City Guide Airlie Beach, Australia

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Visiting Airlie Beach

The main gateway to the Whitsundays, Airlie Beach is one of the most popular stops on the east coast of Australia and attracts backpackers in their droves all year round.


About Airlie Beach, Australia

Nestled between the mountains of Conway National Park and the waters of the Coral Sea, Airlie Beach was part of the region first explored by the world renowned Captain Cook when he took the Endeavour through the Whitsundays. Since good old James made his explorations and discoveries, the town has developed steadily but it has really only taken off in the last ten to fifteen years when its tourist potential was realised.

Its location makes it the perfect backpacker base for exploring the extremely popular Whitsundays. A group of seventy-four islands, the majority of which are uninhabited, these are as close to island paradise as you will get. The town’s subtropical latitude also adds to its appeal ensuring virtual all year round sunshine. And, as if all of this wasn’t enough, Airlie Beach is as close to the Great Barrier Reef as Cairns but because the area is less crowded than the latter, the service you will receive from the tour operators in Airlie Beach is second to none.

One of the most popular destinations on the island cruises is Whitsunday Island itself and the world renowned Whitehaven Beach. Eight kilometres of white sand and turquoise waters, this beach is like nothing you have ever seen before and this is strongly reflected in the fact that it has been voted one of the top ten beaches on the planet. It is also a protected national park which means that no houses or hotels have ever been built in the region and no buildings ever will be. As well as the beach itself fishing in the area is superb and dolphins can be spotted almost ever day as can sea turtles. So, during your stay in Airlie, make a visit to Whitehaven one of your top priorities.

The town itself is not big. In fact the majority of activity in Airlie Beach centres around just one street, Shute Harbour Road. Here you will find all the most popular restaurants, pubs and clubs as well as the majority of cruise booking centres. And, anything you can’t find here is usually only a walk or a short bus journey away. As well as this, the street itself is only a few metres from the town’s main beach making everything just too easy for you. Finally, because the town relies solely on tourism for income, the locals greatly appreciate this fact and the hordes that visit every year making it one of the friendliest and most welcoming destinations in Australia.

Eating out in Airlie Beach, Australia

Thanks to its position as a major stop off point for travellers taking trips to the Whitsunday Islands, recent years have seen a huge upsurge in both the number and the quality of eating establishments in Airlie Beach. Serving everything from Asian to Mexican and African to Thai at a price that even the most budget conscious among you can afford, eating out is one thing that shouldn’t cause you too much concern during your stay.

Seafood is particularly good with fresh deliveries being made to restaurants on a daily basis. Sample the finest of lobster, salmon, tuna and much more in any of the eateries in the town. Even the host of ethnic restaurants have their very own seafood specialties.

Another added bonus in Airlie Beach is the excellent weather which means that almost every day is suitable for eating al fresco. Whether it’s a picnic in the park or terrace dining overlooking the sea each is catered for. This also means that you can save quite a bit of money by buying cheap takeaway meals or shopping in the local supermarket instead of having to eat in cafes and restaurants every day.

Noodle-icious

Image right
airlie_cheap_eats‘When two great chefs come together expect the best of both worlds’. So reads the cocky menu but once you’re through your meal you’ll be inclined to agree. Whether you opt for a noodle or pasta dish you’re guaranteed fresh grub that’s freshly cooked right in front of you. Open daily 11am-9pm.

Restaurants in Airlie Beach, Australia

  • Chatz Bar ‘n Brasserie

    390 Shute Harbour Road, Airlie Beach, Australia

    Excellent little eatery serving both lunch and dinner. Particularly popular for lunch as you get a meal and drink for the rather reasonable sum of $4.95.

  • Panache On The Beach

    Mango Terrace, 263 Shute Harbour Road, Airlie Beach, Australia

    For a classier night out head to Panache for the best of authentic gastronomic treats. With a balcony on the waterfront overlooking the beach, the location is idyllic and prices aren’t bad either.

  • Tequilla Wines

    283 Shute Harbour Road, Airlie Beach, Australia

    Serving the finest Tex Mex and seafood in town, this establishment has the added attraction of doubling as an Internet café – a sure fire way of packing the backpackers in.

  • Burgers in Paradise

    269 Shute Harbour Road, Airlie Beach, Australia

    Airlie Beach’s best burger joint, this café is open twenty-four hours daily. So, if you’re partial to a burger for breakfast this is the place for you.

