Airlie Beach Blues

Airlie Beach Blues

If it’s a dose of wonder you need than Australia’s Whitsunday Islands is unbeatable. Cornflower blue skies. Crystal clear water framed by endless stretches of the whitest sand. Out into open ocean and sparkling sapphire and emerald seas glitter all year long.

All those calming blues and greens amp up the serenity. Even a brief holiday here re-sets your mind and body. No matter if your vacay plan is a thrill-a-minute adventure or sneaky cat-naps by the pool, a Whitsundays break is guaranteed to take your breath away.

The Whitsundays’ heart is Airlie Beach. Make it your base camp to easily explore some of the 74 islands. If island hopping isn’t your thing, Airlie Beach will deliver some serious Whitsunday wonder in just a few short days.

EAT

Fish D’vine’s location on Airlie Esplanade may be new, but those famous fish and chips are still oh, so good.

Co-owners Kev Collins and Rebecca Clark say their restaurant began as a small hole in the wall fish and chip shop when it opened in 2004. In 2020, Fish D’vine has evolved into a Whitsundays’s success story as the region’s most popular restaurant and catering business.

Fish D’vine walks that tightrope between fine and casual dining with ease. On your first visit, you’ll be welcomed like a regular. There isn’t anything they don’t know about fish. So much so, that Kev wrote the book’ Where’s the fish?’ to answer diner’s questions about the species that appear on the daily specials list – from how they’re caught to how they taste.

Photo credit: Fish D’vine

Mark Wyatt is Mr Rum and perhaps the spirit’s greatest ambassador. Behind the bar, his amazing collection of 450 rums is the country’s ultimate list. His recommendation? Go  Caribbean for their mystery, aroma and spice. Don’t leave without trying a signature mojito.

To start, you must try the Mediterranean hummus topped with sautéed and finely diced prawns and chorizo with warm, oven-fresh pita bread. Smoky, fresh and earthy all at once.

Oysters come four ways and ‘as tender as’ calamari is served with a piquant Louisiana Remoulade and lemon. The legendary Seafood Platter is so enormous it might better feed three rather than the recommended two. Moreton Bay Bugs are crispy tempura battered with Asian slaw and spicy Kewpie mayo. Scallops are at home with chorizo, green pea puree and a panko, prosciutto salt crumb. Fries are the must-have side with garlic butter and parmesan.

DRINK

Sorrento Restaurant and Bar might serve great pizza and pasta but if it’s a ‘sunset’ you’re after nowhere beats this Coral Sea Marina dazzler.

Sorrento’s outlook is postcard-perfect overlooking Pioneer Bay. At lunch, the glimmering water shimmers a mesmerising glassy blue. As the sun sets and makes way for a star-filled night, there is nothing better than a cold one right here. As the yachts and charter vessels call it a day and return to port, the last of the sun’s rays make way for a star-filled night.

Photo credit: Sorrento Restaurant & Bar

The menu here is best enjoyed with generous sides of gobsmacking views, fine wine or cocktails and live music. It doesn’t get much better than prawn and spanner crab spaghetti with a crisp Not Your Grandma’s Rosé or Thorn Clarke Sandpiper Riesling. A little acoustic guitar provides great back-up for those gobsmacking vistas.

DRIVE

Hot rodding might not sound like your usual tropical getaway experience but riding through Airlie Beach and Shute Harbour with the warm wind in your hair is something you won’t forget soon.

Betsy (1928 Ford Tourer) and Letty (1949 Chevrolet Styline) are the scene-stealing stars of Whitsunday Hot Rod Tours. These two hot beauties make any special event a show-stopper. If you’re in town for just a few days, take a spin with owner Rachel to see this special part of The Whitsundays in a whole new way.

Photo credit: Whitsunday Hot Rod Tours

Be prepared for lots of waving, honking and envious eyes when you take a jaunty journey in Betsy. Letty might seem a little more laidback, but she too gets more than her fair share of looks and wolf whistles.

DIVE

There are countless ways to snorkel, dive or paddle The Whitsundays; but there is only one Red Cat Adventures.

A Thundercat 1-day Whitsundays tour will take you to Whitehaven Beach, Hill Inlet Lookout and two different snorkelling experiences at Manta Ray Bay and Peter Bay. One day promises unlimited thrills and calm, never to be forgotten moments.

After collecting wet suits and snorkel gear, we thunder off on one of the Whitsunday’s fastest catamarans. First mate Amy ensures everyone is well briefed, safe, happy and well-fed. Morning tea brownies anyone?

First stop – Whitsunday Island. We drop anchor and head up to Hill Inlet for that unmistakable panorama. It’s photographic nirvana for DSLR snappers and selfie stick amateurs. No-one can take an average pic here.

Photo credit: Red Cat Adventures

There’s plenty of time to take it all in before heading back down to the beach for cool, whiter than white sand between the toes and a swim in the glassy waters. Back to the Thundercat for a delicious lunch and our next stop – Manta Ray Bay. Families, couples and backpackers all suit up for a snorkel and swim with schools of darting Trevally and George, the Maori Wrasse who is always up for a selfie.

More reef snorkelling at Peter Bay, which is sheltered bay, great for all ages and swimming capabilities. Afterwards, we take a moment to take in more shimmer and glimmer off Hayman Island with cooling fruit kebabs.

We have packed in so much in one day, and as we head back to port, the sun is just about ready to call it a day.

SHOP

Not quite ready to leave all that unmistakable Whitsundays blue behind? You don’t have to if you indulge in a little retail therapy at Above & Below Gallery at the Port of Airlie.

Photographer Brooke Miles has captured countless idyllic moments over the years. Coasters, cushion covers, limited edition prints, scarves and sarongs all feature her photographs. Each piece a reminder of that magic to take home. Heart Reef, Whitehaven Beach and the Great Barrier Reef all are stunningly reproduced, so you never have to forget your too brief Whitsundays wander.

Photo credit: Brooke Miles Photography

Where to stay? At Airlie Beach, you’re spoilt for choice with accommodation options that run from ultra-luxury to backpacker bargains.

For a mid-range option with the lot, Blue Horizon Apartments offers holiday-makers comfort and style. Stylish, one, two or 3-bedroom apartments overlook the Port of Airlie. If you’re an early bird, that sunrise is pretty special.

Some apartments feature spa baths for a relaxing soak that guarantees a deep sleep in extra comfy King Beds. Fully contained with kitchenette and laundry, free cable channels and LCD TV makes for the perfect family or group holidays.

This blog was written by Liz Bond as a guest of Tourism Whitsundays. Liz Bond flew direct to the Whitsunday Coast Airport courtesy of Alliance Airlines