The best of Airlie Beach from the ground, the sea and the sky

There’s so much to explore in Airlie Beach and you can choose whether to discover all it offers on the ground, the sea or in the air.

The resort town of Airlie Beach sprawls over several bays, fronts calm blue ocean and backs onto forested hills. Wherever you look, the lovely tropical scenery of the Whitsundays unfolds, while all around lie some of the most astonishing landscapes in Australia.

Beach in Airlie Beach, Queensland

This stunning destination is all about great experiences, and your only challenge will be deciding whether to explore by water, land or sky.

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the world’s most outstanding natural features – a coral reef ecosystem that covers some 345,000 square kilometres, and teems with marine life. Naturally, it’s one of the big drawcards of Airlie Beach. You could spend your day snorkelling and swimming amid a dazzling array of coral and flitting tropical fish – and you might even find an orange-and-white Nemo hiding shyly among the anemones. The other iconic sight in Airlie Beach is Whitehaven Beach, white as snow, where you can enjoy swimming in the big blue. There are, though, other ways to appreciate this region’s beauty. You can kayak straight from Airlie Beach into national parklands, or sail out for a snorkel on a tall ship that will have the wind in your hair as sails crack overhead. Adrenaline junkies won’t miss out either. You can zip out to reefs on a high-speed motor-raft, tackle a 30-kilometre jet-ski safari through the domain of dugongs and turtles, or hold tight and get wet on a wild jet-boat ride.

Speed boat ride in Airlie Beach

Airlie Beach itself has its own pleasures. Ride a Segway along its promenades and meandering Bicentennial Walkway to soak up the coastal scenery, or take a tour to Cannonvale Beach and Shute Harbour before exploring the town’s markets, shops and cafes. And don’t forget that the Great Barrier Reef isn’t the only natural wonder hereabouts. You might want to take a guided walk through tropical rainforest, take a dip under the refreshing gush of Cedar Creek Falls, or admire the landscape from Mt Whitsunday. Meander the coastal wetlands and the Proserpine River and you can look out for saltwater crocodiles – your first glimpse of these prehistoric predators in the wild will be thrilling – and birdlife. Can’t quite decide on land or sea? Then the enjoyable Aqua Bus might be your solution. One minute you’re heading down Airlie Beach’s main street, the next you’re on the bay and cruising the coast.

Cedar Creek Falls, Airlie Beach

A scenic flight over the Whitsunday’s reefs and islands is one of those experiences you’ll remember for a lifetime. Gaze out the aircraft windows and you’ll see blueness of every shade below. The ocean is deep navy, the shallows a paler turquoise, and around reefs and beaches every shade shimmers from peacock to neon blue. Over world-famous Whitehaven Beach, the blues are swirled with white sand like a mad abstract painting – just the place to make two swooping passes so you can take it all in. As for iconic Heart Reef, it lies embedded in blue-green water like a jewel. You’ll also skim over the lush greenery of Long Island, the twin Molle Islands and their reefs, and holiday getaway Hamilton Island, studded with white villas.

Flying over Airlie Beach

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