  • Crepe Expectations

    Shop 3, 390 Shute Harbour Road, Airlie Beach, Australia

    BYO café serving an excellent selection of both sweet and savoury crepes. Offering a welcome change from your run of the meal dinners and lunches, this place is also very reasonably priced which is always an added attraction.

  • Mangrove Jacks Cafe Bar

    Shute Harbour Road, Airlie Beach, Australia

    Located in the Arlie Beach Hotel, this eatery offers alfresco dining as well as a full bar. Really nice place to spend an afternoon or to start your night out.

  • Airlie Thai

    Beach Plaza, The Esplanade, Airlie Beach, Australia

    Typical Thai food at very reasonable prices. Also does an excellent selection of fresh seafood. Its location on the seafront makes it particularly appealing.

  • Wok Inn

    Corner Shute Harbour Road & The Esplanade, Airlie Beach, Australia

    Those of you missing your Chinese culinary treats will love this one. Another restaurant serving big portions where prices are not so big, also has some excellent value meals for groups. Opens at 6.00pm daily.

  • Shaiz Breakfast Bar & Cafe

    Beach Plaza, The Esplanade, Airlie Beach, Australia

    The best place for breakfast in Airlie, this café opens at 6.00am daily and serves a superb selection of hot and cold treats. Also has excellent all you can eat buffets which should fortify you for most of the day.

  • Airlie Fish Cafe & Jetty Restaurant

    Coral Sea Resort, Ocean View Avenue, Airlie Beach, Australia

    Two different venues in one offering you an excellent choice between a casual seafood café and a more up market restaurant with a superb a la carte selection.

Transport in Airlie Beach, Australia

Getting There
While Airlie Beach is served by domestic air carriers, the reality for most of you is arrival by bus. Most services between Brisbane and Cairns pass through the town, picking up and dropping off as they go. This is done on Shute Harbour Road in the town centre.

Arrivals by train are to Proserpine station but there are regular bus services operating between the station and Shute Harbour which travel through and stop off at Airlie Beach.

If you’re travelling by bus McCafferty’s run a daily service which leaves Brisbane at midday and reaches Airlie Beach at 6.20am the following day. There is also a 4.00pm service which reaches the town at 10.35am. Travelling from Cairns, the same company operate two services which travel through Airlie Beach. The 7.15am service arrives there at 5.25pm and the 9.30am bus arrives at 7.50pm.

Greyhound also operate northbound services from Brisbane and southbound from Cairns. The former leaves Brisbane at 10.00am reaching Airlie at 4.30am or at 8.00pm arriving at 2.05pm while the latter leaves at 1.00am arriving at 10.0am or at 11.00am arriving at 9.30pm.

Trains travelling to Airlie Beach from Brisbane are the Sunlander on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and the Queenslander on Sundays. The Spirit of the Tropics travels on Wednesday and Sunday. From Cairns, the Sunlander travels on Monday, Thursday and Saturday, the Queenslander travels on Tuesday and the Spirit of the Tropics travels on Tuesday and Friday.

Finally, if you can afford it you could always reach Airlie Beach by plane. The closest airport to the town is in Proserpine which is about twenty kilometers away but is served by regular buses which meet every flight and will take you to your destination for about $12. A taxi will cost you $40. If you are flying, however, you should note that flights to Proserpine are not that frequent and generally arrive in the evening when all the tours have finished for the day. Therefore, it is recommended that if you are using this mode of transport, allow yourself at least a couple of days for your stay in Airlie Beach.

There is also another air terminal on Hamilton island which offers daily direct flights to Sydney and Melbourne. Transport to Airlie Beach, however, is a little more expensive. The water taxi which will only take you to Shute Harbour costs about $50 while a ferry ticket will cost you about $25 and only departs from the resort side of the island which means you have to get your luggage there using your own methods.

Getting Around
Airlie Beach is not a big town and is easily covered on foot. If you need to avail of it, however, there is a local bus service, Whitsunday Transit, which connects it with the neighbouring towns of Cannonvale, Proserpine and Shute Harbour. Buses run every half hour between 6.00am and 7.00pm and fares should not cost you any more than $8.50. Sampson’s also run buses from Proserpine, through Airlie and on to Shute Harbour. And, for the truly lazy among you, Whitsunday Taxis can be reached on 1800 811 388 .

