Sailing, snorkelling, hiking, and camping in the forests or islands of the Whitsundays.
Impossibly blue waters and 74 islands draw campers, sailors, snorkelers and divers to the Whitsundays, and the hub is the relaxed village of Airlie Beach. Perched on the edge of the Coral Sea, Airlie Beach is a laid-back place to base yourself while exploring the Whitsunday islands and walking trails. Cool off in the artificial Airlie Beach lagoon, with its man-made beach and surrounding 10 acres of parkland, or take boat trips to the Great Barrier Reef or to nearby islands for camping, snorkelling, diving, fishing and hiking.
The jewel in the crown here is Whitehaven Beach, famed as one of Australia’s best beaches, for its 7km of dazzling pure-white silica sand and good swimming and snorkeling. Boat transfers for campers can be arranged from Airlie Beach. Camp sites are behind the beach in eucalypt forest. Fishing, kayaking and hiking are all excellent pastimes in this little piece of the Whitsunday Islands National Park, and there are five other camping areas on the island.
Part of the Whitsunday Ngaro Sea Trail, a blend of seaways and picturesque walks across Hook, Whitsunday and South Molle islands, this island has four beachside camping grounds. Curlew Beach is the closest to the Ngaro Cultural Site at Nara Inlet, honouring the indigenous Ngaro people, where there are shell middens and rock art sites.
Conway National Park, on the mainland has lots of short walks but for those who want something more challenging, the three-day 27.1km Conway Circuit has two campsites. Feast your eyes on giant strangler fig trees, palms and ferns and spot the large electric-blue Ulysses butterflies.
For a once-in-a-lifetime splurge, take the chance to camp overnight on a pontoon on the Great Barrier Reef with Cruise Whitsundays’ Reefsleep. Join a day trip cruise to dive and snorkel at Hardy Reef, but when the daytrippers leave, stay on to experience the reef at night. Tents (or “reefbeds”) are erected on the top level of the pontoon, under the stars, for a maximum of 20 people. It’s expensive, but unforgettable.
The best months to visit are May to September, when the weather is balmy and the waters are free of toxic marine stingers, which prevents ocean swimming (unless you don a special ‘stinger suit’). The busiest times are June to August, so make sure you book early. December to March is hotter and more humid. Expect ocean temperatures of at least 72F year-round. The rainy season is January to March, and cyclones are possible between November and April.
Swimming at Airlie Beach is generally safe, but there are some precautions to take. The beach has a man-made lagoon that provides a safe and enjoyable swimming area, especially for families. This lagoon is patrolled by lifeguards and is not affected by marine stingers or crocodiles.
However, if you choose to swim in the ocean at Airlie Beach, be aware that marine stingers such as jellyfish can be present, particularly during stinger season (October to May). Some areas may have stinger nets or vinegar stations to treat stings. It is recommended to wear a stinger suit for protection during this time. Additionally, crocodiles can occasionally be found in the area, so always be cautious and follow local advice.
The ideal length of stay at Airlie Beach depends on your interests and the activities you want to do. Airlie Beach is the gateway to the Whitsunday Islands and the Great Barrier Reef, offering a variety of activities and experiences. Here's a suggested itinerary for different trip durations:
Short Stay (2-3 days): This allows you to explore Airlie Beach, relax at the lagoon, and take a day trip to the Whitsunday Islands or the Great Barrier Reef for snorkeling or diving.
Medium Stay (4-6 days): In addition to the above activities, you can take multiple day trips to different islands, go on a sailing adventure, or participate in other water activities such as jet skiing or kayaking. You can also explore the Conway National Park and Cedar Creek Falls.
Long Stay (7 days or more): With a longer stay, you can fully experience Airlie Beach and its surroundings. Take your time exploring the Whitsunday Islands, go on an extended sailing trip, or even take a scenic flight over the Great Barrier Reef. You can also enjoy more leisurely activities like shopping, dining, and visiting local markets.
Ultimately, the length of your stay at Airlie Beach depends on your personal preferences and the time you have available.
Absolutely! Airlie Beach is a popular destination in Queensland, Australia, known for its stunning natural beauty, vibrant atmosphere, and access to the Great Barrier Reef. It is the gateway to the Whitsunday Islands, offering a range of activities such as snorkeling, diving, sailing, and island hopping. The town itself has a lively dining and nightlife scene, making it a great spot for both relaxation and entertainment. Airlie Beach also features a man-made lagoon, providing a safe swimming area for visitors. Overall, Airlie Beach is definitely worth a visit for its beautiful surroundings and variety of activities.