How to spend 48 hours in Airlie Beach

It's been a long, cold winter for the southern states and what better way to shrug off the winter blues than with a sun-drenched short break in North Queensland. Vanessa O'Hanlon checks in with a guide to spending 48 hours in fabulous Airlie Beach...

How to spend 48 hours in Airlie Beach

How to spend 48 hours in Airlie Beach

Airlie Beach is the popular gateway to the 74 islands that make up the Queensland Whitsundays.

With a temperate climate all year round and direct flights from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, Airlie Beach is the perfect spot for a quick winter escape. Here are some ideas for how to spend 48 hours in Airlie Beach.

Start with a stroll along the scenic boardwalk that edges the Abell Point Marina. Pass through the park and past the lagoon. The track continues on to Shingley Beach and Cannonvale Beach.

How to spend 48 hours in Airlie Beach

How to spend 48 hours in Airlie Beach: Hamilton Island

There are hundreds of day tours and activities on offer. I decide on a day cruise to Hamilton Island and famous Whitehaven Beach. Barcelona Tapas near the pier is the perfect spot to grab some breakfast and a coffee before we board.

The ferry departs at 8am and within thirty minutes we arrive at Hamilton Island. This is the largest inhabited island in the Whitsundays group, and boasts its own commercial airport. It’s easy to get around. You can travel the circumference of the island in under an hour in the free shuttle bus or a hired buggy.

At WILD LIFE Hamilton Island there’s the opportunity to get up close to some iconic Australian animals and have your photo taken with a cuddly koala. If golf is your game of choice, you could try for a hole in one at the exclusive Hamilton Island Golf Club on Dent Island. If all that sounds way too energetic, just chill at one of the poolside bars.

How to spend 48 hours in Airlie Beach

How to spend 48 hours in Airlie Beach. Image courtesy of WILD LIFE Hamilton Island

At around 1:15pm the ferry departs for Whitehaven Beach. Just moments from the pristine white coastline we spot a tortoise bobbing up for breath. Once on the beach I walk down to the water’s edge, feeling the squeaky, fine sand between my toes. Whitehaven’s sand consists of 98 per cent silica, making is cool and comfortable to walk on.

Here you can play volleyball or sand cricket, stroll along the seven kilometre stretch of beach or just laze in the afternoon sun. If you’re craving time-out from the tourist crowds, you can even bring a tent and camp on the island.

How to spend 48 hours in Airlie Beach

How to spend 48 hours in Airlie Beach: Whitehaven Beach. Image: Vanessa O’Hanlon

The sunset cruise back to Airlie Beach takes an hour and we get to see whales breaching in the distance.

I spend the following morning on a Whitsunday jet ski tour. It’s an action-packed 90 minutes, which provides a wonderful perspective of Airlie Beach from the water. Our guide points out a mansion that recently sold for a cool $24 million!

How to spend 48 hours in Airlie Beach

How to spend 48 hours in Airlie Beach. Image courtesy of Whitsunday Jetski Tours

We stop by the wreck of the Whitsunday Magic. Prior to being capsized by wild winds in January 2014, it was one of the Whitsunday’s premium overnight sailing boats.

Offshore southerly winds whip up to around 20-30 knots and as the jet skis bounce over the swell a couple of passengers get an unexpected swim! A highlight of the morning is spotting turtles near their breeding ground in the mangroves.

Following an exhilarating time on the water, it’s off to Capers on the Esplanade for a bucket of fresh local Bowen prawns. Seriously, what more could you ask for to shake off the winter blues?

Do you have any suggestions for how to spend 48 hours in Airlie Beach? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.

Additional images: Bigstock/Photodune


Vanessa O'Hanlon

About the writer

Vanessa O’Hanlon is an Australian television news presenter with the Nine Network and an avid traveller. Her travels began with a flight to Egypt, a visit to the pyramids and a camel ride and instantly she knew there was no turning back. Since then Vanessa’s backpack has seen a thing or two, from discovering relatively untouched Bhutan to bracing the cold winds on the peaks of Mt Kilimanjaro. Her travel tales span nearly 50 countries. Combining a love of writing, photography and exploring the unknown, Vanessa is pleased to share her adventures with The Big Bus tour and travel guide readers.


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