First thing first, we really didnt know what to expect before we arrived in Airlie Beach, mainly because the Aussies in Mackay painted a picture of a downright seedy, drug addled and booze obsessed place. On reflection its obvious they were just bitter about a lively, visitor friendly place taking the shine off their town. Our weather good fortune continued as we had 4 gloriously sunny days to enjoy. We stayed at Backpackers by the Bay which was a great hostel about 5 minutes walk from the Esplanade. Small, clean rooms and a swimming pool with a view across the bay made for a great stay.
Because of stingers, you can't swim in the sea in summer in Northern Queensland so Airlie Beach has a man made lagoon near the beach with landscaped gardens and BBQ areas, its a great place to relax and we found ourselves there late into the night, mainly because we cant afford nights out. You may think we're experiencing international cuisine, you'd be wrong, theres a lot of $5 dominos pizzas and $9 steak deals being consumed, we still cant get over how expensive everything else is here!
Airlie Beach is dominated by all maner of tour operators desperate to take your money in return for a trip to the Whitsunday Islands. We chose to go on our second day with Reefjet for a day long excursion with snorelling/diving opportunities and a mooring at Whitehaven Beach for an afternoon on what is supposed to be one of the best beaches in the world.
Well, we weren't disappointed. Nat went diving, and she loved it, geting the chance to see lots of big colourful fish and a huge wall of coral down at 10m. I stuck to the snorkelling which was still pretty fantastic. Before heading to Whitehaven wehad a chance to go on a Bushwalk through one of the islands, dodging snakes and big reptiles to get a view over Hill Inlet which makes up all the best Whitsunday photos. Because its the wet season ours arent quite as good as the postcards because of the amount of water flowing through the inlet covering the sanddrifts.
Seeing girls exfoliate with sand on a beach is a pretty strange site but this gives you an idea of how pure the sand on Whitehaven Beach is. I doubt there is a finer sandy beach anywhere in the world, and with turquoise waters, lush green rainforest and clear blue skies, Whitehaven was pretty much the perfect location. If only the sea wasn't plagued with deadly box jellyfish. Neither of us particularly enjoyed wearing full length stinger suits every time we went in the water!
Safely back on land, tentacle free, we carried on enjoying the sunshine at the lagoon and our hotel's pool. It may seem like we're lazy but we've realised that Queensland has little to offer apart from coastline and a small scattering of national parks that we can't get to without a car. We certainly weren't complaning though!