Backpacker town that caters to families. Those two things don’t usually go together but in Airlie, it just works.
It was easy to tell that we were excited to be driving into Airlie beach, even the kids picked up on our vibe. We have spent a little time here previously, mostly out on the islands. Though for some reason Airlie just resonates with us.
Choosing to stay this time at the Island Gateway holiday park. The site we had was right on the corner and had so much room, perfect for the kids. After setting up, Tom took the two littles around the park to check out the facilities. Tom made it as far as the playground, these kids just cant resist a slippery dip.
Waking up to a lazy morning, we headed into town or more accurately the lagoon. This free large pool right on the Airlie waterfront is perfect for babies, toddlers and the big kids. We were prepared for the next few hours of full on water play while Claire snuck off to do some window shopping in Airlie’s main street. The one thing that goes so well with swimming is of course ice creams. With tired kids and full bellies, we headed back to the van for nap time.
Waking up refreshed it was time to let these kids loose on some swings and slides. Airlie is filled with copious amounts of playgrounds, it’s picking one that’s the hardest. Being in the mood for a bit of a drive, we head out on the main road out of Airlie and snake our way back along the water. Coming across one of the biggest, challenging parks we have seen. Although Varli is little, there is nothing she loves more than climbing, so we took this chance to push her to her limits and get her climbing things well beyond her age. She just thrived and after an hour was climbing some of the more difficult ropes. That’s our girl.
Picnic lunch packed, kids strapped into the car, we hit the road out of Airlie on route to Cedar Creek Falls. Love waterfalls? Love swimming? Love watching turtles play? Than you need to get to Cedar. We arrived to the car park to find we were the only ones here, perfect! Quickly making our way to the water’s edge we realised the water was cold but that didn’t stop us, we didn’t come here to chicken out and not jump in. While Tom was straight into the water and making his way across to sit under the falls, Claire took a little longer to adjust to the water (yep, she’s a sook). As for the kids, well they are always in the water, rail, hail or shine and this was no exception. We spent the morning here swimming, spotting turtles and rock stacking. With the cold starting to set in and the kids shivering it was our time to head off. Going further through Conway National Park, we came to a small quiet suburb (Conway Beach we think). It felt like the middle of nowhere. A beautiful beach, a large park and plenty of palm trees. This was the perfect spot for lunch and a play.
Now a trip to Airlie is not complete without visiting as least one island. So of course we booked a trip out to Whitehaven. Up early and set for a day on the boat and beach, the kids were excited for their first boat trip. Choosing to cruise with Cruise Whitsundays, we knew we would be on a bigger boat. Walking up the ramp to find a seat, you could see the excitement in the kid’s faces. Taking off slowly out of the harbour, Varli was already wanting to put her head out the side and watch the waves fly by. First stop, Hamilton Island to pick up more passengers, then continue on to Whitehaven. After the first hour, the novelty had warn off and the two were keen to get off. Docking at Whitehaven, we waited patiently to be taken to the sand. Finally our feet hit the whitest, silkiest sand and instantly we knew the next 2 hours would go by so quickly.
We played on the sand, we swam in the perfect crystal clear water, we fed the fish swimming under our feet and most importantly we relaxed. Just like that, 2 hours was up and back to the boat we go. The kids were tired and a little bit sun drained, so the trip home took all our energy to keep them calm. The staff on the boat were amazing, bring them colouring in, checking in on us, chatting to them and even brought them a small stuffed sea turtle each. What a day!
Most people have heard of Hamilton Island. It has quite a name for itself. We were lucky enough to pick up some free transfer tickets to jump over and check it out. So once again, we prepared ourselves for a full day of islanding. Although, this one, was a touch different. Arriving at Hamilton Island, we were undecided whether we should hire the much loved golf buggies, or just use the free buses. We opted for the buses, as we thought it would be a good experience for the kids. In saying that, if we ever go back, we would 100% get a buggy.
Heading straight for the other side of the island where the resort pools are, we set off finding some space to sit, and shallow waters to splash in. Tom and the kids spent the next few hours using the pools while Claire sunbaked under the palm trees. We could see the kids getting tired so that clearly meant ice cream time! We caught the bus back over and spotted the Hamilton famous ice creamery and grabbed enough to satisfy everyone. Boysenberry and Hokey Pokey went down a treat. Expensive (everything on Hamilton is) but so worth it. We were so ready to head home. Loving our time on Hamilton, but it’s not quite our kind of place. Putting the kids to sleep on the trip home, we knew the following day would be a quiet one spent locally.
There were more playgrounds to check out today and another trip to the lagoon. While we love action packed days, down times to let the kids just play are always needed. The reception staff had given us a voucher to use in the newish tavern directly across the road from our accomodation. We decided that we had earned ourselves a night off from cooking and headed over there for some drinks and dinner. Perfect spot to take the kids, with a great playground for the kids and seating for us parents to keep watch. Kids played, we drank. It was a tough job trying to get the kids back inside to eat dinner. The food was great, the service even better. If in Airlie, definitely check out the Jubilee Tavern.
After talking to some locals, we took their advice and headed out to Dingo Beach. It took us about an hour to get there, but WOW! What a beautiful, little gem. With stingers still about we chose to have a swim in the stinger net enclosure, better safe than sorry. All splashed out we devoured lunch and decided to move further up the road to Hideaway Bay. This was another WOW moment. Taking the opportunity to have a drink at Cape Gloucester Beach Resort, we sat outside in the shade, listened to a local duo sing and watched the remainder of the day disappear. We wanted to stop in at Montes on the way back but due to a cyclone last year that caused so much damage, they had still not opened their doors.
Saturday morning rolls around and Claire is excited. This means market day. The local markets on the Airlie waterfront are huge. Struggling for a park, we eventually found one, lucky. Strapping Varli into the carrier and Halen into the stroller, we were on a mission to look through the markets in detail without any lost kids. Mr. Beans coffee took our eye and instantly coffee was ordered. This coffee was beautiful and that lead to bags of beans being bought as well as a few bottles of cold brew. Our coffee supply for the next few weeks was set! We completed the markets, at least we thought we had, that was until we spotted the Hungarian stall. There it was, our most loved treat. LANGOS! Langos, for those who are not familiar, is a Hungarian dough, quickly flattened out and dropped into a deep fryer. The outside bubbles and goes so crispy, but keeps a slightly doughy centre. What makes this special is the copious amounts of garlic oil that is brushed over the crispy dough. Bad for you YES, but it’s just so so GOOD!
Islands, markets, sand, water, playgrounds, ice cream, waterfalls and swimming our days away at Airlie had come to an end.
We will be back as soon as we can.