Things to see in Airlie Beach, Australia

Airlie Beach is renowned for the amount of things there are to do rather than see but its location as a gateway to the Whitsundays ensures that there’s plenty of both on offer. Among the most popular attractions in the area are the numerous cruises which leave from Shute Harbour and the Abel Point Marina. Ranging from anything from half day to three days in duration, these cruises sail around the Whitsundays and the Outer Great Barrier Reef and are fun filled adventures where you can snorkel, scuba dive, parasail and boom net as well as enjoy the sheer luxury of sailing on board the many wonderful vessels you will have to choose from.

In fact, Airlie Beach is regarded as the location where many famous racing yachts are taken to for their retirement and there are over seventy of these vessels which depart for overnight trips and over thirty for one day trips. With so many different cruises on offer, however, it is well worth taking the time to shop around as prices vary immensely. Ask in your hostel for the best offers and they should be able to point you in the right direction.

The wildlife parks in the surrounding area are also extremely popular and many companies offer horseriding trips and walking tours through the nearby rainforest. For the lazier among you there are also several jeep safaris on offer. This is an excellent way to meet the local fauna face to face as you will get to see kangaroos, wallabies, koalas and so much more roam freely in the various parks.

For the adrenaline junkies among you, it may interest you to know that Australia’s highest bungy jump is also to be found in Airlie Beach. And as well as this, you can skydive, stunt fly or parachute over the islands offering the most breathtaking views you will ever see.

Finally, be sure to check out the local markets, the majority of which are open on Saturdays. Don’t expect anything too amazing, but for cheap gifts and souvenirs, you’ve certainly got your pick.

 

Time is of the essence

airlie beach beach

Offering three adventures in one, Ocean Rafting is ideal if you’ve only got a day to explore the Whitsunday Islands. The tour is on a rigid, inflatable boat that hurtles through the water at breakneck speed, becoming airborne over waves and leaving your heart racing. Then you take in the spectacular Whitehaven Beach before snorkeling over pristine reefs.

 

 

Attractions in Airlie Beach

  • Barrier Reef Bungy

    Shute Harbour Road, Airlie Beach, Australia

    While you will certainly find more picturesque locations in which to do your jump, you will not find a higher bungy in all of Australia. Should make for some interesting storytelling material on your return home.

  • Tandem Skydive Airlie Beach

    Whitsunday Airport, Shute Harbour Road, Airlie Beach, Australia

    Undoubtedly the best way to see the Whitsunday islands, this is an experience which you will never forget. Is quite expensive at $239 but this includes everything you need and if you can afford one luxury, make this it as it’s worth every dollar.

  • ReefJet

    Able Point Marina, Airlie Beach, Australia

    A superb way to get around the Whitsundays and the Great Barrier Reef in one journey, this is a high speed cruise and dive vessel which will take you to some of the most beautiful spots in the region. Also runs some snorkel and dive excursions, some of which are for experienced divers but there are also some introductory dive programmes for the beginners among you.

  • Whitsunday Dreamer

    Able Point Marina, Airlie Beach, Australia

    Similar to ReefJet but this vessel is one for the more laid back among you. Cruises around the islands and takes passengers to two different resorts and a coral reef. Enjoy a barbecue lunch on board and avail of the water sports on offer including snorkeling, fishing, boomnetting and parasailing.

  • Kelly Dive & Sail

    1 The Esplanade, Airlie Beach, Australia

    The ultimate sea faring adventure, this is a three-day cruise aboard a luxurious 65-foot catamaran. Offering excellent on board facilities you will visit Hook Island, Whitehaven Beach, the Outer Reef and Hayman Island diving and snorkeling as you go. Is quite expensive at between $450 and $495 but this does include your food, accommodation and your dives.

  • Fawlty Tour’s 4WD Rain Forest Tours

    , Airlie Beach, Australia

    If you’ve had enough of the water and fancy a change, why not hit the rainforest? This tour will take you through the rainforest and to Cedar Creek Falls and includes free pickups to and from your hostel, free entry to the rainforest and a free picnic lunch for a reasonable $42.

