Airlie Beach: The Whitsundays Best Kept Secret?

7 April 2021
Read Time: 4.5 mins

Top tips for a great Airlie Beach holiday from Travel Expert Paula

  • Book a day sailing adventure

  • Hire a car 

  • Stay one or two nights out of town 

  • Hike Honeyeater Lookout Trail

  • Dip your toes in at Cedar Creek Falls

  • Be in awe at Whitehaven Beach

  • Visit the world famous Great Barrier Reef

Airlie Beach is the gateway to the majestic Whitsunday’s Islands and The Great Barrier Reef, but you might not know it’s also a great base for many mainland adventures too. 

How to get there?

Proserpine Airport (PPP) is the nearest airport, located 30 minutes from Airlie Beach. There are direct flights from Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, and when you land car hire depots are located at the airport, or a shuttle bus can be arranged for $20 per person each way to and from town. 

RELATED: 8 of the most unique stays in Queensland

Top Tip: Hire a car!

Whilst you will likely be spending a lot of time adventuring on the water, having a car the whole time you’re in town is really convenient. There are car depots in town if you wanted to only hire a car for a day or two, but when you add up the $40pp round trip for the transfers to and from the airport, it can actually work out much the same as having a car for the whole duration of your stay.

honeyeater lookout airlie beach Image: Paula Albers

Where to stay

If you don’t have a car, stay somewhere central that is walking distance to everything. Airlie Beach Hotel located on the Esplanade is in close proximity to cafes, restaurants and bars. I would definitely recommend staying a few nights to the north of Airlie Beach. Both Freedom Shores resort and Paradise Cove resort are about 15 minutes out of town, along a beautiful drive through the sub tropical backdrop of the Conway Ranges.

Freedom Shores is a great option, with old boats that have been restored into stylish boat bungalows with ocean views. The resort offers a unique and special experience right on the water at Woodark. When you are here make sure you dine at Northerlies Beach Bar and Grill.

Paradise Cove Resort has National Parks on both sides of the Cove, meaning no neighbours. The resort has African inspired décor, white sandy beaches and tropical palms everywhere, what is not to love?

RELATED: Hamilton Island's best non water-based activities


Where to eat? Here’s a list of Paula’s favourite eateries in Airlie

Paradiso Rooftop Bar & Restaurant, Airlie Beach

Mika Airlie BBQ & Bar, Airlie Beach

Sorrento Restaurant and Bar, Airlie Beach

Northerlies Beach Bar & Grill, Woodark

Montes Reef Resort, Hideaway Bay

sailing the whitsundays Image: Paula Albers

What to do around Airlie Beach

Book a sailing trip 

There is nothing more iconic than sailing around the Whitsundays. A full day sailing trip will typically take you out to the magical Whitehaven Beach and to a nearby reef for a spot of snorkelling. 

For those that want a more hands on experience; you can book a multi-night sailing adventure for a very affordable price. Speak to your travel agent about this.

If you find you don’t have much time and still want to experience sailing, you can book a sunset sail, which will only go for a few hours.

snorkelling great barrier reef Image: Paula Albers

Explore the Great Barrier Reef

The world’s largest coral reef system is certainly not to be missed. A full day is required. The cooler months are the best time to visit the reef to avoid stingers, but during the warmer months, tour providers will supply stinger suits for you to wear. 

Cedar creek falls airlie beach Image: Bommer Stallen

Beaches, waterfalls and hikes

North of Airlie has some amazing secluded beaches such as Hideaway Bay, Dingo Beach and Cape Gloucester. The drive here will take through some amazing farmland scenery, be sure to dine at a few of those options mentioned above.

Cedar Creek Falls is a nice spot for a swim. Perhaps do this on your way to one of the Northern resorts.

Honeyeater Lookout Trail is absolutely stunning. It is very steep and will take around 3 hours to complete, bring lots of water and a snack.

Mount Rooper mountain biking Airlie beach Image: Bommer Stallen

If you’re into mountain bike riding, you can hire one in town and hit up Mount Rooper, or you can take it on a ferry and hit up one of the islands. The Whitsundays is a new mountain biking hotspot.

There are many other amazing day trips from Airlie Beach such as Jetski tours, Island Hopper passes, Helicopter tours, Jetboat tours to Whitehaven beach and much much more.

Keen to explore the Whitsundays? Check out our Queensland deals on sale now!


Paula Albers

Experience Paula's experience

Paula is a Flight Centre travel expert. based on Queensland's Sunshine Coast. She loves exploring new places and doing what the locals do. She's backpacked solo around the world, and knows all about being outside of her comfort zone. Her passion is adventure travel and anything involving the great outdoors. Paula is enthusiastic about documenting her adventures and sharing them with like minded people. Follow paula on Instagram @paula.explorer.