Gateway to Australia’s idyllic Whitsunday Islands, the seaside town of Airlie Beach has its own share of attractions, including a recently revamped main drag. Here are the highlights
By Tatyana Leonov
Set on a peninsula on Queensland’s picturesque Whitsunday Coast, Airlie Beach has in recent years emerged from its backpacker roots into a quietly fashionable destination. Yes, most visitors make their way here to catch a ferry to the Whitsunday Islands. But these days, fresh from a multimillion-dollar upgrade of its town center, Airlie is exerting some staying power of its own.
Where to Stay
For the ultimate in local luxury, book a night or two at the hilltop Pinnacles Resort & Spa (61-7/4948-4800; doubles from US$194). The self-serviced apartments are elegantly furnished and offer unsurpassed sea views; the best come with Jacuzzis. The owners are also a delight to chat to, and full of insights about the area. If you prefer to stay closer to the water, the apartments at the Peninsula Airlie Beach (144 Shingley Dr., 61-7/4964-1600; doubles from US$145) front the renovated Abell Point Marina. Splash out on a penthouse and you might never want to leave.
Where To Eat
For tasty seafood paired with rum cocktails, Fish D’vine (303 Shute Harbour Rd.; 61-7/4948-0088) is known for its local chili mud crab and fresh-caught fish, which you can pick yourself from the display chiller. If you’d rather take it slow, the Sunday long lunch at Deja Vu (4 Golden Orchid Dr.; 61-7/4948-4309) is a luscious affair. What began as a chef cooking for his friends on a Sunday has now become a local institution involving eight courses of mod-Australian cuisine served over the course of four hours. You’ll want to wear loose pants.
For an afternoon drink, head to Breeze Bar (The Esplanade; 61-7/4946-6425). The casual newcomer is run by the same team that run the nearby SideWalk Café, so you can plop yourself down on a comfy lounge chair in the bar but still order tantalizing tapas—arancini-crumbed risotto balls; roasted field mushrooms—from the café’s menu.
Where To Shop
The main street is home to a diverse bunch of shops, and you can buy anything from swimwear and beach supplies to souvenirs and funky frocks. For beautiful and unique fashion finds, Court Spark & Boutique (Shop 9, 287 Shute Harbour Rd.; 61-7/4948-0676) is a chic shop founded by two fashion-loving sisters who have a knack for sourcing stunning pieces. Paya (Shop 4-6, Shingley Beach Resort, 110 Shingley Dr.; 61-7/4946-7577) is another beautiful boutique stocking all kinds of trendy finds for women, from clothing and jewelry to soy candles and Italian leather sandals. And if you’re looking to brighten up your life, head to Colour Me Crazy (2B Dobbins Ln., Proserpine; 61-7/4945-2698), an eclectic space stuffed with all kinds of accessories and gift items.
This article originally appeared in the April/May 2014 print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Beach Bound”).