Destination: Things to do in Airlie Beach
If you are driving through Queensland on a road trip along the east coast of Australia, Airlie Beach is a very popular ‘must-stop’ destination. As the gateway to the beautiful Whitsunday Islands there is a huge choice of things to do in Airlie Beach, especially for water and outdoors lovers.
Beaches, palm trees, marina’s full of shiny white yachts, views out across glistening azure water, 74 magical islands off the coast and the Great Barrier Reef, all set against a backdrop of rainforest-clad hills. Everything about Airlie Beach shouts “Holiday”.
The town of Airlie Beach itself has changed dramatically over recent years. On my first visit 25 years ago I remember two streets, a few buildings and a beautiful beach but since then it has developed into a full-blown holiday destination.
The foreshore has been landscaped with a lagoon and playground, large resorts like Outrigger and Peppers have moved in with luxury accommodation and there are some amazing restaurants and cafes spilling out onto the street offering al fresco dining.
Despite all the sprawling development, which has basically joined three small villages into one big town, Airlie Beach is still a fairly small, appealing and relaxing holiday destination.
And even though it’s been tarnished with a ‘backpacker reputation’ over the years, the town has now smartened up and the development has allowed it to become large enough to comfortably cater for all types of tourists.
Consequently you’ll find a curious mix of posh ‘yachties’, families and backpackers all happily co-existing in the same destination.
The result of all this is that Airlie Beach radiates a fun, vibrant holiday atmosphere with enough laid back charm to appeal to those wanting a calm and chilled-out getaway.
10 Things to do in airlie beach
- Sailing trip – The Whitsundays are all about sailing so every type of sailing trip is available in Airlie Beach, including tall ship cruises.
- Experience the Great Barrier Reef – This is one of the most popular things to do in Airlie Beach. Take a scuba dive, snorkel or semi-sub tour. You can even spend a night on the reef with Reefsleep.
- Visit Whitehaven Beach – It’s won countless awards as Australia’s best beach so why not join a day tour to Whitsunday Island to see what all the fuss is about?
- Island day trips – It’s pretty easy to pop over to any of the islands for a daytrip including Hamilton, Daydream, South Molle and Whitsunday Island.
- Scenic flights – Aerial views of the Great Barrier Reef and Whitsunday Islands are extremely memorable by helicopter or seaplane.
- Water Sports – You can also do just about any water sport you can think of from kayaking, jet skiing to stand up paddle boarding.
- Bicentennial Walk – The boardwalk around the coast from Airlie to Cannonvale is definitely worth doing. It’s a reasonably good walk that goes past little bays, beaches and marinas. If you’re looking for a lazy option, you can even hire bikes or segways!
- Explore inland – most people focus on things to do offshore when they’re in Airlie Beach but there are some beautiful areas to explore inland and along the coast including Cedar Falls Creek, Conway National Park and Cape Gloucester.
- Do the Great Whitsunday Walk – the complete walk is 28 kms long although there are shorter sections you can take. The tracks takes you through rainforest and the views are fantastic.
- Relax – While there’s plenty of things to do in Airlie Beach, it’s also the kind of place where you can book a spa treatment, browse around the boutiques, eat lunch and go home for a siesta!
Places to eat
One of the benefits of the development in Airlie Beach is that there’s now a pretty good restaurant scene so you shouldn’t have to look very far to get a decent meal. Some of our recent favourites were:
- Breakfast at the Fat Frog Beach Café – This little café down Beach Road in Cannonvale was a great little find. It’s opposite the beach and serves absolutely amazing food.
- Pizza at Mr. Bones – This tapas and pizza restaurant on the foreshore near the Lagoon is deservedly very popular.
- HOT curry at Lovely India – If you like a really hot curry, check out this restaurant overlooking the main street. It’s the first time I’ve seen my partner sweat and sniff his way through a curry in Australia and he didn’t even order the hottest thing on the menu!
travel nq fast facts:
- The closest airport to Airlie Beach is Proserpine which is about 30-40 minutes away. There are also direct flights from the capital cities to Hamilton Island, which would require a one hour boat transfer.
Photos thanks to Tourism & Events Queensland