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As one of the gateways to the Great Barrier Reef, there are a ton of amazing things to do in Airlie beach. While the town itself is pleasant enough most of your days here should be spent in the ocean, at nearby islands, and seeing the natural wonders of the reef.
Read on to find out the very best things to do in Airlie Beach.
1. Day Trip to Whitehaven Beach
To enjoy some relaxation and tranquility, take a half-day trip to one of the world’s best beaches known as Whitehaven Beach. Accessible by boat, helicopter or seaplane, the beach is located on Whitsunday Island. Apart from sunbathing, you can take a luxury walk on the 7 kilometers pure white natural silica sand or swim in the crystal clear water.
Furthermore, for a more mesmerizing experience, you can take a walk to the northern end of the beach and find the stunning Hill Inlet. At the inlet, the tides shift the sand and water creating a glorious fusion of colors.
2. Dine Out
As an amazing tourist attraction, Airlie Beach has a number of great restaurants and bars. For a taste of fresh seafood the beach has to offer, you can choose to dine at the award-winning Fish D’Vine & Rum Bar. The restaurant serves fresh seafood combined with a rum from their over 500 rums from all over around the world. If you are not a seafood person, they also serve beef and vegetable dishes too.
Another award-winning restaurant you can check out is the Clipper Restaurant Bar and Lounge at Coral Sea Resort. The restaurant serves the best fresh seafood as well as beef. To enjoy a stunning sunset view as you eat your delicious food and sip on some cocktails, get a table at their private jetty.
3. Snorkel the Great Barrier Reef
bigstockphoto.com / SharonCobo
Being the largest reef system in the world, the Great Barrier Reef has more than 2,900 reefs and 900 islands to explore. If you love marine life, snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef is a great choice and you’ll get a chance to view the amazing underwater world of the reef.
No worries if you are new to snorkeling, as there companies offering introductory snorkel tour for beginners as well as advanced tour for experts. Under the water, you will be able to swim alongside a kaleidoscope of tropical fish as you enjoy seeing the dozen spectacular corals.
In addition, green sea turtles are also present, stingrays, giant clams, anemones, and other marine life.
4. Spend a Relaxing Day at Airlie Beach Lagoon
Situated in the center of Airlie Beach, Airlie Beach Lagoon is a great place to relax without paying any admission fee. Popular with Whitsundays locals and tourists alike, the lagoon is a combination of both natural and man-made attributes. The beach has a security desk as well as a lifeguard to handle any swimming situations.
If you want to swim for some minutes, you can take a dive in one of the three different swimming pools available in the lagoon. However, if you want to relax away from the sun, finding a shaded spot under the tall palm trees and taking a nap or reading a book would be an awesome idea.
5. Dive the Great Barrier Reef
If you want to be counted among the thousands of people who have dived into one of the best dive sites in the world, that would mean you taking a dive at the Great Barrier Reef. Having dozen of fish and the beautiful vibrant coral, you will have a once in a lifetime experience.
From the different type of fish in the water, you can expect to see the clownfish, butterflyfish, groupers among others. Turtles and some sharks are present in the reef too.
6. Explore Conway National Park
Conway National Park is a peaceful park that is home to beautiful secluded beaches, tropical rainforest and mangroves trees. It features several walking trails and is therefore ideal for walkers and mountain bike riders. If you are ready for a little adventure, you can thus take a walk through the park and get a superb view of the scenic Whitsunday area.
If you take the Mount Rooper track, you will experience breathtaking views of the four islands and the Whitsunday passage. Moreover, you will get the chance to view the secluded Coral Beach up on top of Mount Rooper.
7. Fly over Heart Reef
Naturally shaped like a heart, the Heart Reef is one of the famous sights of the Great Barrier Reef. Located in Hardy Reef, the reef is best experienced from the air by taking a helicopter, seaplane, or light plane. To ensure the visitors have a worthwhile flight, most tour companies combine the spectacular view of the Heart Reef with other breathtaking spots.
The spots generally include the Great Barrier Reef, many of the Whitsunday Islands like the Whitehaven beach, and the Hill Inlet. Overall, the 60-minute experience will leave you spellbound and wanting to see more of Heart Reef and Airlie Beach as a whole.
Note that, due to its protected status, visitors are not allowed to snorkel or dive on the Heart Reef.
Tips for Visiting Airlie Beach
1. Carefully Plan the Days to Visit
Airlie Beach has many amazing places to visit. Therefore, for you to enjoy all the places you have planned to go to, carefully plan your visiting days. For instance, if you are planning to visit the Great Barrier Reef, consider being on the beach from the month of May to November.
2. Carry Light Clothes
Since most of the months in Airlie Beach are warm, it is advisable to carry light clothes. The clothes should mostly include shorts, breathable t-shirt or tops, swimwear, and rash shirts if you burn easily from the sun. Additionally, for a fun night out carry some casual clothes and shoes.
3. Self-Guided Trip or a Tour Guide Trip
Airlie Beach is a big place to explore and you will be there for only a few days. Consequently, to make sure you enjoy your days to the fullest, decide beforehand if you will explore the beach on your own or use a tour guide company.
How to get to Airlie Beach
Airlie Beach does not have an airport. However, there are two commercial airports in Whitsunday open to domestic flights. The incoming flights are mostly from Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, and Cairns.
Known as Whitsunday Coast or Proserpine Airport and Hamilton Island Airport, these two airports are close and to Airlie Beach. Nonetheless, the Whitsunday coast airport is the best to choose from since it only requires you to take a shuttle bus or taxi to reach the beach.
If you take the Hamilton flight, know that you will require boarding a ferry to get you to the Airlie Beach mainland. However, if you are on a budget you can either take a bus or drive yourself from all major cities in Australia to Airlie Beach. For a train ride, there are trains that leave Brisbane and Cairns but don’t reach Airlie Beach – they stop at Proserpine.
Where to Stay in Airlie Beach
Budget: For simple dorms and private rooms with free Wi-Fi, stay at Backpackers By The Bay. Having a guest kitchen and laundry facilities, the hostel is also near many tourist attractions. Additionally, another budget-friendly hotel is Nomads Airlie Beach Hotel which offers mixed-gender or female-only dorms. Plain private rooms are also available and have tea and coffee machines as well as satellite TV.
Mid-Range: If you want more space and privacy, stay at Peppers Airlie Beach. The hotel has one to three-bedroom apartments that have living rooms, kitchens, bathrooms, and balconies facing the sea. Another mid-range hotel to stay at is the Blue Horizon Resort. Having one to four-bedroom apartments, the hotel also has a pool, hot tub, and gym among other facilities.
Luxury: Although there are many luxury hotels in Airlie Beach, Mirage Whitsundays is a great hotel to stay. Apart from offering one to three-bedroom apartments, it also has two and three- stone villas and penthouses. For another luxury hotel, try out the Pinnacles Resort that has one to three-bedroom apartments. In addition to the luxurious apartments, the resort also has an outdoor pool, gym, and sauna.