The most convenient way to get to Airlie Beach is to fly to Whitsunday Coast Airport (PPP) in Proserpine. There are daily flights to/from Australia's major cities including Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Cairns. The airport is 20km from Airlie Beach (around a 30-minute drive).
You can take a taxi to Airlie Beach (approx. AUD $100), jump on the airport shuttle ($22 one way, or $36 return), or arrange a private transfer with your hotel or tour operator.
Below are the average flight times:
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. 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.
There are no direct trains to Airlie Beach, but you can take the Spirit of Queensland which connects Brisbane and Cairns via Proserpine. From here, take the RailBus Coach to Airlie Beach. The train runs five times per week and stops at major towns and cities along the East Coast.
The journey to Proserpine takes about 15 hours from Brisbane and 9.5 hours from Cairns. It’s a semi-luxury train with sitting and sleeping berths, showers and onboard dining facilities.
You can drive to Airlie Beach via the Bruce Highway which connects the coastal towns and cities between Brisbane and Cairns. Once you arrive in Bowen or Proserpine, follow the signs to Airlie Beach via Shute Harbour Road. Below are the average driving times from popular cities along the East Coast (excluding stops):
Sydney - 22 hours
Byron Bay - 15 hours
Brisbane - 13 hours
Sunshine Coast - 12 hours
Townsville - 3.5 hours
Cairns - 8 hours
There's no public bus to Airlie Beach, but you can buy tickets 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 visit multiple places along the East Coast.
Join an Airlie Beach tour
If you'd prefer to sit back and relax while a local leader handles the logistics, or if you want to explore a larger chunk of the East Coast, why not join us on a small group tour.