Airlie Beach seems like a small, easy-to-find-your-way-around-kind-of-town on the map, but in all reality it’s a humming tourist mecca selling suncream, island trips, over-priced surfwear and backpacker drink ‘n’ dine deals.

It also appears to be endlessly extending the now bursting-from-its-seams town boundary – its starting to resemble a cross between Byron Bay and Noosa with the posh digs going up on every corner, hill and paddock.

That said there’s one Airlie Beach treasures that I’m delighted to reacquaint myself with after a 10 year gap between stops.

Lea’s Book Exchange has provided a welcome budget word-nerd fix for me on several sailing trips up this way.



Kindle is dead to me. I want musty, crinkly pages between my fingers as I contemplate their journey to this part of the world. I want to sink into the floor next to heaving book-cases and hang with my friends.


I settle for a bag of authors who make me sigh – Carol Shields, Bill Bryson, Michael Oonadatje – my Squids may not get fed, but hey their mum will be sustained!


We are fortunate enough to arrive in town in time for the Whitsundays Reef Festival.


We take in the Reef Festival night market, pumping music from the town stage and festival fireworks. Just for the record Miss Squid does NOT like fireworks, We know that now.

We’re happy to retreat back to the Airlie Beach Big 4 Caravan Parkand contemplate the map for the next leg of the trip with some new-found mates Bart and Ange and their kids camping next to us. Coincidentally living not all that far up the road from us back home, and that have an equally big map to conquer. This is not the last time we will meet up and compare navigational charts.


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