Getting the most out of travel without bankrupting yourself in a week is often about having a good balance between splurging on awesome day trips or excusions, followed by a few more affordable (but equally awesome) adventures. Airlie Beach is primarily known for its boat trips around the Whitsunday Islands and to world-famous Whitehaven Beach, making it a little more on the expensive side. Unknown to most backpackers who just pass on through, there are lots of epic things to see around Airlie, and other than needing a car for a couple, they’re FREE!
1. Hideaway Bay / Dingo Beach
Both hidden down a red dust track – Hideaway Bay and Dingo Beach are both about a 1/1.5 hours drive outside of Airlie Beach; just head out towards Prosepine and follow the signs. Hideaway is like a holiday away from your holiday, especially if you’re in Airlie for a while it’s a great way to escape the non-stop drinking culture of the town. Having said that we found a bar there with awesome cocktails… but ssh it’s not the same. You’ll find crystal waters and beautiful islands surrounding you, beware the irukandji jellies in the sea though!
2. BBQ Australia’s best sausages at the Lagoon
In most of the main hotspots on the coast of Queensland, you can find free BBQs set up along the beaches and lagoons and Airlie is no different – a few steps from the main street in one direction and a few steps from the beach in the other, the lagoon is a great way to have a cheap day out in the sun.
Top Tip : Master Butchers – well known to be Australia’s best butcher – is located in Cannonvale, a few minutes bus ride from Airlie Central. Snag a few of their awesome sausages to chuck on the bri, for me the Green Thai Croc sausage was always a winner.
3. Shipwreck turtle spotting
The board walk (10,000 steps/45mins) will take you from the Lagoon in Airlie, right through to Cannonvale Beach. Stroll though Abell Point Marina, round past Shingley Beach and through the bicentennial walkway to the shipwreck. The walk can get unbelievably toasty so I would recommend going for sunset when it’s cooled off a tad. Climb the rocks at the end of the beach to get the best and quietest view of the turtles (and a dugong if you’re lucky). You can also walk out to the shipwreck at low tide but it’s pretty destroyed so be careful!
4. Cedar Falls
20 minutes outside of Airlie, these falls are super easy to get to and while they weren’t active when I visited, I would still recommend it as a nice alternative to the lagoon for a chilled day swim.
5. Go looking for platypus – Eungella, Broken River National Park
Platypus! About a 1.5 hour drive towards Mackay is the Eungella National Park. There are a few lovely, easy (free!) walks through the rainforest. There are a couple of playtpus viewing points along the Broken River and also a great lookout over the valley. We visited Eungella on a super rainy day and it was awesome driving up the mountain through the clouds to get to the park – if you find yourself in Airlie Beach when the weather isn’t at its best – go find the platties! 100% need shoes and socks though because the leeches might come for you. It’s also a good idea to pack a lunch because the single lodge cafe does shut between lunch and dinner.
So there we go! Airlie doesn’t have to break the bank after all. I have two days left before heading down the East Coast, anything I’ve missed?
Want more Australia? Click here