Airlie Beach for Backpackers

With a population of just over 2000, what Airlie Beach lacks in size it more than makes up for in location. Situated between Townsville and Mackay in North Queensland, Airlie Beach is the go-to hub for all your Whitsundays adventures – it even has the Oprah stamp of approval from her trip down under in 2010!

Just a hop, skip and a jump to Hamilton, Hook and Daydream Islands, Airlie Beach is the perfect port of call to see all the Great Barrier Reef has to offer. Touring companies control transfers to different islands, so unless you're planning on chartering your own boat, check in with tour operators for the best deals on island visits.

While you can make day trips, you'll get more bang for your buck by staying a night or two out on the island, which will include the transfer cost. For example, a 30 minute ferry trip to Hamilton Island (or Hammo as the locals call it), will set you back around $60, a one-night package is worth looking at as it will include transfers. The islands offer a huge range of activities including wildlife tours, golf, kayaking, quad biking, beauty treatments and more. Hmm, saving money and spending a night in paradise? They drive a hard bargain in Queensland…

Airlie beach

Cheap and Cheerful

Great accommodation is easier to come across than a friendly "g'day" in Airlie Beach, with both dorm and private room readily available. Hostels are abuzz with other party going backpackers and most run social activities like trivia nights, BBQs and movies, plus free breakfasts to fuel up for the day.

After a strenuous day of swimming and sunbathing at your hostel, relax with the locals on the main drag of Airlie Beach, Shute Harbour Road. Here you'll find your standard backpacker fare but look a little further afield than the Hog's Breath Café and you'll find local delights like Café Mykonos, which prides itself on the best gyros outside of Greece. Kick on well into the night at Paddy's Shenanigans (Irish backpackers will feel right at home here) or Mama Africa's where the beats are as hot as the bar staff.

Airlie beach travel

Flat Out or Sky High

Next day recovery for sore heads is best found at the Airlie Beach Lagoon. Due to Queensland's nasty penchant for crocs and stingers swimming isn't recommended off Airlie's actual beach. The man-made lagoon is a heavenly mix of salt and chlorinated water to wash away the tropical heat without the added surprise of a box jellyfish in your knickers. After a lazy sunbake, stretch your legs and take a stroll along Abel Point Marina to marvel at the million dollar mega-yachts. You may be on a backpacker budget, but it's free to look!

The weekly Saturday markets are another window-shoppers dream with unique fashion and beauty stalls plus locally sourced food and produce. And if the heat and humidity are getting too much, don't miss the chance to try the famous Bowen Mango Sorbet – locals and backpackers can't recommend it highly enough!

After you've shopped to your heart's content, up the thrill-factor with a tandem skydive, the ultimate adrenaline rush. Skydive Airlie Beach offers the best view of the area (if you can keep your eyes open that is!). If you're not so keen to jump out a plane (we don't blame you) but still want to get your blood pumping, opt for a jetski tour or get up close and personal with a "saltie" on a crocodile safari (just keep your toes inside the boat!).


The Local Touch

Time and again backpackers comment not only on the stunning natural beauty of tropical North Queensland but also the laidback, friendly attitude of the locals. Stef, an English student on exchange in Australia, says the hospitality in Airlie Beach was the highlight of her trip: "We really got to know a lot of the locals and they treated us like family. We got a big send off when we left… it was hard to tear ourselves away!"

Whether you're staying for a week or just passing through, Airlie Beach offers the perfect combination for the fussy backpacker. From reef tours to partying nightlife, high-octane adventures and classic Aussie hospitality, this is your one-stop gateway to everything Far North Queensland has to offer.

To book a tour or for further information contact us
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