Think Whitsundays and you think sunshine and luxury. You can now also think budget, because this place is fantastic!
Airlie Beach on Queensland's coast is the gateway to the Whitsundays in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef. The vibrant area has 74 tropical islands rising from turquoise waters which offer every imaginable form of tropical activity. Seventy percent of the region is protected National and Marine Park, ensuring pristine waters and excellent underwater viewing.
Sunny year-round, the reef protects the islands from ocean swells, so both above-water and underwater activities are comfortable.
Airlie offers a range of accommodation. Backpackers by the Bay is one which stands out. Just five minutes from the centre of town, the locally owned and operated hostel is smaller and more intimate than most others. It sleeps up to 70, is rated four-star and has won local tourism awards. It offers uninterrupted views of Boathaven Bay and has a saltwater pool surrounded by palms, hammocks and sun lounges. Most people prefer to swim in the hostel pool or the man-made lagoon in the centre of town as the bay can have stingers.
You can book tours at the hostel and the only daunting thing about that is the variety: diving, cruising, snorkelling, fishing charters, seaplaning, an inter-island water taxi and helicopter tours. You can go sky diving, parasailing, visit a wildlife park or go quad biking.
The hotel holds trivia and quiz nights, a great way of making new friends. There is a small bar where stories are swapped, a self-catering kitchen with tea and coffee and all the equipment you could possibly need, as well as an undercover barbecue. Cook up a feast and dine while overlooking the Coral Sea and islands. Bathroom facilities are shared and there is a fully equipped laundry. The lounge/television room has the latest film releases, comfortable couches, a pool table, Internet access, fax and telephone for incoming calls.
Rooms are serviced each day. Backpackers by the Bay prides itself on cleanliness, friendliness, quality and affordability. They provide a courtesy bus to meet coaches between 6am and 8pm.
They offer four-share dormitory rooms which have bunk-beds and twin and double rooms which are private hotel-style rooms. All are air-conditioned in hot months.