts about these islands include:

  • They are part of the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef.
  • Consist of 74 islands.
  • Renowned examples include Hamilton, Daydream, and Hayman Island.
  • Most are uninhabited national park islands.

Majestic: The Whitsunday Islands are famous for good reason.

One of the absolute must-do activities in Airlie Beach is to join a tour to iconic Whitehaven Beach. Located on Whitsunday Island, this paradise-like stretch of white sand has won countless ‘best beach’ awards and overlooks a dazzling mix of turquoise, blue, and green waters.

At the northern end of Whitehaven Beach is stunning Hill Inlet, which is best admired from Tongue Point lookout. Cameras or phones are essential accessories here.

A star of the region: Whitehaven Beach.

A host of sailing and cruise adventures are available for delving into the ultra-picturesque islands and the Great Barrier Reef.

Other water activities that can be enjoyed with ease in the Whitsundays include snorkelling and diving as well as stand-up paddleboarding.

Snorkelling and diving are among myriad water-based leisure to enjoy in these parts.

Beaches in Airlie Beach

Airlie Beach holidays aren’t complete without spending time among sand and surf. Here are a couple of beaches to keep in mind.

Boathaven Beach: Man-made as part of the Port of Airlie development; central location and plenty of golden sand to sink the toes into.

Cannonvale Beach: Well-suited to families with various facilities in and around the beach. Home of the Whitsunday Magic wreck; top vantage point for stunning sunsets.

It makes sense to hit the beach in Airlie Beach. Credit: Tourism & Events Queensland

Must-visit attraction in Airlie Beach

Enjoy year-round swimming at the Airlie Beach Lagoon. Centrally located and fringed by palm trees, this is a popular attraction with both visitors and locals.

It’s also one of the best family-friendly attractions in Airlie Beach thanks to the addition of a children’s pool, a sandy beach area, and a nearby playground. And there’s plenty of shade, too. Oh, and it's free!

Free to roam: Airlie Beach Lagoon has vast appeal. Credit: Tourism & Events Queensland

Off to market

Each Saturday morning, the Airlie Beach Markets are bursting with activity. Crowds gather to peruse stalls selling a wide variety of local produce, arts and craft, breakfast and coffee, and much more. Also known as the Whitsunday Markets, this weekly event is held along The Esplanade.

Airlie Beach budget tip

When it comes to free things to do in Airlie Beach, a wander along the Bicentennial Walkway should be high on the itinerary. This almost 4km-long coastal path stretches from Airlie Beach Lagoon to Cannonvale Beach and affords a succession of glittering water views.

Elsewhere, ‘see how the other half lives’ with a spot of boat watching at Abell Point Marina or Port of Airlie.

Budget tip: Boat watching at an Airlie Beach marina. Credit: Tourism & Events Queensland

What budget?

Splash out with a scenic helicopter or seaplane ride over Heart Reef. This iconic coral is shaped like a heart – well-named, huh? – and makes for a fantastic sight from above. Its popular with photographers and romantics alike: cue the odd marriage proposal.

It's clear that Heart Reef, centre, is well-named!

Dining in Airlie Beach

Feast on delicious, fresh local seafood at Fish D’vine. This popular restaurant includes a rum bar, and the pleasant and relaxed ambience increases its appeal.

Northerlies Beach Bar & Grill is also highly rated for its excellent food, extensive beer and wine selection, and sparkling views.

Another worthwhile stop to quench a thirst is Denman Cellars Beer Café, which boasts a massive bottled beer range to complement a handful of taps. It does a decent cocktail, too.

For a caffeine fix and/or brunch, leap into the Fat Frog Beach Café.

There's a lot to love about Northerlies Beach Bar & Grill. Credit: Summer Rain Photography

National parks near Airlie Beach

Rainforest-clad Conway National Park makes for excellent exploration, just a 15min drive south of Airlie Beach. A network of walking trails expose gorgeous, variable scenery.

The Mt Rooper track earns special mention for the breathtaking views of Whitsunday Passage and various islands that can be soaked up along the way. Or tackle the Conway Circuit – previously called the Whitsunday Great Walk – a 28km foot-slogging or mountain-bike trail.

Conway National Park is a sea of glorious green. Credit: Tourism & Events Queensland

Further afield, Cape Hillsborough National Park (130km south of Airlie Beach) is home to iconic beach-loving wallabies, rugged rock formations, and much more.

Or try to spot platypus at Eungella National Park (170km south), which is also home to the mesmerising rainforest-covered Finch Hatton Gorge.

Beach-going wallabies add to Cape Hillsborough National Park's immense appeal.

Day trips from Airlie Beach

If you’re up for more exploration, head to Cedar Creek Falls for a refreshing dip 30km south of Airlie Beach.

Hydeaway Bay is a scenic, secluded spot (50km north). There’s every chance you’ll just about have the beach to yourself.

A day trip to Bowen (75km north) also rewards. Among its highlights is the Big Mango as well as Horseshoe Bay, a beautiful beach surrounded by granite outcrops.

Roughly 50km west is Lake Proserpine, also known as Peter Faust Dam. This area is a treasure chest for barramundi fishing.

A Bowen highlight: Horseshoe Bay.

Airlie Beach accommodation

With two fantastic BIG4 parks to choose from in Airlie Beach, we have your Whitsundays accommodation sorted. Check out our parks below.

Have you been to Airlie Beach and have any tips about what to see and do? Please share your experience in the comments section below.

Isn’t it time you indulged in a Whitsundays holiday? Book your next BIG4 break now.

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