We recently spent 3 days at Airlie Beach in Tropical North Queensland, gateway to the Whitsundays. On this occasion we didn’t have to take the kids out of school because they have curriculum days on the Thursday and Friday before our Labour Day long weekend. While I can imagine its difficult for some, its actually pretty good for me!
I decided this would be a good opportunity for a snappy trip up north. I managed to get cheap flights with Tigerair. This made the trip from Melbourne very economical compared to the other airlines. The flights from Melbourne to Mackay were AUD$99 each way and 2 for 1, our flights in total were $760 including Tiger’s extortionate booking fees! That’s another blog post though, this was still cheaper than flying with the other domestic airlines.
I had noticed a number of families staying at hostels of late and thought that Airlie would be a good place to try it out. Having backpacked myself in the 90’s I am a big fan of hostels and the opportunities they provide. I was very keen to see how much they had changed.
I researched the area for hostels and was rather surprised by the amount located in the area. I decided that Nomad’s Airlie Beach on Shute Harbour Rd, was perfect for us given the location and price of the family room. The charge for a family room is $120AUD per night. This I thought was great value as all the apartments I looked at were well over $300AUD per night. Nomad’s is located on the main road of Airlie Beach, directly across the road from the Airlie Beach Lagoon.
We went to the lagoon for the afternoon on the day that we arrived and the kids loved it. The water is warm and the pool varies from shallow water to 1.8metres deep in some places. Its very safe for the kids to play and I noticed there were also lifeguards patrolling from different areas of the lagoon. The kids played with an Irish family that were on holiday from Brisbane. Funnily enough we ended up having dinner with them later that night.
The grounds of Nomad’s Airlie Beach backpackers was amazing. You enter through what looks like a shop front on the main road and head out the back and up a path that opens into an open garden area. The dorms are stand alone huts that contain the dorm and a bathroom and toilet housing up to 8 people in each dorm.
Backpacking has changed since I did it 21 years ago, those were the days of sending mum a postcard and the occasional call (reverse charges) from the public phone. These backpackers had laptops, iPhones, iPads and Nomad’s had wifi for $4 per day or $12 per week. I walked past one dorm and the girl was sitting on her bed Skyping/FaceTiming home! Wow have times changed!
The grounds of Nomad’s were great. They have a swimming pool with kids pool attached, camp kitchen and laundry, shed bar with happy hours and a big screen tied between a couple of palm trees for free movies in the evening. There was plenty of open space, the kids would play on the lawn while Craig and I had a couple of beers each night before dinner.
Nomad’s was very busy and apart from the dorms they also have powered sites for camper vans and tent sites. There were plenty of Juicy vans and other private camper vans. The clientele was mostly typical young backpackers but I also noticed a grey nomad couple that stayed one night in the room behind us. We were the only family there on this occasion.
The family room is very basic. No bells and whistles, just a set of bunks, a single bed against the wall and 2 single beds pushed together. The room had a flat screen TV on the wall with a bar fridge below. We had our own bathroom and toilet. The room was quite large and if I had one complaint it would be that a table and some chairs would be handy or even a bedside table. We spent very little time in the room but a table and chairs would have been handy.
I expected the rooms to be basic for what we paid and I was fine with that but unfortunately the bed were terrible. They were old metal beds and were very noisy every time you moved. They also sagged in the middle which was terribly uncomfortable. I woke every time I moved and every time Craig moved. That’s my only complaint. I was telling my mum about this when I got home and she told me that this had happened to her a few times when travelling and she takes the mattress of the bed and sleeps on the floor. Wish I had of thought of that as we had plenty of room and I would have been able to get a bit more sleep. Not the end of the world but a bit annoying nonetheless.
The bathrooms were very dated and could do with an update, although I don’t want to whinge too much about this as I was more than happy to even have our own bathroom and not have to take the kids to a shared bathroom and wait for showers. It does make a big difference when travelling with kids.
Interesting enough, I asked Craig on the way back to the airport if he would stay there again, I was thinking it was a good experience but we would stick to apartments going forward but he surprised me by saying yes he would return. He liked the grounds and the location and considering how much time we spent in the room he was more than happy with what was provided.
I too loved the grounds and it brought back memories of my days backpacking, the location was fantastic and we had no issues with security. I expected that the nights would be noisy with the backpackers doing there thing but this was also not the case. It was quiet at night and the kids slept really well, they were in bed each night at 9pm as it gets dark early up there with no day light savings like here in Melbourne. Yep I’d stay there again and this time I would put my mattress on the floor and sleep soundly! Strangely enough the kids loved the place, I think it was the laid back atmosphere.
Keira, my little tree hugging hippy, told me she’s going to backpack when she gets older – no surprises there!