The Inuit may or may not have over 50 words for snow. But how many English words are there to describe the bluest of oceans? There are indigo and azure of course, but the sea can also be turquoise or cobalt. There’s also cyan, cerulean and sapphire. And on days when the sky is grey, perhaps it’s steel. But at Airlie Beach on Australia’s Whitsunday coast, it’s guaranteed to be turquoise nearly every day.
Airlie still has that certain laid-back charm that comes from being a seaside village in Queensland. And it isn’t really a hidden gem; it just gets overlooked because of the glamorous island escapes on its doorstep.
Airlie Beach is unique: you can have any sort of holiday – chilled or frenetic and adventurous, family fun or a romantic getaway. It’s a breeze to get around with the best bits neatly contained. Approximately 10 kilometres from end to end with boardwalks and bike lanes designed for punishing workouts or casual strolling with a constant sea breeze to keep you cool.
The main street is a designated pedestrian shopping zone where you can pick up the latest Havianas or that technicoloured sarong you forgot to pack. Underdressing is easy here as people-watching isn’t a serious pastime. Thankfully, Airlie doesn’t have a ‘scene’ yet; there are no pretty young things teetering in the latest Loubies anxiously waiting in line at the hippest new club.
There’s an unofficial gelato/ice cream/strolling zone closer to the water – the Esplanade fronting the Lagoon where you’ll find more bars, cafes and restaurants with live music on Saturday afternoons. The Lagoon offers year-round swimming and is low-key and family-friendly with free barbecues to cook your own picnic lunch or dinner.
The accommodation choices are endless with everything from backpacker to 5-star luxury. Sunsets are free and can be enjoyed from the balcony of your luxury apartment or at your campsite.
WHERE TO STAY:
Peppers Airlie Beach sits high on the hill overlooking Whitsunday Passage. The 102 generously proportioned apartments allow you the best of both worlds – the full 5-star experience in the comfort of your own apartment. There is a still an air of the corporate – as Peppers Airlie Beach should be top of the list for anyone organising a conference. But it is also the perfect spot to celebrate a significant birthday or a wedding.
Don’t forget to try the impeccable Tides restaurant – chef Greg Devine has designed a great menu utilising the very best of local produce. Amazing seafood, sublime steaks and unforgettable desserts are served with a generous side of spectacular views. www.peppers.com.au/airlie-beach
At the other end of Airlie Beach, the slightly retro but nonetheless incredibly charming Coral Sea Resort goes beyond beachfront with some suites actually over the Coral Sea. It might sound like a blurb straight from the brochure, but the breeze is gentle enough to cool and gently rock you whilst the turquoise waters gently lap below your balcony. Accommodations range from one or two-bedroom Garden view and Ocean view rooms to spacious suites, apartments and palatial penthouses. Breakfast lunch and dinner is served poolside at multi-award winning Clipper restaurant, where the degustation menu is legendary. And, for a wedding without equal, The Coral Sea Resort jetty or gazebo is breathtaking. www.coralsearesort.com
WHAT TO DO:
To really appreciate the aforementioned shades of blue you need to go high, really high. GSL Aviation offers a 1 hour Reef and Island Flight which guarantees a bird’s eye view of all the greatest hits including the unmistakable Whitehaven Beach, Hill Inlet and then over Heart, Bait, Hardy and Hook Reefs. High wing aircraft and window seats for all, means unlimited photo opps. GSL has lots of options to see the reef to suit your budget and schedule from Fly ‘n’ Cruise Packages with time to indulge in a buffet lunch on the brilliant white sands of Whitehaven, snorkelling and flight. During the season some lucky sightseers spot whales leisurely cruising through and on my flight, we spotted enormous black Manta Rays. http://www.whitsundayscenicflights.com.au
Cruise Whitsundays not only connects Airlie Beach and the islands of the Whitsundays for island hopping but offers day cruises and now Reefsleep which is a perfect add-on to a stay at Airlie. Two days and one night on the reef aboard a pontoon moored on the reef. This is a great opportunity to enjoy the Great Barrier Reef at leisure 40 nautical miles offshore: snorkel, dive, view fish or take the waterslide. As the sun sets you can choose to stargaze and sleep under the stars or retire to a double bedroom. The jumping-off point for cruising to Long, Hamilton, Whitsunday and Daydream islands is Abell Point Marina at the northern end of Airlie Beach. www.cruisewhitsundays.com
- Cruise Whitsundays Pontoon (Image courtesy of Tourism and Events Queensland)
And when you need a little less adventure and a little more ‘me’ time Airlie Day Spa and Hair Studio has just the right treatment to soothe and de-stress. The professional staff is friendly and work with you to ensure you walk away thoroughly rejuvenated. The very best Thalgo, Napoleon Perdis, Kerastase, L’oreal, Opi and Sunfx products are used. Massages range from 30 to 90 minutes with relaxation, aromatherapy, reflexology, deep tissue, remedial as well as Indian Head massage. Some (like me) are lucky enough to luxuriate in the ‘bliss’ package –an amazing full body massage, spa pedicure and mini facial. Blissful doesn’t even come close to describing those two hours.http://www.airliedayspa.com.au
Airlie is undeniably one of Australia’s great getaways: perfect for those who need to de-stress quickly. It offers adventure, fine dining, some of the world’s very best snorkelling and diving and as well as lots of opportunities to do not very much at all. Whatever time of year there always seems to be that soundtrack of summer and of course all that blue … turquoise … azure…
Disclaimer: ThisMagnificentLife was a guest of Whitsundays Marketing and Development, Cruise Whitsundays, GSL Aviation, Peppers Airlie Beach, Airlie Day Spa and the Coral Sea Resort.