It seems slightly ludicrous to even contemplate spending just one day in the Great Barrier Reef holiday hub of Airlie Beach. But if you find yourself with a day to kill either side of an island adventure and want to get the most out of a short visit to Airlie listen up. Be aware: you’ll be tempted to stay much longer!
You’ve only got 24 hrs so what are you waiting for sleepyhead! Get up with the sun and take a walk along the Bicentennial Walkway which snakes along the waterfront between Cannonvale and Airlie Beach. If you’re feeling particularly energetic stop for a workout at the exercise station in Cannonvale.
Breakfast at Fat Frog Beach Cafe. If you’ve an aversion to dog-friendly cafes this is not the place for you. If, on the other hand you’re into fresh, healthy juices and smoothies along with all the usual breakfast suspects and you’re a bit of a coffee fiend, pull up a chair at Fat Frog. A favourite with locals who stop here while taking their dogs for a walk, it’s uber cool with a friendly vibe.
It’s highly probable you over-indulged at Fat Frog so stride out again for the return walk along the Bicentennial Walkway towards Airlie. Cool down or do some laps at the (free) Airlie Beach Lagoon before the crowds arrive.
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Now it gets interesting! Board a floatplane at Whitsunday Airport and take a scenic flight over the Whitsunday Islands and the Outer Great Barrier Reef. If you’re visiting during whale migration season (generally June – Sept) you might be lucky enough to see humpback whales which use the Whitsundays as a breeding ground and nursery for calves. Touchdown on the turquoise water at Whitehaven Beach and step ashore onto some of the softest beach sand your toes are ever likely to sink into. If you’ve ever dipped your toe into a bottle of talculm powder (we’ve all done it, I know!), you’ll know what I mean. The sand is so clean and dazzling it squeaks beneath your feet. Make sure your camera is fully charged – this is after all the world’s most photographed beach.
Come back down to earth literally and disembark your float plane at Hamilton Island Airport. Catch a ride on an electric buggy along Front Street to Hamilton Island Yacht Club for lunch at Bommie Restaurant. Perched on the edge of Dent Passage with an outside deck that is cantilevered over the water, HIYC is the favoured hangout for the rich and famous who moor their yachts at ‘Hammo’.
Board a Cruise Whitsundays ferry at Hamilton Island Marina and return to Airlie Beach after cruising through the islands enroute.
By now your throat will be well and truly parched after the days sunshine and sea so you should head for the veranda at Whitsundays Sailing Club overlooking Pioneer Bay for sundowners. Don’t worry if you don’t know your port from your starboard, WSC is popular with locals who wouldn’t have a clue either – they go there for a beer in convivial surroundings and so should you.
Once the sun’s set there’s nothing more to see her so may we suggest dinner at Fish D’vine, a short walk away. The seafood chowder is almost as famous as the 450 different rums on sale in their Rum Bar. Don’t leave without ordering a mojito. Heck, skip dinner if you must and just get stuck into the mojitos. Served with lashings of muddled mint and lime, they’re almost a meal anyway!
If you’re still not done and feel like letting your hair down, Airlie’s nightlife is legendary (remember that reputation we mentioned at the start?). The party set kick up their heels in clubs and pubs into the wee small hours. For a more sophisticated way to end the evening slip into Walter’s Lounge for a nightcap dockside as the lights twinkle on the waters and dance across the boats moored at Port of Airlie.
Retire upstairs to one of the fabulous waterfront apartment at Mantra Boathouse Apartments, open up the louvre shutters and fall asleep caressed by gentle tropical breezes.