Airlie Beach is the gateway to the stunning Whitsunday Islands and the Great Barrier Reef. There's so much to see and do whether you’re spending your entire holiday here or simply passing through to begin a sailing tour. Located on the Whitsunday Coast in Queensland, it's fairly easy to get to Airlie Beach with a number of travel options depending on where you're coming from.

Getting to Airlie Beach by air

If you’re travelling from afar, the most convenient way to get to Airlie Beach is to fly to Whitsunday Coast Airport (PPP) in Prosperine with daily flights to/from Australia's major cities including Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Cairns. The airport is 20km from Airlie Beach and it takes around 30 mins to drive to the town centre. If you aren’t renting a car at the airport, you can transfer to Airlie Beach via taxi (approx. cost is $100), airport shuttle (an adult fee is $22 one way, or $36 return), or private transfer with your hotel or tour operator. Below are the average flight times from major domestic airports:

  • Sydney - 2.5 hours 

  • Melbourne - 3 hours 

  • Brisbane - 1.5 hours 

  • Cairns - 1 hour 

You can also fly into the Great Barrier Reef Airport on Hamilton Island. From here, you can take a ferry or high-speed catamaran to Airlie Beach. However, this option is probably better if you plan on using Hamilton Island as your base to explore the Whitsundays before heading across to the mainland.

Getting to Airlie Beach by rail

There are no direct trains to Airlie Beach, but you can take the Spirit of Queensland which runs from Brisbane to Cairns via Prosperine, and then transfer on the RailBus Coach to Airlie Beach. The train runs five times per week and stops at all major towns and cities along the East Coast. The journey to Prosperine takes about 15 hours from Brisbane and 9.5 hours from Cairns. It’s a semi-luxury train with sitting and sleeping berths, showers, entertainment options and onboard dining facilities.

Getting to Airlie Beach by road

You can drive to Airlie Beach via the Bruce Highway which connects the coastal towns and cities between Brisbane and Cairns in Far North Queensland. Once you arrive in Bowen or Prosperine, follow the signs to Airlie Beach via Shute Harbour Road. Below are the average driving times from popular cities along the East Coast (not including stops):

  • Sydney - 22 hours 

  • Byron Bay - 15 hours 

  • Brisbane - 13 hours 

  • Sunshine Coast - 12 hours 

  • Townsville - 3.5 hours 

  • Cairns - 8 hours 

Getting to Airlie Beach by bus

There is no public bus to Airlie Beach, but you can buy a ticket with a private coach company such as Greyhound or Premier. They run southbound services from Cairns and northbound services from Brisbane with direct, return and hop-on/off tickets. It's a good option if you don't have a car and aren't on a tight schedule, or if you'll be visiting multiple places along the East Coast.

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