Coral Sea Resort, Airlie Beach, Queensland

THE PLACE

This classic Australian beach hotel was built during the tourist boom years of the 1970s, and grew in popularity and development throughout the 80s and 90s. With the best views in Airlie Beach, it is easy to understand why it was – and is – so popular. In 2019, some of its common areas looked a bit dated (the last renovation was in 2012), so it was time to teach this old dog some new tricks. The front desk and lobby now house an elegant marble front desk, and special attention has been paid to its beachfront pool, restaurant, and bar, replacing the tired old resort with a sleek, modern look. The marina next door, bought in 2013, is now also part of the booming resort.

THE LOCATION

Situated on the coast on a promontory jutting out to the left of Airlie Beach, the resort offers views across Airlie Bay and towards the Whitsundays. It’s a five-minute walk from the town of Airlie Beach, but if you came to Airlie Beach to soak up the sea, this is where you want to be.

SPACE

The hotel is made to take advantage of the magnificent setting of the Coral Sea. Passing through the reception and bar area, the spa and open-air restaurant are all positioned around the huge central pool, where guests float on black-and-white beanbags, drinks in hand. There are also plenty of places to perch on the palm-lined coast to watch the sunset. Settle down under matching black and white striped umbrellas, on the pretty man-made beach or on the lawn that attracts the sand squad. There’s even a private jetty and swing that begs for attention on Instagram (and guests are happy to oblige). Non-guests are also welcome, and day passes are available for the “Pool Club” at $25 per person which provides access to the pool and a popular “Poolside Sunday Session” with live DJ. direct.

BEDROOM

A lick of paint and new flooring have breathed new life into these rooms. With old-fashioned beach resort charm, bright and cozy rooms are spacious and include kitchenettes and retro furnishings (not part of the update). But the piece de resistance is the large balcony with hammock and spa tub, which sits just above the water as it straddles the pebble shores below. As a bonus, I receive a visit from the sulphur-crested cockatoos in the morning (who were perhaps expecting to share my breakfast on the balcony).

THE FOOD

I waste no time ordering room service to enjoy those sea views, and my breakfast is delivered promptly, two mornings in a row. I order sourdough toast with avocado, feta and tomato with a soy flat white. I venture to the new restaurant, “The Rocks”, which overlooks the pool and the sea, for dinner. The smoked salmon with a red pepper salsa and the seared fish with spinach and shrimp are as good as the sight. The staff are also warm and friendly which tops off a great meal.

GET OUT OF

Although Coral Sea isn’t central, as such — the town of Airlie Beach is a five-minute walk away — and there’s an abundance of restaurants and bars to choose from. The group’s choice is La Tabella Trattoria for Italian cuisine, and vine fish is popular for seafood. On the west side of the hotel is their swanky new marina; there are unique day trips to the islands from here to lure visitors off the beaten track. Whitsunday Paradise Explorer offers new trips that explore the region through the eyes of the Ngaro people, the traditional owners of the land. The trip includes ancient rock paintings and ceremonies, as well as exploring coves, beaches, and rainforests that most boats cannot access. whitsundayparadiseexplorer.com

THE VERDICT

With spacious rooms, a huge inviting pool and great vibe, plus stunning views of the Whitsunday coastline, this charming resort is irresistible.

THE ESSENTIALS

Rooms from $295 a night. 25 Ocean View Ave, Airlie Beach, Queensland, tel. : (07) 4964 1300; coralsearesort.com

HIGHLIGHT

It’s easy to spend a few hours on the bedroom balcony from the hammock. This is also easily done from the beanbags by the pool.

LOW LIGHT

I’m apparently in the only room that doesn’t have a phone to call room service. I have to use my cell phone to call reception who hangs up.

The writer was a guest of Tourism & Events Queensland

About Michael B. Billingsley

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