a backpackers 3 day guide to airlie beach
4 min read. Created in 2019
You can drive the coast of Queensland, catch a boat or fly from various capital cities and regional towns within Australia. to get to Airlie Beach. If you're traveling light like I am at the moment a cheap one way flight with no baggage cost me about $70 one way from Sydney. All flights are going to subject to availability and pricing but I have never paid more than $100 one way for a flight from Sydney to Airlie Beach before. Virgin Australia, Jetstar and TigerAir are the main airlines that will fly to Proserpine airport. Please be aware when wanting to stay in Airlie beach, Proserpine airport (PPP) is going to be the airport that you fly into.
If you're staying on Hamilton Island there is a small airport there that you can also fly into. Flying into Proserpine airport it is about a 30-45 minute drive to Airlie Beach city centre. You can hire a car otherwise there are a couple of shuffle services you can purchase at the airport to reach the city centre. They set you back under $40 for a return trip to Airlie Beach, most of them if you're staying within the suburb of Airlie Beach will drop you direct to your hotel. If you're booking through a travel agent you can either book the shuttle bus or get a private transfer - it's worth weighing the pricing!
Car hire is pretty cheap to be honest. If you're driving a one way journey you just remember there will be a hefty fee and you have to pay for petrol and any added Km's that aren't included in your contract. Car hire It's the best way to get around the surrounding beaches and places to see outside the town.
There are so many options within Airlie beach for you to see and do. If you're looking for a cheap destination this probably isn't going to be your best friend. Although there are tours everyday departing from the town, the marina and the airport they are all pretty pricey but if you are looking for a deal you can find one, it's not impossible.
If you're one to plan ahead head into a travel agent and ask them for their pricing on the activities you want to do and pick maybe one or two. Booking in advance will save the hassle of availability and surge pricing last minute in Airlie beach. If you leave everything to the last minute or want to 'wing' it there are a heap of places you can purchase them from in town. Do shop around once you get to town because you can save about $10-50pp by just walking in and out on your way down the city centre strip.
In regards to what Airlie beach and the Whitsundays hold, it's basically endless - there are about 5-8 different tour companies that operate on the water alone. Whitsundays cruising is a must and there are 1 day options, 2 night - 3 day options and charter options where you can do what you want!
When I was backpacking down the coast in December 2018, I went on Tongarra Sailing operated by Red Cat Adventures. I loved their service both on and off the boat and am back to sample their one day option this time around! You can find their website here.
In regards to air there are helicopter as well as small plane flights operating around the Whitsundays and the Great Barrier Reef, these are not backpacker pricing friendly but worth the money if you've got it. I went with GSL aviation, there are a few companies in the area - i literally didn't put much thought into it, very much a yolo situation. It set me back about $249 for return transfers to Proserpine airport, and a one hour flight around the Whitsundays including the Great Barrier Reef. I am glad I have done it and wouldn't take it back but I would maybe do a helicopter next time which is more expensive but a lot more intimate - the plane had seats for about 8-12 others and you do feel like just a regular flight which I didn't like....
When you're on land you've got a couple of options for getting around. Shuttle buses run to most attractions from the town centre. You just have to ask your hotel/hostel for their contact number and away you go. You can get a taxi (no uber's are available) around but it can be fairly hefty depending on where you want to travel to and from, you can ask before you get in how much it is.
Another option is to hire a car. Back in December we hired a car with Hertz and was pretty happy with their service although a little pricey it was divided by 3 passengers so it wasn't all that bad. In Airlie beach town centre there are a few independent car hire places that gave me some great rates when I enquired. It's best to shop around for car hire if you can as any places will be more expensive than others if you're younger than 25 or want collision waiver damaged lowered (your excess).
In regards to places to eat in Airlie Beach it is a backpackers heaven there is a massive Woolworths and Mc Donald's in town as well as a handful of cafes along the strip. The cafes can be expensive so I usually stick to somme fresh veg in woolies or cheap take away if i'm treating myself! If you're looking for a nice view while eating head down to Abel point marina. There are a couple of cafes and restaurants where you can enjoy the view of the marina and the boats!
When going out in Airlie beach there are only 4 pubs and 1 night club. The night life is fairly strongly built based on all the tourists the beach gets. Most of the night you will find people out every day of the week you just have to wait until late enough. I went out to beaches bar, paddy's, boaty's and boom.
All Combined on one night will make a good night out. The pricing for drinks are pretty standard for a major town centre. Just beware that they have deals on most nights and they easily can add up! If you're going on a tour they will usually give you recommendations for places to go or drinks vouchers - bonus!
Talk about a lot of options... Airlie beach in town has 2 main hostels: Base/Nomads and Magnums. I have now stayed at both and highly recommend Magnums. The facilities are cleaned almost everyday in your rooms, they have the one of the cleanest kitchens in a hostel i've ever seen!
I booked it via hostel world but you can book them at most travel agencies, it was only because I had a coupon code that I booked on hostelworld.com. I booked with a travel agent the second and third time I visited as they gave me a good deal.
There are hotels and airbnb within the Cannonvale area as well as Airlie Beach. A hostel within the town strip will cost you about $28 AUD for a dorm otherwise you can find a private room for about $50-70 per night depending on availability and day of the week. The hostel lifestyle in Airlie is one of my favourites everyone is super chilled out and so friendly. I haven't personally stayed at any of the hotels before but the aren't too cheap in comparison to a hostel so bare that in mind.
If you want to book a hotel on average you can be looking at up to $500 p/n in some hotels but depending on how long you stay, where you stay and the facilities you want an average night can set you back around $120 per night in non peak season travel periods.