The tropical QLD coast of Australia with numerous islands, coral reefs, waterways, mainland forests and dozens of things to see and do-Airlie Beach has become a popular tourist destination among travellers alike. Swimming, sailing, snorkelling, scuba diving, fishing, jet skiing, windsurfing or paddle boarding, shopping, spas and restaurants are all reasons this friendly and safe place has become so popular. The place is also known as a gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, Whitsunday Islands and Whitehaven Beach-the worlds best beach. Seems like everybody knows what's hip and happening in Airlie Beach, but what are the five things no one tells you?
1. It's so expensive
Travelling in Australia is in general pretty expensive, but nothing compares to the Whitsunday Region. No body tells you how expensive it is to go and experience all that is so readily available to do and advertised in the area. Not only does one have to cough up plenty for accommodation, a minimum of $140 per person for a sailing trip to Whitsunday Island, $129 per person for a crocodile safari in Prosperpine river or $250-$500 for a few dives on the reef, the restaurants in Airlie Beach are so expensive that after spending all your money on activities, there will be none left for dinner or a decent hotel. The prices in restaurants are comparable to higher end restaurants in Sydney. Do not be surprised if you have to spend a night in a tightly cramped up campsite with McDonalds for dinner, but don't you dare to skip that sailing trip or a visit to the beach with the whitest sand in the world!
2. Tropical storms
I knew I was in the tropics, but I never thought I would have to live through a tropical storm. This is something they definitely will not tell you when you browse through the travel websites and dream about the white silica sand and sailing around the islands. Michael and me are always "lucky" to end up in places at times when it's raining and Airlie Beach was no exception. We drove straight into a tropical storm with high-speed winds and rain that would have made our stay in our rooftop tent impossible, here goes another $110 for a night in Colonial Court Holiday Apartments with half a day without power in the whole town. Looking back though, I am glad to have been able to experience a storm like that what some only see in the news. Palm trees swaying, thunder rumbling and water pouring down like there is no tomorrow! Don't be surprised when all your bookings for sailing, snorkelling and scuba diving are postponed too! This fortunately doesn't happen too often. For some reason I did not take any photos during the rainy days. I actually didn't take many photos while I was there at all. Now that's pretty unusual.
I have nothing against fellow travellers and especially backpackers as most could consider me to be one as well. The problem starts when they have no manners and don't posses the ability to think with their heads and disrespect this beautiful country I now call home. Not all backpackers are like that and most of them are actually really good people when you get to know them, but there is always a few that give the rest of them a bad name. Airlie Beach is one of the places backpackers gather in hundreds and where there are plenty of great ones, there will be plenty of idiots too. You might get a little mention about the backpackers in the area from travel brochures, but nothing prepared us for the amount of them. Airlie Beach has been dominantly run over by foreign explorers hustling and bustling away and while some might love that atmosphere, we are not fans of densely touristy areas. Two-three nights will be more than enough to enjoy the islands and the scenery, but staying any longer wasn't going to be enjoyable for us. Maybe once we can afford a villa or a luxury stay in a resort, it will be a different story.
4. Snorkelling ain't that good
From what I've experienced and what I had anticipated, it wasn't anything spectacular. The corals were bleached and dull, dead ones scattered around the seabed. From others peoples comments I could tell it has been a disappointment too. And it was bloody cold, even with a stinger suit. But then again, I'm always cold. Perhaps go scuba diving on the outer reef instead to see the colourful ecosystem up close and personal. And always wear a stinger suit!
"Marine stingers can be present all year round with the higher risk season from October to May. During this period, jellyfish are prevalent in the waters around the mainland, islands and have occasionally been found out on the reef.
The most common type of jellyfish found in the area are:
Irukandji-a group of small jellyfish whose stings can cause serious illness in previously well humans and who are transparent and usually impossible to see in water. The initial sting from most Irukandji species is quite mild, feeling like sea lice or a mosquito bite. There is often no mark, or perhaps small red "goose pimple" marks. Often, Irukandju stings will sweat profusely only in the immediate sting region. Irukandjis are rare, but the stings can be life-threatening.
Box Jellyfish-less common and typically large with substantial bodies and numerous tentacles on each corner. Different species reach different sizes, ranging from approximately 10-30 cm tall. The body is transparent and usually difficult to see in the water. Box jellyfish stings cause immediate severe pain, often likened to an iron or hot oil burn. The tentacles are often left on skin, and will cause additional stinging if not neutralized by vinegar. Severe box jellyfish stings will have a "ladder-like" apperance, and will "frost" the skin. Substantial stings covering half of one limp can be fatal.
Please note: If you do happen to get stung by one of these "stingers", do not by any means rub the sting area. Apply vinegar immediately and seek medical attention urgently. Dial 000 for an ambulance, do not re-enter the water."
5. Camping on the Islands
I have never had to deal with anything so complicated like it was finding out about camping on the Whitsunday Islands. Information was hard to find and the fact that the ferry taking you to the desired island only departs to the islands where there are most bookings, makes it all the more complicated. There is no set schedule for the SCAMPER water taxi. Campsites are walk-in only, so no barge will take you there with a car, you will have to board a ferry with all your equipment on your back including all drinking water, food, shelter and so on. Camping permits and getting there does also come with a price tag from $65-$160 per person per night. If you have the desire and the money to spare, the time and patience to work out getting there and back and how to get permits, I'm sure this will be an experience like no other at your own private paradise of wildlife while exploring the islands and falling asleep under the amazing Milky Way far from city lights.
Have you been to Airlie Beach? What did you like and what not? What are your thoughts after reading this article? Let's talk in the comments!
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