In theory, a day spent in Airlie Beach, the gateway to the Whitsunday Islands, could be as cheap as a bottle of SPF 50+ and an icecream, but there's more to this town than the beach.

Start the day right. Hit the Bicentennial Boardwalk for a gentle wander to Cannonvale Beach. It's an easy (mainly flat) 7km return walk, with stunning views of the coral-filled sea and Whitsunday Islands along the way. On Saturdays, there's a beach-front market to check out.

When you get to Cannonvale, drop into the popular Fat Frog Beach Cafe, for breakfast with some of the best coffee in town, a gentle sea breeze and more amazing views. $20

The buzzy town of Airlie Beach. Photo / Tourism and Events Queensland
The buzzy town of Airlie Beach. Photo / Tourism and Events Queensland

After you've wandered back to Airlie Beach along the boardwalk, cool off (the year-round, average temperature in the Whitsundays is a balmy 27C), in the Airlie Beach Lagoon. The self-chlorinating lagoon is perfect if you want to get in some laps with the separate swimming lanes, or just a refreshing dip. The best bit - entrance is free.

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If you don't want to take advantage of the barbecues dotted around the lagoon, head to the Whitsunday Sailing Club, where the views are to die for (yes, everywhere around Airlie Beach has great vistas) and you can grab lunch with a cheeky spritzer for $35.

Get out on the water - but hopefully not in it, as you explore the coastline atop a stand-up paddle board. You can rent one from Whitsunday Stand Up Paddle and Kayak for $30 an hour.

The coral banks, reef systems and structures of the Great Barrier Reef. Photo / EyesWideOpen, Getty Images
The coral banks, reef systems and structures of the Great Barrier Reef. Photo / EyesWideOpen, Getty Images

It's been a busy day, so put your feet up and enjoy a stunning Queensland sunset on a Sundowner Cruise. For a (yes hefty) $65, you'll be whisked around Pioneer Bay, checking out the shipwreck at Cannonvale Beach and the namesakes at Turtle Bay, as the day fades away. Lasting about two hours, you get a glass of bubbles and nibbles as well.

It's time for dinner, and if you want the best seafood, an oceanside town such as Airlie Beach is the perfect place to find it. The menu at Fish D'Vine & the Rum Bar is full of fresh bounty, and mains, including an Ocean Basket chocka full of seafood delights, are around $30. Pop in for an after-dinner treat at their rum bar, featuring more than 100 different varieties. Cocktails start at $9.90.

If you can squeeze it in, head to the Cold Rock Ice Creamery for a classic treat with a twist (flavours change regularly, but have included lamington, cheesecake and cookie dough with potato chips and start from $6.50). Get it to go, and head down to the beach for a priceless moonlight stroll!

Total: $196.40

GETTING THERE
Fly from Auckland to Proserpine, via Brisbane, with Air New Zealand, Qantas, Jetstar or Virgin Australia.

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DETAILS
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