Monday, May 19, 2014

Australia September 2013 - Base Airlie Beach Resort & Exploring Airlie Beach

***This post is part 13 of a full trip report. The index can be found here***

I booked two non-consecutive nights at the Base Airlie Beach Resort, one prior to the Whitsunday Islands sailing tour, and one after. The term "resort" is used very loosely here, as Base is a well-known backpackers hostel found throughout Australia and New Zealand. By making my reservations through TopCashBack and HotelClub, I was able to earn a fairly hefty rebate and cashback.

Base Airlie Beach Resort has mediocre reviews on TripAdvisor, but I think when it comes to hostels, it's very important to set your expectations accordingly. Some people complain about the slow service, dated amenities, and dirty rooms, but you have to remember that you're booking a bed at a hostel, not a suite at the Four Seasons (or even a Motel 6, for that matter)!

For the first night, I decided to go with a 5-bed shared dorm ensuite, and the total price was a reasonable $24.91. I took the Whitsunday Transit Shuttle from Prosperpine, which dropped me off just across the street from Base in the late afternoon. The location of the hostel was perfect, right in the middle of central Airlie Beach on Shute Harbour Road, the main artery in town.

Shute Harbour Road

Base Airlie Beach Resort

The reception area was small but utilitarian. Check-in is notoriously slow here, mainly because guests often have numerous questions regarding the property, and they tend to book their Whitsunday Islands tour with the hostel as well. There is also a plethora of add-ons, such as $4 AUD for 24-hours of WiFi, $5 AUD for a continental breakfast, and $6 AUD for luggage storage.

Coin-operated washer and dryer units are available on site, which I appreciated after almost two weeks of travel. As with most hostels, there is a shared kitchen where guests can prepare their own meals. I decided to eat out for both nights, so I can't comment on how functional the cooking facilities were.

The property is expansive, and there is actually much more open space than there are buildings. Behind the reception is a large parking lot for campervan site rentals, and closer to the center of the resort is a decent-sized pool with plenty of lounge chairs. I suppose this is where the term "resort" comes from. Surrounding the pool are the shared dorms and private rooms, grouped together as four-unit buildings.

Base Airlie Beach Resort property


Shared dorms and private rooms

My shared dorm on the lower level

When I entered the room, I was a bit bummed to find most of the beds already occupied. The only two open spaces left were top bunks, which I typically dislike due to the added discomfort of climbing up and down. Also strange was the fact that they had put me in a room with three other girls. I didn't have a problem with this, although I imagine it must have been a little disheartening for them when I sauntered in. The hostel does have girls-only dorm rooms for an added cost.

The kitchenette was nice, but not very useful. There was no stove or microwave, so you really only had the option of storing food in the small refrigerator. Having another sink besides the one in the bathroom was convenient though, especially when multiple people were getting ready in the morning.

5-bed shared dorm ensuite

Single bed


The bathroom was very spacious, although I wouldn't say it was modern or even clean by any stretch of the imagination. Like I mentioned before, this is to be expected of a dorm room in a mid-range hostel. In fact, I was quite happy with the ensuite, as similar properties typically feature bathrooms shared among many more rooms and guests.

The bathtub was huge, but I wouldn't recommend enjoying a soak in there for sanitary reasons. Also, as a courtesy to other guests, you probably shouldn't be spending an hour in the shared bathroom. Shower pressure was excellent, and there was never a shortage of hot water. Leaky faucets appear to be a common problem at the hostel, and they don't seem to be at the top of the to-fix list.

Shared bathroom

Large bathtub and shower

Airlie Beach isn't known to be a tourist destination in and of itself; it mainly serves as a hub for excursions out to the Whitsunday Islands and Outer Great Barrier Reef. Years ago, the town was a haven for backpackers, but large resorts and hotels have since moved in, and it now caters to just about every type of traveler. Remnants of the backpacker culture are still prevalent, however, as loud bars filled with young tourists begin to come alive just after sundown.

After settling in, I took a nice stroll down Shute Harbour Road to the Whitsunday Sailing Adventures office and got checked in for the Kiana tour. Along the way, I stopped at a small market to pick up some water and snacks. There are plenty of takeaway stalls and downmarket restaurants serving pub-style food in town, and while the quality may not be high, prices are extremely reasonable.

Shute Harbour Road

Whitsunday Sailing Adventures office

After returning from the three-day Whitsunday Islands tour, I spent a few hours in the afternoon strolling the recently renovated seaside boardwalk. This is a very convenient way to take in the beautiful coastline of Airlie Beach. Despite its name, there are actually very few beaches in town, and none that are nearly as breathtaking as Whitehaven Beach.

Even if you would like to take a dip in the ocean, the presence of jellyfish means that stinger suits are required from October to May. Luckily, there is a fairly nice man-made lagoon along the waterfront that is perfect for swimming and relaxing. Lifeguards are on duty during the day, and on Saturday mornings, there is even a farmers market nearby featuring local products.

Seaside boardwalk

Airlie Beach lagoon

When I returned to the Base Airlie Beach Resort, I picked up my stored backpack and got checked in again for my final night in town. I knew I would be exhausted and in need of some alone time after three days aboard a cramped sailboat, so I went ahead and reserved a private room beforehand. The cost was much higher ($80.10 for one night), but I felt the added privacy and comfort were worth it.

The layout of the private room was identical to my previous stay, except with the addition of a large queen bed. This room was noticeably cleaner and in better condition than the shared dorm, and it even had a few extra features such as a TV, an electric hot water dispenser, toiletries, and clean towels.

Private room on the upper floor

Private Deluxe Queen Ensuite

Comfortable clean bed



Bathtub and shower

The last evening was mostly spent relaxing in the room and doing laundry. For dinner, I decided to venture out again in search of something quick and simple. While walking along Airlie Esplanade, I noticed a popular fish and chips place called Whitsunday Seafood Bar with a small crowd of people waiting inside. You could choose from a selection of locally-caught fish, and prices were incredibly reasonable. Afterwards, I returned to the Base Airlie Beach Resort and crashed early in preparation for a very early start the next day.

Whitsunday Seafood Bar

Delicious fish and chips

No comments:

Post a Comment