5 Reasons For A Long Weekend In The Heart Of The Reef

Airlie Beach heart of the reef

They breed ‘em hardy around these parts.

Just five months after a category four cyclone tore through Airlie Beach, the vibrant tropical gateway to the Whitsunday Islands in North Queensland is bouncing back.

Tour operators are reporting encouraging numbers on all fronts as visitors from Australia and overseas flock to the year-round warmth and stunning beauty of this tropical paradise.

Book ahead for a room if you can, a flood of tradies in town to fix cyclone damage has put a strain on accommodation options.

But even when Airlie’s humming at full capacity, it’s still too small to feel over-crowded.

Here are just five reasons to sample the laid-back lifestyle that’s famous all over the world.

1. A day trip to heavenly Whitehaven

Whitehaven in the reef

The silicon sand here is blindingly white but leave those flip-flops on the boat; it’s never too hot underfoot, or really that crowded when you consider its reputation. TripAdvisor’s Travellers’ Choice Awards recently rated it as Australia’s best beach, and the fifth most amazing in the world. Whether you prefer your stretch of stand with waves, or maybe something a little more accessible – the round trip from Airlie Beach is near enough to four hours on Cruise Whitsundays – there’s no denying it is breathtakingly stunning. For the best views, make sure you visit the Hill Inlet Lookout to the north.

2. Hobnob with the superyacht set

 The reef looks better from a yacht

Whether you’re there to catch Prince Frederik of Denmark compete in the Audi Race Week on Hamilton Island (above), or just wander through the jetties marvelling at the many gin palaces, the Whitsundays will definitely satisfy your inner-aristocrat. In Airlie Beach itself, one of the best new spots to watch the aquatic jet-set is at the recently opened waterfront eatery Hemingways at Abell Point Marina. There are also a raft of bareboating options on tap – in which you sail your own yacht – if you’re feeling so inspired.

3. It’s a whale watcher’s paradise

watch the whales near the reef

Whales are a common sight frolicking amongst the islands, and even occasionally out on the Great Barrier Reef, all through June to September. The warm and protected waters are an ideal birthing ground and nursery. While formal whale watching tours in the Whitsundays are at a minimum, whale sightings are a free bonus inclusion on most tours. The best way to spot one is to hop on any of the day tours around the Whitsunday waters, as whale sightings occur almost daily. Humpback and pilot whales are the most common species sighted, and Migaloo the white humpback whale has also been seen in the Whitsundays for the last few years.

4. Celebrate your 50th with a skydive

skydive off the reef

What a way to mark a milestone! Those in the know tell us that the views from above make the Whitsundays one of the top three places in the world from which to hurl yourself out of a plane. Experienced operators Skydive Airlie Beach offers three jumps choices – 6000ft, 8000ft, and 14,000ft. Go high we say!

5. Visit the heart of the Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef

Aside from the 74 islands in the Whitsunday group on its doorstep, Airlie Beach is also the gateway to the natural wonders of the Great Barrier Reef. You can take one of the many day tours, or even sleep out there if you really want to experience the reef in all its glory. Arguably, one of the best reef experiences is by air where you get the best views of the Whitsunday’s iconic Heart Reef the stunning composition of coral that has naturally formed into the shape of a heart. Heart Reef was discovered in 1975 by one of Air Whitsunday’s pilots and is now an internationally-recognised attraction, and features on many postcards and brochures promoting the region.