Peppers Airlie Beach
This is the top rated 4-star hotel in Airlie Beach
This is the top rated 2-star hotel in Airlie Beach
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Though Airlie Beach is most famous as the gateway to the Whitsundays, an idyllic collection of 74 islands dotting the Great Barrier Reef, the coastal village offers travellers many reasons to linger on the mainland. Wandering along the string of alfresco restaurants, cafes, and bars along Shute Harbour Road and browsing the locally-made treasures on offer at its Saturday morning markets are favourite pastimes for tourists and locals alike. However, no trip to Airlie Beach is truly complete without a swim in the serene, palm-fringed lagoon at the heart of it all.
Airlie Beach is particularly popular with backpackers, who have no trouble finding affordable accommodations here. However, one of the town’s many charms is the ease with which high-end holiday rentals and luxury hotels coexist with thriftier options such as serviced apartments, motels, and hostels. Airlie Beach offers a carefree yet cosmopolitan lifestyle that appeals to travellers from all walks of life, and because the area is so rich in natural beauty, it is not necessary to stay at one of the pricey resorts along the coastline or on the islands to enjoy a fabulous view. Many economical hotels in Airlie Beach offer a picturesque, hillside setting overlooking the lagoon or else amid the colourful mix of eateries and watering holes at the centre. Travellers on a budget can also skip the Airlie Beach hotel scene entirely in favour of bush camping at nearby Conway National Park, or roughing it at one of the nearby caravan parks.
Sailing is widely considered the ideal way to explore the Whitsundays, and Airlie Beach offers a seemingly endless array of boating options to suit both old salts and eager landlubbers. At Abell Point, North Queensland’s largest marina, travellers will find everything from trim catamarans built for two to awe-inspiring luxury yachts complete with a skipper and crew. Nautical newbies might be relieved to find that bareboating, one of the most popular forms of aquatic adventure in Airlie Beach, is not nearly as daunting (or as risqué!) as it sounds: the term refers to hiring a private vessel and piloting it yourself. Though an extensive briefing is generally provided before anyone is allowed to set sail, first-timers can also take lessons from one of the area’s many certified providers, and powerboats are widely available for rent, too. It is also possible, if decidedly less romantic, to reach the Whitsunday Island resorts by ferry from the Port of Airlie.
Unless they are waiting out a tropical rain storm, travellers booked into even the most luxurious of Airlie Beach hotels will likely find it difficult to stay put indoors. Airlie Beach offers an incredible variety of outdoor activities in addition to sailing and boating. Kayaking, snorkelling, and scuba diving are very popular and widely available ways to experience the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef up close, though thrill-seekers can get a bird’s eye view instead if they wish: aerial tours, skydiving, and parasailing are also up for grabs. If your ideal vacation includes hunting for crocodiles along the Proserpine River, sinking your toes in the incredibly soft sands of Whitehaven Beach, reeling in a barracuda, or careening through a tropical rainforest on two wheels (or four wheels, or on horseback!), it’s waiting for you here.
With all the high-octane adventures available in Airlie Beach, it is easy to overlook its simpler pleasures, yet these too are myriad: sunbathing on the grassy hills around the lagoon, shopping for unique, hand-made jewellery and clothes at the Saturday markets, or whiling away Sunday afternoon with frozen cocktails and live music at the Esplanade are top of the list for those who want to take it easy. And let’s not forget one thing the most laid-back and energetic vacationers share: the fabulous food and drink! However elegant or casual, restaurants in Airlie Beach generally feature fresh, local seafood or produce on the menu all year long, as with the balmy Whitsunday climate comes the longest vegetable growing season in Australia. Many of the village eateries also offer wine or rum bars that stay open into the wee hours, as do the many backpackers’ bars, pubs, and clubs along the main drag. Airlie Beach has been called the “party capital of Queensland” for good reason, and everyone’s invited!