Luxury Escapes Guide to Airlie Beach & the Whitsundays

Introducing the world-famous Whitsundays — a place of protected turquoise waters, unforgettable scenery, extensive marine life and natural wonders.

At the heart of the Great Barrier Reef, just off the beautiful tropical coast of Queensland, you’ll find the Whitsundays — a group of 74 jewel-like islands ranging from well-developed holiday hubs to mostly uninhabited national parks. Among them you’ll find tropical havens such as Hamilton Island, Hayman Island, Daydream Island, Long Island and Hook Island — each offering their own stunning scenery, beautiful discoveries and unique snorkelling and diving conditions.

Back on the mainland you’ll find Airlie Beach — a relaxed resort town known for its palm-fringed beaches and aquatic adventures. Launchpad to the Whitsunday Region and the Great Barrier Reef, Airlie Beach offers plenty of action, as do northern country gems such as Bowen, Collinsville and Proserpine.

The Whitsundays is an unmatched playground for adventurers and resort-loungers. Australia’s dreamiest destination is home to turquoise water, sheltered coves, white-sand beaches, abundant marine and plant life, and endless gems to discover. Don’t miss one of the region’s major drawcards — Whitehaven Beach. Considered one of the most beautiful beaches on earth, its 98 percent silica sand is so white it appears surreal.

Whether you come for the tranquil scenery, to sail the rarely ruffled waters, snorkel with the whole ocean at your fingertips or simply sink your toes into a fusion of white sand and iridescent water, there is a Whitsundays experience for you.

Why not check out Luxury Escapes Guide to Hamilton Island for more inspiration.

Please note that due to current restrictions some operators may be temporarily closed. Check their websites for the most up-to-date information. Both logos TA wide

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Discover Airlie Beach & the Whitsundays

Things to see and do

Enjoy a quick dip in the Airlie Beach Lagoon

Located on the foreshore of Airlie Beach, Airlie Beach Lagoon is the perfect spot for a day of relaxation. Providing an environment that is completely safe from stingers all year round, this patrolled haven was constructed on a raised breakwater, allowing excellent views of the Coral Sea and Whitsunday Islands. As well as featuring several pools for all ages and fitness levels, this man-made watering hole is surrounded by lush grassy knolls and landscaped gardens, perfect for a spot of sunbathing. Best of all, there is no admission fee.

Airlie Beach Lagoon
Airlie Beach Lagoon, 275 Shute Harbour Rd, Airlie Beach

Get away from it all on the Honeyeater Lookout Trail

Home to some of the most diverse and impressive landscapes in the world, Australia is spoilt for choice when it comes to spectacular hiking destinations. Located just outside the Whitsundays, the tropical refuge of Conway National Park features one of the finest: the Whitsundays Great Walk. If you’re not quite ready for a 30-kilometre hike, tackle just part of the walk with the shorter Honeyeater Lookout Trail. Winding through a magnificent tropical setting and past seasonal creeks, this two-hour return walk will eventually lead you to a lookout offering magnificent views beyond Cannonvale, Dryander National Park and the Whitsunday Islands.

Honeyeater Lookout Trail
Cape Conway

Cool off at Cedar Creek Falls

Located halfway between Airlie Beach and Proserpine, Cedar Creek Falls is a spectacular waterfall set in a natural rock amphitheater. Surrounded by white cedar trees, Alexander palms, wild orchids and dry eucalypt forest, the clear water of the famed rock pool is an easy walk from the carpark. Don’t forget your swimmers! After a refreshing dip, take to the lookout, a 20-minute return, easy-grade track offering incredible waterfall views. You can also venture deep into the ancient Conway National Park to Cedar Creek Falls — on the lookout for unique flora and fauna — on a Rainforest & Waterfalls group tour.

Cedar Creek Falls
Cedar Creek
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Get up close to the Great Barrier Reef with Cruise Whitsundays

The Great Barrier Reef, Whitsunday Islands and Whitehaven Beach are regarded as some of the most unique and incredible natural wonders in the world. With Cruise Whitsundays, you can explore the region’s hidden corners, uninhabited sand cays, small islands, exotic sea life and pristine reef systems, all in complete comfort. Accompanied by expert guides on purpose-designed and built expedition ships, you’ll be brought closer to remote sites and natural habitats in the most immersive and educational experience possible.

Cruise Whitsundays
24 The Cove Rd, Airlie Beach
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Go barramundi fishing at Lake Proserpine

There are over 4,000 species of fish in Australia, but the elusive barramundi is the one everyone wants on the end of their line. Cast a line at Lake Proserpine — also known as Peter Faust Dam — from the shore or aboard a boat, any time of day or night (barramundi bite all year round in both fresh and saltwater), and benefit from the recent barra-boom. Everybody has an opinion on the best way to catch barra, so if it’s your first time, join a tour or charter and be shown everything you’ve ever wanted to know.

Lake Proserpine

Take a walk on the wild side with a crocodile safari

When you need a break from the Great Barrier Reef, head inland with a Whitsunday Crocodile Safari — a one-of-a-kind nature experience that will get you up close and personal with native birds, mammals and reptiles. Departing from the Proserpine River, you’ll join professional local guides to explore the region’s marine mangrove ecosystem and discover the unique wildlife and vegetation of the estuaries and wetlands. The best part? The safari will also introduce you to a float of saltwater crocodiles, basking in the sun, swimming, or just plain hanging out. Do not worry, you are in safe hands.

