Airlie Beach is a small beachside town with a big village atmosphere and the perfect spot for families to access the extraordinary Whitsunday Islands and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. And, we’re happy to report that, despite Cyclone Debbie’s tempestuous tantrum, it is a patch of paradise that is as beautiful and welcoming as ever, as we discovered during our recent stay at Manta Club Croc Airlie Beach.
During our visit, some accommodation was still under reconstruction, but the recently refurbished Mantra Club Croc was back in business just days after the cyclone as the unofficial recovery base for emergency crews. Now, just a few months since the storm the resort is providing an idyllic haven for holidaymakers like us eager to soak up some of that incomparable Whitsunday Magic.
An idyllic gateway to Airlie Beach and island adventures, the family friendly resort is conveniently positioned on Shute Harbour Road, just a few minutes’ walk from the Whitsunday Shopping mall, dozens of fantastic restaurants, tour operators and the Abell Point Marina, something we certainly took advantage of, at least when I could drag the kids away from the resort.
Our interconnecting rooms provided stylish and extremely spacious accommodation with a huge king bed in my room and twin beds in the kids.
Which naturally, the kids had to do their usual, leap, jump and fight over.
But the feature the kids loved best was that our room was right alongside an incredible lagoon style pool and spa, the lure of which proved too much temptation for my water babies who spent just about every spare moment in it.
Well, except for when Raffles’ stomach started rumbling, and we dripped our way into the Club Croc Bistro.
Here my wee walking stomach gobbled down a platter of delicious tacos done three ways and moreish popcorn prawns while Sugarpuff fawned over the chicken wings from the children’s menu.
The bistro provides the location for breakfast too, and the kids were more than happy to enjoy the hot and cold buffet offerings overlooking the pool.
Mind you, we were barely hungry after receiving a delivery of a fully loaded fruit platter and a trio of flavoured popcorn cones as an arrival gift.
While we all happily munched on the juicy tropical fruits, the Cinnamon, Sesame and Curry flavoured popcorns were devoured by the kids when we all piled in to bed together to watch Fantastic Mr Fox on the 50 inch TV in my room.
If you can drag yourself away form the plentiful pleasures of Manta Club Croc, including its delightful garden, there is more fun, and plenty more tasty treats, to be found nearby.
We were able to wander just across the road to enjoy fine dining at the stunning new Hemmingway’s at Abell Marina. And Airlie Beach’s main street and a proliferation of awesome eating was just minute’s drive away.
And whether you plan on heading out to the reef and islands, or staying and playing nearby, there’s plenty of fun to be found in and around Airlie Beach. One of the best ways to see it all is by tuk tuk with Just Tuk’n Around, who took us to see some of the local’s secret spots (we can’t say where, or they won’t remain secret for long).
If it is fun in the sand and sea you seek Airlie delivers with plenty of safe swimming beaches, pools and parks, including the fabulous Airlie Beach Lagoon, a sprawling children’s pool at one end and stinger-free beach area patrolled by life guards (the Lagoon is temporarily closed due to damage caused by Tropical Cyclone Debbie but is expected to re-open in late August). If you’re after a little more adventure, try kayaking or stand-up paddle boarding at Shingley Beach or Lagoon Beach. And should you be in town on a Saturday, Airlie Beach Markets is a great place to bag a beach bargain and it is a scientifically proven fact that the fresh mango sorbet is irresistible. OK. so I can’t back that up with actual science, but our little test group was unanimous.
If you’re prepared to travel a little further afield, a 20 minute drive from the resort is the pretty Cedar Creek Falls, a natural waterfall and swimming hole set amid lush tropical rain forest, and just a little bit further on, stunning Conway Beach. This was my kids’ favourite, though not for swimming, more because the beach quite literally came alive as thousands of tiny spider-like crabs rushed about in swarms, before disappearing back into the sand, something they were still talking excitedly about when it was time to snuggle in for another “night at the movies” back at Manta Club Croc.
Disclosure: The Eats Worlds were guests of Tourism and Events Queensland but as always, all opinions, poolside frolicking and extreme sorbet gobbling are our own.