So you've saved up for a well-earned break in the Whitsundays, chartering a beautiful bareboat with Luxury Yachts Whitsundays to sail around the 74 islands on. Everything is booked and paid for, and you're counting down the days until you step off the aeroplane at the airport, and step on to your bareboat. But what is there to do in Airlie Beach that doesn't have you reaching into your pocket to keep you, or the kids, entertained? Look no further, as we show you some little hidden secrets that only a local would know.
1. AIRLIE BEACH LAGOON
Located in the centre of Airlie Beach, the Airlie Beach Lagoon is open 365 days of the year with lifeguards patrolling the two swimming areas, between 9am-9pm. Dotted with palm trees, and beautifully manicured grassy knolls it is the perfect place to go for a swim (stinger free) and catch some rays. Temptation from the nearby takeaway cafe's and eateries will surely have you munching on some fish and chips after frolicking in the clear cool water.
2. SATURDAY MARKETS
Every Saturday morning between 6 am-1 pm, you'll find a colourful mix of arts, locally handmade clothes and jewellery, fresh produce and home-style food stalls at the Airlie Beach Markets. Situated between the Esplanade and Whitsunday Sailing Club along the foreshore, it is a great place to kick off your weekend with a nice takeaway coffee in your hand as you stroll through the market stalls listening to the local musicians play in the amphitheatre.
3. SAILING AT THE SAILING CLUB
If you're a sailing buff who is a little competitive, the Whitsunday Sailing Club hold Twilight Races every Wednesday from 4:30pm. If you make your way to the sailing club a little earlier in the day and make yourself known to the sailors at the club, more often than not they are looking for extra crew and will happily invite you on board for the afternoon. The races are generally around a triangle course, sailing three laps then sailing a beat to the finish line. While it may seem competitive once you're out sailing, it's all very much light-hearted fun and a great way to learn how to sail or brush up on your sailing skills and terminology.
The Whitsundays has over 67km of walking tracks, both on the mainland as well as the islands, so there is plenty to choose from. Catering to people of all fitness types, walks range from short and easy to strenuous full-day walks, or the adventurous can challenge themselves on a multiple night walk. Be sure to take plenty of water with you, good walking shoes, and of course your camera as the vistas from some of the lookouts are breathtaking.
5. BICENTENNIAL BOARDWALK
Starting from the Airlie Beach Lagoon and stretching for 3.5km's to Cannonvale is the Bicentennial Boardwalk. Following the shoreline, the walk is flat and easy, taking you past beautiful beaches and through lush parks. Stop along the way to take photo's and say hello to the many locals who use the boardwalk to walk their fury kids or catch up with friends.
6. AIRLIE BEACH PARK RUN
Every Saturday morning at 7am, starting at Abell Point Marina, is the Airlie Beach Parkrun. It is a fun, free event organised by volunteers with the track consisting of two laps of a 2.5 km course taking in the Abell Point Marina, Shingley Beach and the iconic Cannonvale boardwalk with stunning views of Pioneer Bay. Every runner gets given their time score to compare future run times, and afterwards, all runners gather at the Bohemian Raw Cafe for a post-run coffee.
There are literally dozens of beaches, bays and public parks throughout Airlie Beach that have free to use BBQ's. As most of them are on the shoreline, they have amazing views overlooking the Coral Sea and Whitsunday Islands. Some of them have a jungle gym nearby for the kids to enjoy, so grab some sausages and friends to soak up the afternoon sun. Be sure to clean the hot plate afterwards for the next person to use.
8. CEDAR CREEK FALLS
A short 25 minute drive towards Conway Beach, is the picturesque Cedar Creek Falls. Set in a natural rock amphitheatre, you will enjoy spectacular waterfalls in the wet season with colourful butterflies and many beautiful birds surrounding the falls. Find a shallow rock pool to chill out in, or swim in the larger body of water under the falls. It is an easy walk from the car park which has toilet facilities nearby.
9. KIDS PLAYGROUNDS
If you've got the kids with you, you're going to need to know where to find the jungle gyms, so they can be entertained and you can wear the kids out for an afternoon. There are 5 different playgrounds to choose from in Airlie Beach and are all easily accessible by foot or public transport. Logan's Adventure Playground located on the Coral Esplanade between Airlie Beach and Cannonvale is probably the most popular with its 30m flying fox, giant swing, pipe tunnels and explorer dome.
While there are firm restrictions on fishing in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, there are numerous jetties, rockwalls and beaches which are great for fishing with rods on the mainland. The most popular spots are the Shute Harbour Marina public jetty, the VMR rockwall and Cannonvale Beach. Be sure to check the rules about fishing in certain zones of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.