Airlie Beach: What to do in this sleepy seaside town

March 12, 2019

by Cait Halsey

Are you exhausted from 2019 already or do you need something to look forward to later in the year? Airlie Beach is the answer! With enough to keep you occupied for a week or a few highlights to fill a weekend, it has it all.

Located in North Queensland and surrounded by tropical islands and the Great Barrier Reef, it is safe to say that water activities are a must here! You’ll get to spend time on it, beside it or in it! Read on for what to do.

What to do in and on the water

With so many options available to see so many different parts of the Whitsundays it can be hard to pick just one thing to do… I like to pick the icons to start; the Great Barrier Reef and Whitehaven Beach. Cruise Whitsundays, based out of Airlie Beach, does both. Book on for a day at the outer Great Barrier Reef on their permanently moored pontoon snorkelling, diving* and taking a joy flight* over heart reef. The next day, head out to Whitehaven Beach and Hill Inlet on the big purple catamaran, Camira. Sit back and relax as the entertaining crew take you on an adventure through the Whitsundays and guide you to the best place to take the world-famous, swirling sands photo. All inclusive of beverages (beer, wine, soft drinks), morning tea, afternoon tea and lunch this is the best value experience in the Whitsundays! Tip: the sand on Whitehaven Beach is 98% pure silica, excellent for jewellery polishing; just don’t take it off you as if it gets lost in the sand, there’s no finding it!

Hill Inlet, Whitsunday Island

What to do on the land

If you’re not keen on boats, it’s ok! There’s plenty to do in Airlie Beach that involves the water.

Take in the scenery

Take a casual stroll along the coastline on the bicentennial boardwalk. Follow the coast for 5km and discover some of the best-hidden beaches on the mainland. Make sure you stop between the Marina Shores apartments and the boat ramp to look for turtles, there are often a couple around the rocks there that will pop up and say hi. You’ll end the walk at Cannonvale Beach, a well-known local hangout where people go to have a BBQ with friends, walk the dogs or run/walk the boardwalk for daily exercise.  If you’re not too concerned about the calories there is a café across the road, Fat Frog, with the most delicious range of meals and cakes in town! Make sure you’re there before 2 pm though, as the team start and finish early!

Kick back and relax

After a nice long walk and a bit to eat it’s time to hit the lagoon, you may remember walking past it on your walk along the boardwalk. Built on the edge of the water on the northern end of town, the family-friendly lagoon is a favourite of the locals and visitors alike. With beach entries both ends, you can wallow in the shallows or swim out deeper for the cooler water.  There is plenty of grass area on 4 sides, but be warned it is easy to lose a whole day laying in the sun admiring the view. Did I mention it’s built on the water’s edge? Incredible views of the water, islands and boats all just going about their day.

Sunset at Airlie Beach

Must Do’s in Airlie Beach:

It’s a must do to see the Great Barrier Reef once in our life! If you don’t like boats, head out in July or August when the weather is at its best and the seas are flat. While you’re getting your sea legs, head to Whitehaven Beach and see Australia’s only 98% silica sand beach, it’ll be worth it.

Eat, drink and be merry. There are lots of café’s and restaurants in Airlie Beach and surrounds. It’s nice to just forget about what you should eat and just eat what you like!

My suggestions are:

 La Marina

Make sure you order the Garlic Focaccia and the Zeppole (hanging doughnuts with a pool of Nutella and ice cream for dipping!)

George’s Diner

George’s is about 40 minutes drive from Airlie Beach, but the 1950s theme diner is worth it! Serving good ole spiders, burgers and milkshakes in authentic 1950s American booths; George, the owner, has done an awesome job making this diner feel like a time machine.

Fat Frog Cafe

Mentioned above, this café has the best views in town plus amazing food! If you are gluten-free and hanging for a freshly homemade piece of cake, Fat Frog has you covered. Try the baked berry cheesecake and the chocolate brownie… you’ll roll out of here, promise!

Just relax

Nothing happens in a hurry here, everyone is far too laid back! If you’re frustrated at how slow someone or something is going, take a breath and settle in; they aren’t going to go any faster! People here appreciate every day and like to take their time with that. However, everyone does appreciate it if you can drive to the speed limit!

Hit the clubs

With only 3 clubs and 2 pubs in the main street, you can be out for a short time or a long time, your choice! Tip: Grab a party shirt at the souvenir shop before you head out and go themed with your group!

Recommended places to stay in Airlie Beach:

For accommodation a view of the water is essential! Otherwise, what’s the point coming to stay, right?

My favourite places to stay are:

Mantra Boathouse, Port of Airlie

All the rooms here are 2 or 3 bedroom apartments making this the perfect place if there’s a group of you coming up or you just want some extra space. All the balconies overlook the marina, so you can watch people come and go all day and night. Bonus, there are great restaurants downstairs; just in case you get too wrapped up in people watching.

Airlie Beach Hotel

If you like a hotel room with a view, this is for you. Built across the road from the main beach in town these rooms have just recently been renovated. Only a short walk from restaurants and the main street this is a perfect location if you plan to party!

Hardy Reef, The Great Barrier Reef

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