  • Barefoot Bushman’s Wildlife Park

    Lot 2, Shute Harbour Road, Airlie Beach, Australia

    Featuring a host of wildlife shows including snakes, crocodiles various native animals including koalas, kangaroos and wallabies, this park is home to the most comprehensive collection of Australian fauna in the state. Located about 8kms from Airlie Beach, regular buses leave from town taking you right into the heart of the park.

  • Brandy Creek Trails

    , Airlie Beach, Australia

    Another alternative which will take you out of the water is a trek through the hills on horseback. This company will also pick you up and drop you off at your accommodation and the trek will take you through meadows and rainforest over half a day.

  • Airlie Beach Swimming Lagoon

    , Airlie Beach, Australia

    This $8 million year-round and stinger-free swimming facility opened in January of 2001 and is proving extremely popular among visitors to Airlie Beach. And, with a beautiful sandy beach as well a host landscaped grassy areas, picnic areas and barbecues it’s easy to see why.

 

Entertainment in Airlie Beach, Australia

The best way to spend an evening in Airlie is by joining the Party Whitsundays tour of the best bars in Airlie Beach which takes place every Saturday and will set you back $35. For this rather reasonable sum you will get dinner and seven free drinks. As well as this, any drink which you have after your first seven will only cost you happy hour prices all night.

Kicking off with dinner in Magnums about 6.30pm you will then be treated to live music in Charlie’s Sports Bar and Morocco’s Party bar and finish off by dancing into the early hours at Tricks Nightclub. With loads of party games and excellent prizes this tour is well worth checking out. So, if this sounds like something you think you’re able for, and we hope you are, you can book at Magnums or Morocco when you get there.

If you’re worried about what you can get up to during the week, however, you need not bother. Thanks to its position as a number one backpacker location, the nightlife in the town is alive and kicking right throughout the week with different theme and party nights taking place in the various pubs on alternate nights of the week. For the best ones, ask in your hostel and they’re sure to point you in the right direction. As well as this, many of the most popular bars are located in the town’s bigger hostels where you’re guaranteed to hook up with a host of fellow travellers who will help you party the night away.

Entertainments in Airlie Beach

  • Beaches Bar & Bistro

    356 – 362 Shute Harbour Road, Airlie Beach, Australia

    The biggest hostel in Airlie Beach, Beaches is also one of the most popular nightspots. With $6 jugs of beer every day and special party games on a regular basis, this place is filled to capacity with backpackers any night of the week.

  • Magnums

    Shute Harbour Road, Airlie Beach, Australia

    Another major party centre, this bar also has competitions and events on most nights including its legendary toad races and horizontal bungee. Also serves food outside between 5.00pm and 8.30pm, the perfect way to start your night out.

  • Capers

    Corner of Esplanade & Coconut Grove, Airlie Beach, Australia

    Located in the Airlie Beach Hotel, this place serves over one hundred different types of bourbon. A real chill out establishment with pool tables for those who think you can after sampling the different bourbons.

  • Paddy’s Shenanigans

    352 Shute Harbour Road, Airlie Beach, Australia

    Traditional Irish pub serving the obligatory Guinness and Irish Stew, this is an extremely popular among backpackers and locals alike. And with special offers on drinks almost every night as well as its warm, friendly atmosphere it’s easy to see why.

  • KC’s Bar & Grill

    382 Shute Harbour Road, Airlie Beach, Australia

    With live music most nights as well as the fact that there is usually no, or a very reasonable, cover charge this is another extremely popular haunt. Also serves really good food for those of you interested in something besides drinking.

  • The Saloon Bar

    263 Shute Harbour Road, Airlie Beach, Australia

    The venue which has replaced Stingers Nightclub, this bar is proving just as popular among revellers in the town. Open until 5.00am nightly, come prepared to party.

  • Tricks Nightclub

    Golden Orchid Drive, Airlie Beach, Australia

    Open from 11.00pm until 5.00am nightly, this place is loud, thumping and an excellent place to finish up. Is also part of the Party Whitsundays tour.

  • Terraces Bar & Restaurant

    Golden Orchid Drive, Airlie Beach, Australia

    Occupying the bottom half of the building housing Tricks you will find the bar with the best views in Airlie. Happy hour between 5.30pm and 6.30pm and shows 16mm movies two nights per week.

