The journey from Proserpine to Airlie Beach is full packed with anticipation as you leave cattle and grazing country and arrive at the gateway to 74 Whitsunday islands. This relatively small drive is just under 50km and easily completed in half a day, so take your time and savour the contrasting countryside in which you find yourself. Along the way, you’ll experience nature, beaches, flora and fauna and national parks.
Proserpine boasts a long tradition of cattle grazing and sugar cane production dating back to the late 1800s. And while the town today is home to many modern buildings, including a hospital, library and sporting facilities, a drive down the Main Street will remind you of its history with art deco captured and preserved in shop architecture. You’ll find all the hallmarks of regional Queensland in quaint boutiques and country-style hotels. Pause at the pleasant picnic grounds at Pioneer Park near the town entrance, and check out Mill Street Park as well as the Cultural Centre.
Journey along Saltwater Creek Road towards Cedar Creek Falls whose waterfalls spring to life during the wet season. Whatever the season, you’re in luck here as there’s also a year-round natural swimming pool at the base of the falls. This is set in a spectacular location in a natural rock amphitheatre. Admire the flora and fauna at Cedar Creek, which is flush with strangler figs, red and white cedars and wild orchids. Bushwalkers will enjoy the tracks around these parts and can admire majestic Alexandra Palms, which line the creek, which eventually leads to the ocean.
More adventurous hikers should take the drive to the rugged Conway Range and the Conway State Forest, where you can partake in the Whitsunday Great Walk, which is also known as the Conway Circuit. Peppered with lowland tropical rainforest remnants and pretty rocky creeks, this is considered a stunning walk. View evidence of millions of years of volcanic activity, which has created this rugged landscape and the Whitsunday Islands themselves. For those who adore the trademarks of the tropics, a walk here may reward you with the blue flash of the incredible Ulysses butterfly after the rain, or in summer, the sweet scent of lemon myrtle flowers.
Continue your drive by following the signs to Cannonvale, renowned for its sheltered beach, which is ideal for families. You’ll find children’s play areas, public barbecues and waterfront picnic spots here, and plenty of rock pools to explore at low tide. And there’s another spot for walkers with the Botanic Gardens situated alongside the beach at the end of the Bicentennial Walkway and Boardwalk.
Over the rise, Airlie Beach is just a few kilometres away. One of the highlights of this pretty destination overlooking the Coral Sea and beyond to the Whitsunday islands is the Airlie Beach Lagoon. On a tropical day, nothing quite beats a splash in this large manmade body of water, flush with grassy knolls and plenty of shade.
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