Longing to escape the everyday hustle and bustle of the city and sink your toes into some cool, soft sand? You could head off for a weekend at the usual favourites, Noosa or Byron Bay – but before you book there’s another pristine local destination you may want to consider. Airlie Beach is fast emerging as a luxury getaway alternative that won’t break the bank.

Once regarded as the exclusive domain of backpackers, Airlie Beach is growing up. The serene beachside town has transformed into an appealing luxury getaway to rival the Whitsunday Islands, with some exciting new developments on the horizon.

Image: Whitehaven Beach and Hill Inlet

Image: Whitehaven Beach and Hill Inlet

Easily accessible, Airlie Beach is just a 90-minute flight from Brisbane and is the perfect base to explore all the Whitsundays has to offer. Unlike the islands, all major attractions depart from Airlie Beach, so you’ll have access to a range of activities that suit your style and budget. From high octane adventure, exploring rainforests via Segway, to the barefoot luxury of sailing away toward Whitehaven Beach, the choice is yours.

Airlie Beach has redefined luxury escapes. No longer defined by formality, plush fabrics and gold taps; the new luxury is about experience and inspiring destinations. ‘Barefoot luxury’ is a term that conjures up white sandy beaches, turquoise seas, tropical weather and beautiful, natural surroundings.

With no schedules and no deadlines, barefoot luxury is the luxury of getting away from it all – and I headed to Airlie Beach on a mission to discover it.

Image: Lady Enid

Image: Lady Enid

It wasn’t long before I found that feeling of freedom and simplicity (without sacrificing comfort) onboard Lady Enid. Lady Enid recreates the classic age of yachting on an elegant timber 74ft Ketch.

Image: Lady Enid

Image: Lady Enid

We slipped off our shoes, boarded the beautiful vessel and met the other amiable guests and crew. The day of sailing is a relaxing experience; you’re treated to morning tea, a gourmet lunch and wine and cheese as you sail back at sunset.

Image: Lady Enid

Image: Lady Enid

You can do as little or as much as you like onboard; help set sails, take a turn at the helm or simply relax and daydream. We glided past whales frolicking in the ocean, our crew revealed points of interest and I almost forget about the destination. Yet our destination itself was pretty spectacular. We reached Whitehaven Beach and took a short hike up to the lookout to view the beautiful, swirling white sands and turquoise waters of Hill Inlet and then proceeded down to a quiet beach away from the crowds.

The sand feels different, it’s hard and easy to walk on near the shoreline and so soft up by the trees. The pristine beach consists of the purest silica sand in the world, which also means it’s cool to walk on despite the blazing sun. We felt like castaways, enjoying wandering the beach, the sand between our toes, without a care in the world.

Image: Lady Enid

Image: Lady Enid

Sailing on Lady Enid is ideal for couples, with a maximum of 24 passengers, you’ll have enough room to enjoy a peaceful day and find time to enjoy a quiet moment and reconnect with your loved one, or simply gaze at the ocean lost in your own thoughts.

Back at Port of Airlie the crew transferred us back to our accommodation. We we’re staying at the luxurious Mirage Whitsundays, an absolutely stunning resort overlooking the Coral Sea. It’s a sprawling development, opening in stages with a range of spacious one-, two- and three-bedroom villas available. Some villas even come with their own private plunge pool, and the extraordinary four-bedroom Penthouse has its very own lap pool.

Image: Mirage Whitsundays

Image: Mirage Whitsundays

Blissfully a few minutes out of town, the resort offers a complimentary shuttle bus service, or you can stroll to nearby Fat Frog Beach Café for your caffeine hit of Campos Coffee.

Image: Mirage Whitsundays pool view

Image: Mirage Whitsundays pool view

The resort boasts two pools and I wandered barefoot from my villa to the nearest pool and enjoyed an invigorating dip without being disturbed by other guests. Soon to open is an onsite fine dining restaurant, day spa and gym to complete the luxe facilities.

Airlie’s coming of age in the culinary stakes too. Enter Walter’s Lounge, which opened onto the Airlie Beach dining scene a little over 12 months ago. Primarily a cocktail bar, Walter’s Lounge has garnered a legion of fans with its inventive cuisine and top notch service. Take the decision making away and opt for the five-course tasting menu ($50) with matched wines (add $35) for unbeatable value and quality.

Image: Walter's Lounge

Image: Walter’s Lounge

Raising the bar further in the luxury stakes will be Heart Hotel & Gallery Whitsundays, set to open in September 2016. Heart Hotel will be a 40-room boutique hotel right in the heart of Airlie Beach, with a distinctive Queenslander-style façade and tropical luxe feel not seen before in the area. Guests will enjoy personalised, intuitive service, stylish restaurants and bars and a top floor gallery with monthly exhibitions by local Whitsunday artists.

With flights to Whitsunday Coast Airport starting from just $55 each way and affordable luxurious accommodation now available, a barefoot luxury getaway to Airlie Beach is within reach.

The writer was a guest of Mirage Whitsundays and Lady Enid.

Alluxia
alluxia.com

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