Chasing the Sun: A Winter Escape to Airlie Beach

In Short Breaks by The H4C Team

Portofino springs to mind, as our boat nudges its way through jade-green waters to the shoreline and honeycomb orange and white holiday accommodation that speckle the sleepy seafront and hills of Queensland’s Airlie Beach. It’s day two of our impromptu romantic weekend getaway – one spurred on by a week of drizzle and cold – and we can’t stop smiling at our clever escape. 

Returning from an afternoon tour of the Whitsundays and Whitehaven Beach on the 23–metre Orca motorboat, courtesy of Cruise Whitsundays – who also run day trips to the outer reef – it’s been blissfully warm with crisp sunshine and seductively swimmable seas.

Winter, we’re told, is perfect yachting weather with gentle gusty winds, but we’re inclined to play tourist and are rewarded with a guided cruise that’s relatively uncrowded and full of interesting local history.

Beautiful white sands at Whitehaven Beach – Photo by Cruise Whitsundays

We find out Whitehaven’s blindingly white sands are cool to the touch no matter the temperature due to high levels of silica, a relic of when the island was once an active volcano; and spy Long Island, abandoned since 1970 when a cyclone swept most of the resort away.

As the other passengers spill out along the stark white ribbon of beach, we disappear into the shade of the national park, joining the relatively easy 1.2 kilometre Solway Circuit walking track. Meandering through fuzzy grasstrees, cycads and rockfern, we’re delivered, 10 minutes later, to a smorgasbord of emerald greens and hazy cornflower blues of Solway Passage, Pentecost and Haslewood Islands. It’s well worth the climb. 

The amazing views from Peppers Airlie Beach – Photo by Peppers

Afterwards, cooling off in the impossibly clear agate waters of the Coral Sea, we gaze contentedly at the soft island mounds of velvety chambray and denim blue that dot the horizon. 

It’s inordinately beautiful and only adds to the feelings of relaxation that have been with us since our arrival and an afternoon spent sunning and splashing about in Peppers’ infinity pool, followed up by an hour’s couples’ pampering at the hotel’s Endota Spa, flagship for the divine, organic Endota skincare range – a personalised skin-mapped facial for me, super-relaxing massage for him.

Dinner that evening, at slick Italian eatery, La Tabella, is full of delicious flavours and romantic keynotes. Over a meal of modern Italian delights, we’re treated to a majestic sunset of bruised pinks and orange swirls that casts the sea in indigo.

The picturesque water views from the Bicentennial Walkway at Airlie Beach – Photo by Belinda Luksic

The next morning, we set out to explore the town. Past Port Airlie, the Saturday markets and man-made lagoon, we join the Bicentennial Walkway, a pretty boardwalk skirting the Coral Sea, that takes us to the first of two marinas, row upon row of statuesque white yachts bobbing gently before us. Traversing two small car parks, we reach Abell Point and the laidback charms of Bohemian Raw Café, a pretty breakfast nook with outdoor seating overlooking the marina, and tuck into a raw strawberry boho bowl and green machine, coconut chia cup with goji berries, cranberries, cashews and caramelised bukinis. 

On our final day, we splurge on a helicopter ride that takes us for an eye-stopping tour of Hook Passage, Whitehaven and beautiful Heart Reef, destination of many a marriage proposal. From our sky-high vantage point, the sea and sand swirls into each other like melted ice cream with the most exquisite bands of ever deepening turquoise blues and greens. 

The famous Heart Reef in the Great Barrier Reef – Photo supplied by Peppers