Airlie Beach is a chilled-out beach town with a lively personality. Located on the Whitsunday Coast, it’s also the gateway to the stunning Whitsunday Islands and the Great Barrier Reef, and is where most sailing and adventure tours begin. However, there’s plenty of things to see and do in Airlie Beach whether you’re spending your entire holiday here or simply passing through. 

Getting to Airlie Beach by air

If you’re travelling from afar, the most convenient way to get to Airlie Beach is by flying to Whitsunday Coast Airport (PPP) in Prosperine. There are daily flights direct to/from various destinations in Australia including Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Cairns. Whitsunday Coast Airport is 20km from Airlie Beach and the drive takes about 30 mins. If you aren’t renting a car at the airport, you can transfer to Airlie Beach via taxi (approx. cost is $100), airport shuttle bus (adult fee is $22 one way or $36 return), or private transfer with your hotel or tour operator. Below are the typical flight times from popular destinations:

  • 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.

Getting to Airlie Beach by rail

There are no direct trains to Airlie Beach, but you can take the Spirit of Queensland to Prosperine and then transfer on the RailBus Coach to Airlie Beach. The train runs five times per week from Brisbane to Cairns with stops at all major towns and cities along the 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 approximate driving times from popular cities and towns (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 options. 

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