 

General info about Airlie Beach, Australia

Currency
The currency used is the Australian dollar (AUD) which is made up of 100 cents. Notes are in denominations of $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 and the coins in use are 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, $1 and $2.

Climate
Airlie Beach enjoys a subtropical climate with average annual temperatures of 27 degrees Celsius and an average annual minimum of 21 degrees Celsius. Temperatures peak at about 32 degrees from November until March. There is a rainy season which lasts between January and March but the number of days that it rains for the entire year is between eighty and one hundred. Furthermore, there is practically no rain whatsoever between May and November. Eight hours of sunshine per day is the average.

Time Zone
Airlie Beach is ten hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time.

Electricity
Electricity in Australia is 220-240V.

Tax
Last year a 10% Goods and Services Tax (GST) was introduced in Australia and this applies to most products and services. Under the Tourist Refund Scheme, however, visitors can claim a tax refund on any purchases which cost over AU$300, were bought in the same shop and which were purchased within the last month of your stay in the country. To avail of this service you need to hand in your receipt at customs and your refund will be paid there and then.

Visa Requirements
All visitors to Australia need a passport and a visa. Those from New Zealand are issued a visa on arrival; all other visitors must obtain one in advance. There are several different types of visa depending on the reason for visiting, but most holiday visitors will need a standard tourist visa. To apply for a visa you’ll need an application form, available from Australian diplomatic missions overseas and many travel agents. There’s a US$33 fee for a three-month stay and you’ll have to provide your passport and a passport photo with your application. Visitors between the ages of 18 and 30 from Britain, Ireland, Canada, Holland, Malta, South Korea and Japan may be eligible for a working holiday visa. You can work either full-time or part-time for as much of the year that you want, but you can’t work for the same employer for more than 3 months.

Tourist Office
The main tourist office is located at 277 Shute Harbour Road but there are also many privately run information centres including Destination Whitsunday on the corner of the Esplanade and Shute Harbour Road and the EPA office which is about three kilometres past Airlie Beach towards Shute Harbour. Finally, there is another tourist office on the Bruce Highway at Proserperine, very near the turn off for Airlie Beach.

Post Office
You will find the post office in the centre of town behind McDonald’s.

Opening Hours
In general, shops open between 9.00am and 5.30pm from Monday to Friday, from 8.30am until 5.30pm on Saturday and 10.30am and 4.00pm on Sunday but most shops directly aimed at tourist have even more extensive opening hours. Office hours are generally between 8.30am or 9.00am until 5.00pm.

Currency Exchange
Changing both foreign currency or traveller’s cheques is not problem in Airlie Beach and can be carried out in either the NAB or Commonwealth, each of which have a branch in the town. Normal opening hours are between 9.30am and 4.00pm from Monday to Thursday and they open until 5.00pm on Fridays. You will also find currency exchange centres, particularly at the major resorts. These usually have more extensive opening hours but their commission is higher and the rates they offer are usually not as impressive.
All major credit cards are also widely accepted and if you have the PIN you can also use these to receive cash in compatible bank machines. The same applies to bankcards which are members of any of the international banking networks including Cirrus and Plus.

Telephones
The country code for Australia is 61 and the area code for Airlie Beach is 07. Dial this number first if calling from outside Queensland and omit the 0 if calling from overseas. Local calls from public phones cost 40c for an unlimited amount of time. You can make local calls from Telstra payphone booths and also from the gold and blue phones found in many shops and hotels. Long-distance calls can be made from almost any public phone. Many public phones accept Telstra Phonecards which come in $5, $10, $20 and $50 denominations and are available from retail outlets which display the Phonecard logo. Otherwise you can use coins of 10 cents and upwards. Long-distance calls are charged according to distance and rates vary depending on what time you call. The lowest rates are currently at weekends and after 8pm during the week.

Tipping
In Australia tipping is not compulsory as it is in America and some parts of Europe. It is considered as a ‘thank you’ for good service rather than an obligation. If you decide to tip the amount should be in accordance with how good you felt the service was. Ten percent of the bill is considered reasonable.

Public Holidays
It is worth noting what the public holidays are before you travel to a country as the majority of businesses, banks and shops usually shut for the day. In Australia they occur on January 1st, January 26th,Good Friday, Easter Monday, April 25th, June 12th, December 25th and December 26th. It is a good idea to check the particular area too as certain towns and cities also shut down during special events.

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