The Bruce Highway leads south from Cairns or north from Brisbane to Proserpine, 26 km (16 miles) inland from Airlie Beach. Take the Whitsunday turnoff to reach Airlie Beach and Shute Harbour. Allow a good 8 hours to drive from Cairns. There are several car-storage facilities at Shute Harbour when you want to go to the islands.
There are two air routes into the Whitsundays: Great Barrier Reef Airport on Hamilton Island and Whitsunday Coast Airport at Proserpine on the mainland. QantasLink ( tel. 13 13 13 in Australia; www.qantas.com.au) flies direct to Hamilton Island from Cairns and Sydney. Virgin Australia ( tel. 13 67 89 in Australia; www.virginaustralia.com) flies to Proserpine direct from Brisbane, with connections from other capitals, and direct from Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney to Hamilton Island. Jetstar ( tel. 13 15 38 in Australia; www.jetstar.com.au) flies from Brisbane to Proserpine and from Brisbane and Melbourne to Hamilton Island. If you stay on an island, the resort may book your launch transfers automatically. These may appear on your airline ticket, in which case your luggage will be checked through to the island.
Several Queensland Rail (tel. 1300 131 722 in Australia); www.queenslandrail.com.au) long-distance trains stop at Proserpine every week. The one-way fare from Brisbane on the Spirit of Queensland is A$173 for a seat or A$312 for a railbed, or you can book a sleeper on the Sunlander for A$226or in the luxury all-inclusive Queenslander Class for A$755. There is a bus link to Airlie Beach for A$17.
Greyhound Australia ( tel. 1300/473 946 in Australia; www.greyhound.com.au) operates plentiful daily services to Airlie Beach from Brisbane (trip time: around 18 hr.) and Cairns (trip time: 11 hr.). The fare is A$230 from Brisbane and A$93 from Cairns.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.