With a modest population of just under 13000, Airlie Beach represents a quiet departure from the urban rush. And while the tropical township may once have simply been a transit destination, more people are beginning to recognise the merits of Airlie Beach as place to stay and explore. Known as the gateway to the Whitsundays and Great Barrier Reef, the lively little town is perfect for both holidaymakers and those seeking a permanently sunnier lifestyle alike.
Sitting a little more than halfway between Brisbane and Cairns along the picturesque Queensland coastline, Airlie Beach offers its residents access to some of Australia’s most famous islands including Hamilton, Long, Hook, Daydream, Hayman and Whitsunday Islands. Yet this flourishing region also boasts for itself a relaxed beach lagoon, bustling nightlife and dining scene, thriving marina and a vast array of boutique shops and retail outlets. The hill behind the township also backs onto Conway National Park offering short hikes such as the Honeyeater lookout with its elevated outlook of the Airlie township and coastline and longer multi-day hikes along the Conway circuit with its tranquil rainforest and seasonal creeks. And if a destination where doing less is more your tempo, Airlie’s all year round temperate climate makes it the perfect place to do little else than soak up some tropical sunshine. It’s the best of both worlds.
There are multiple ways to travel to Airlie Beach, all of them reasonably simple. With the Whitsundays Airport (Proserpine) around 30min drive away from the township, one of the fastest and most convenient is via air. Jetstar, Qantas and Virgin Airways all offer flights to Proserpine from major cities around Australia. There are numerous transfer options to get from the airport to Airlie as well as car hire options should you wish to have your own transport for the duration of your stay. For an alternate air option, Hamilton Island has its own airport and the hour long ferries between the island and Airlie Beach are timed to coincide with airport arrivals. Yet, if you have the time, why not consider one of the more adventurous ways to get to Airlie Beach?
As a popular destination for backpackers and tourists, Greyhound Australia offer a bus service from both Townsville and Brisbane to Airlie. While the trip from Brisbane will set you back around 20 hours, it’s an affordable and comfortable way to travel the coastline to the Whitsundays. The Townsville trip is much quicker taking around 4 ½ hours including numerous opportunities along the way to stretch your legs.
Hitting the road yourself is also worth considering. The Bruce Highway connects all the coastal towns and cities along Queensland’s East Coast between Brisbane and Cairns offering numerous opportunities to explore those less travelled gems destinations along the way. Stop in Tin Can Bay to feed the wild dolphins, wander the peaceful beaches of the undeveloped towns of Agnes Waters and 1770, explore the Capricorn Caves of Rockhampton and meander the Mackay Botanical Gardens along the way.
If a leisurely train trip is up your alley, Queensland Rail’s Spirit of Queensland travels between Brisbane and Cairns five times a week. The 14 hour journey cuts through the belly of Queensland’s rural farmland offering views of sprawling fields of crops. Make your journey that much more restful by opting for a RailBed – a spacious and comfortable seat that is converted into a lie-flat bed at night.
However you choose to get to Airlie, it’s a destination worth your time. Between the alluring adventures that the glistening Coral Sea promises and the laid-back yet vital vibe to soak up around town, chances are you won’t want to leave.