Whitsunday Crocodile Safari
Glen Isla Rd, Glen Isla
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Top places to eat and drink

Grand View Hotel

Craving simple but delicious food in a laid-back setting? A visit to the Grand View Hotel is an absolute must. Situated one block back from the pristine waters of McCanes Bay, this iconic pub has kept a loyal following watered and fed for over 100 years and is one of the region’s premier destinations for relaxed dining. Be sure to arrive hungry, as this old Queenslander still delivers exceptional local cuisine and outstanding service. Pub quiz trivia: the Grand View Hotel has been destroyed twice (by fire and cyclone), and starred as the Aussie Territory Hotel in Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Australia’.

Grand View Hotel
5 Herbert St, Bowen
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Northerlies Beach Bar & Grill

Set on the shores of a bay in Woodwark, just outside Airlie Beach, Northerlies Beach Bar & Grill is an award-winning restaurant and bar that features seasonal seafood-heavy dishes cooked to perfection in unpretentious style. Find fresh, hand-picked produce plucked direct from the local area on the mouth-watering menu, plus an extensive selection of wines, cocktails and boutique beers on tap. The peaceful views across to Airlie Beach are spectacular.

Northerlies Beach Bar & Grill
116 Pringle Rd, Woodwark
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KC's Bar & Grill

More than just a place to satisfy your growling stomach, KC’s Bar & Grill is a local Whitsundays institution. Nestled on the main drag of Shute Harbour Road, KC’s buzzing atmosphere guarantees a great time – but not at the expense of genuinely good gourmet pub grub. While KC’s is famous for its steaks, tasting plates of chargrilled crocodile, kangaroo, emu and buffalo are perfect if you’re feeling game for a taste of Australia.

KC's Bar & Grill
382 Shute Harbour Rd, Airlie Beach
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Breeze Bar

Breeze Bar on Shute Harbour Road is the perfect spot for Sunday sessions or long lunches that lead into longer dinners. Any time is the right time to visit Breeze — however Happy Hour is probably best (between 3pm and 6pm). With a fun-loving vibe, cheery staff, a classic Australian menu and Airlie Beach’s finest martinis, Breeze Bar is a seriously energetic spot to start or finish a night – your choice.

Breeze Bar
3/293 Shute Harbour Rd, Airlie Beach
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Fat Frog Beach Café

If you like your breakfast with a side of uninterrupted water views and delicious coffee, your destination of choice should be Fat Frog Beach Café. Spacious and sun-drenched, this eclectic café is a friendly favourite among the locals — and their pooches. Serving great-value homemade dishes, ready-to-go options, fanciful slices, tarts, cupcakes and pastries, this dog-friendly spot truly offers something for everyone.

Fat Frog Beach Café
44 Coral Esplanade, Cannonvale
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Bird’s Fish Bar

With over 30 years on the board, Bird’s Fish Bar certainly knows how to put together a fish and chip pack. Located on Bowen Marina, with great access to the finest, freshest and most environmentally conscious protein in Bowen, it goes without saying you'll find plenty of it here. Expect all the usuals — including coral trout, Spanish mackerel, barramundi, bugs, tiger prawns and mud crab — as well as freshly made salads and potato cakes to throw on the side. Take away or choose to watch the boats in the marina from the recently renovated outdoor eating area.

Bird’s Fish Bar
Henry Darwen Dr, Bowen
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Anchor Bar

Introducing the worst-kept secret in Airlie Beach: Anchor Bar. Set on a sprawling alfresco patio, this poolside bar personally helped bring ‘cool’ back to this village town’s after-dark scene. Boasting renowned DJs, delicious cocktails, an all-star menu of classics, and spectacular views of the bay and surrounding islands, this small-yet-busy bar oozes tropical holiday vibes synonymous with that enviable Whitsundays lifestyle.

Anchor Bar
5 Golden Orchid Dr, Airlie Beach
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Sorrento Restaurant & Bar

Perched atop the Coral Sea Marina, with sweeping views across the palm-fringed waters, Sorrento Restaurant & Bar is best known for its delectable cuisine and great local hospitality. Its downstairs bar offers live acoustic music and pub classics, while the restaurant upstairs prides itself on a full-service dining experience and Italian classics with a Queensland twist. Then there’s that view from the newly renovated Ocean View Deck — one of the best in the entire Whitsundays.

Sorrento Restaurant & Bar
22 Shingley Dr, Airlie Beach
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Lux moments

Head for the skies aboard a seaplane

Enjoy a panoramic perspective of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park from both the air and ocean with GSL Aviation. These comfortable seaplanes or helicopters depart daily to explore World Heritage-listed expanses, including the perfectly shaped Heart Reef. Ideal for all ages and fitness levels, this experience lets you travel in style with dedicated pilots and staff at your service. Other tours include a Fly and Cruise, Fly and Sunset Sail, Fly and Jetski.

GSL Aviation
384 Shute Harbour Rd, Airlie Beach
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#GoBareboating

The clear, protected waters of the Whitsunday Islands lend themselves to some of the best sailing in the Southern Hemisphere. Why not charter your own private yacht and let the landscape wash over you in the ultimate adventure of relaxation? Sail your dream with #GoBareboating and choose to be your own captain, leave it to a skilled skipper, see more by catamaran or get closer to nature with an Aqualodge floating villa.

#GoBareboating
Coral Sea Marina, Airlie Beach
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Hike, snorkel and take in Whitehaven Beach all in one day

Visit the ‘Wild Side’ of the Whitsundays on a custom-built, semi-rigid, inflatable rafting vessel. Travelling at 65km/hr, this exhilarating ride will take you to world-famous Whitehaven Beach, Hill Inlet and Lookout, before spending time at some of North Queensland’s most pristine snorkelling reefs. You will also be guided on a memorable experience through the Whitsunday Island National Park and around some of its uninhabited islands — where flocks of marine, bird and animal life freely frolic.

Ocean Rafting
Coral Sea Marina, Airlie Beach
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