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.
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 .