The best way to see the dive sites off Airlie Beach and around the Whitsunday Islands is to jump on a liveaboard for a few days. You can do day trips but there are so many sites in the surrounding area that you will need a good few days, if not a week of diving to really appreciate it. The boats will also take non divers and snorkelers on the trips as well.
You’ll find a dive centre on the main street of Shute Harbour Road or your hotel can organise a trip for you. The diving off the coast is not as impressive as the outer reef but there are a few nice sites close to shore. The weather on the outer reef can sometimes be very rough and will determine whether you can dive out there or not so it’s good to have a few calm, shallow dives to keep you occupied.
There are six interesting sites close to shore. For great drift diving check out Drop Zone or Wuggle Fish Wall, where you might see a turtle or shark if you’re lucky! For a great wall dive head to Wally’s Wall and see the huge Mouri Wrasse that hang out there. Seaflight Bommie and The Aquarium are nice easy sites for beginners and great for macro photography enthusiasts.
Snorkelers can also enjoy the reefs around the area too; just remember to wear a stinger suit in the stinger season (November-May) to avoid a painful experience that might put you in the hospital.
(By Kelly Luckman)
The gateway to the Whitsunday Islands and a popular tourist destination for back packers and resort lovers, Airlie Beach is a great place to kick back and relax or find an exciting adventure. You can enjoy a boat trip to the islands or a walk through the national park, either way you’ll be able to surround yourself in nature and get a true taste of Australia.
The closest airport to Airlie Beach is Proserpine, with flights from most of Australia’s major cities. You can drive or take a bus to Airlie but remember that Australia is a huge country and it’ll take you many hours.
Shute Harbour Road is the main road in the town and that’s where all the action is. Try to get your accommodation here so you’re in the heart of it. You can get a dorm bed for about $20 or a private double room in a resort starts at $70 for two people. Taking a cruise is a great way to see the islands on a budget, two days and nights all inclusive can be found for around $350 per person.
The number one thing to do in the area is an island cruise, which is an amazing way to spend a few days. Take a three day hike through the Conway State Forest to really appreciate the flora and fauna in the area. Try sky diving for the best view of the Great Barrier Reef and its islands, or scuba diving to see the other side of the spectrum.
Swimming from the beach in Airlie isn’t recommended due to the stingers so head to the man made lagoon which is a great place to swim and hang out. Stroll around the marina and see all the fantastic yachts, go shopping or spend your day relaxing at a day spa.
There are some fantastic bars and restaurant along the main road. Enjoy a beer in one of the many beer gardens or get a great aussie steak or burger. The town is full of young people so the night life is fab, party until the morning at one of the many funky bars or nightclubs.
This is a place to hang out for a good while, meet some other travellers and see the natural beauty this part of Australia has to offer.
(By Kelly Luckman)