Whitsunday luxe: The former backpacker haven set to be bigger than Byron Bay

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Airlie Beach in The Whitsundays.

THERE is a new contender for Byron Bay’s holiday destination crown, but while you can expect barefoot luxury in Airlie Beach — forget pretentiousness.

Private chefs, champagne on arrival, a VIP concierge and super yachts at your disposal are some of the standards you can expect when renting one of the luxe properties luring the rich and famous to the once sleepy town.

No longer just a haven for backpackers on a budget, Airlie Beach has an emerging luxury rental market catering for a new clientele arriving on their $50 million boats.

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And with rental yields in some surrounding suburbs as high as 12.5 per cent, it’s easy to see why investors are also returning.

An aerial shot of Airlie Beach. Picture: Tourism Whitsundays.

As the town springs back to life in the wake of Cyclone Debbie, luxury properties along the pristine shores of the Whitsundays are surging into the sights of cashed-up local and interstate buyers.

But unlike the flashiness that can be found on the surrounding islands, the newcomers flocking to Airlie Beach prefer to keep a low profile and get around in singlets and thongs.

It’s easy to hire a yacht when you rent a luxury holiday home in The Whitsundays.

New high-end residential estates like ‘The Cove’ on the marina at Airlie Beach houses luxury homes in the $1.5m+ million range, with a three-bedder on the water renting for around $700 a night.

Ray White Whitsunday principal and director Mark Beale said the luxury rental market in Airlie Beach did not exist a few years ago.

“You had to go to Hamilton Island, Noosa or Port Douglas,” Mr Beale said.

The view from the deck on the holiday house at 14 The Cove, Airlie Beach. Photo: Elizabeth Tilley

But Mr Beale said high-end buyers and savvy investors were returning to the market because of the value offer and the upswing in economic activity.

“Airlie is changing,” he said.

“We will see more high-end buyers come to the Whitsundays and we will see more larger boats, in particular super yachts.

“High-end buyers love the anonymity of Airlie Beach. They can wear thongs, shorts and a singlet and no one cares. They can easily fly in with or without their friends, stay at their luxury property and go out on their boats for the day around the islands and reef.”

The Cove, at the Port of Airlie, Airlie Beach.

Mr Beale said there had been an increase in people working in the mining industry investing in the area since the pick up in the resources sector.

“Why live in Mackay, Rocky or Townsville when you can live here and get a near-new house for $400,000?” he said.

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“With mining picking up we will see more mining families choose to live here while one partner commutes to work.”

Ray White Whitsunday manages nearly 1000 residential and commercial rental properties and the number of high end holiday bookings is increasing dramatically.

The Cove, at the Port of Airlie, Airlie Beach when the land was first released.

Reservations for some of the most luxurious properties, such as Mandalay House and Aqua, include a personal greeting, champagne on arrival and access to a VIP concierge, who can round up a helicopter, private jet, yacht or jet ski at your command.

Also at your disposal are private chefs, butlers, drivers, bespoke spa treatments, nannies, personal trainers and wait staff.

It comes as Airlie Beach finally emerges from the devastation caused by Cyclone Debbie two-and-a-half years ago.

Aqua in Airlie Beach can be rented for about $15,000 a night.

The foreshore has just reopened and restaurants that had been closed since are now back in business, such as the newly renovated Airlie Beach Hotel and ‘The Pub’ restaurant, which is packed even on weeknights.

The restaurant Northerlies recently opened a new steakhouse to cater for increasing demand, with meals ranging from $16 for a burger to $89 for a wagyu steak.

And the recent reopening of Hayman Island resort and Daydream Island are also luring tourists back to the Whitsundays.

Mr Beale said he had settled $16 million worth of residential property in July, with houses “going gangbusters”.

He said that while Airlie Beach was often compared to Noosa or Byron Bay, he believed Airlie was going to be even better as it matured into a more sophisticated destination. “We have better waterways, easy flights, more secluded islands and beaches with total privacy, we have amazing newly renovated island resorts at our fingertips and we don’t have the masses of crowds of people these other places have,” Mr Beale said.

“And don’t forget the Great Barrier Reef right on our doorstep!!”

The Airlie Beach foreshore has reopened after being devastated by Cyclone Debbie. Photo: Elizabeth Tilley

Kevin Collins, who owns the local institution Fish D’Vine, said Cyclone Debbie was the best and worst thing that could have happened to the town that he describes as “the little Monaco of north Queensland”.

“At the time, we thought it was the end of the world, but the best thing that ever happened to this town was that cyclone,” Mr Collins said.

“Our biggest customer became the insurance industry.

“Everything’s fresh and new and clean… there’s a real buzz.”

Mr Collins said income from his Chinese customer base had increased from $50,000 to $1 million in the past five years.

The bar at Northerlies restaurant in Airlie Beach. Photo: Elizabeth Tilley

LUXURY HOMES FOR RENT IN THE WHITSUNDAYS

1. Mandalay Aqua, Airlie Beach

Nightly rent: About $15,000

Just a 15 minute drive from Airlie Beach is Mandalay Aqua — a holiday home more akin to a luxury private resort.

The infinity-edge pool is one of the largest private pools in Australia at 40m long, and comes complete with swim-up bar and private sandy beach.

Aqua is a luxury holiday home in the Whitsundays.

The house itself has four bedrooms and four bathrooms plus a large guesthouse.

There’s also a private marina to moor your boat, a helipad for an easy flight in and a Teppanyaki pavilion for your private chef.

Enjoy the magnificent views of the Coral Sea while working out in a fully-fitted gym.

The property recently sold to a private company associated with the owners of Central Cleaning Supplies for about $13 million.

Aqua in the Whitsundays can be rented out.

2. Villa Botanica, 119B Botanica Dr, Woodwark

Nightly rent:

This stunning property sold before auction for just over $7 million last year.

It can be rented out as a glamorous private residence or hired for use as a wedding and event venue.

Set on a 2.2ha lot, with 160 metres of Coral Sea frontage, Botanica has a rooftop balcony fit for hosting decadent parties, landscaped gardens, and an in-ground pool that seems to rise from the rocks.

Villa Botanica sold for just over $7m in 2018 and can be hired as a luxury holiday home.

The view from one of the bedrooms in Villa Botanica.

3. 14 The Cove, Airlie Beach

Nightly rent: From $700

This holiday home at The Cove in Airlie Beach is a three-bedroom, three-bathroom house on the marina boasting stunning views of the marina and beyond.

Featuring wall to ceiling glass, a large timber deck and a pool, the waterfront home is in a new residential estate at the Port of Airlie.

The Cove, at the Port of Airlie, Airlie Beach.

Designed by the architect behind Qualia resort on Hamilton Island, the house is a family home with top quality finishes.

4. Nautilus on the Hill, Airlie Beach

Nightly rate: $675

Nautilus on the Hill is a five-bedroom, three-bathroom luxury holiday home that sleeps 10 guests.

A five minute walk to the main street of Airlie Beach, the property has a private pool and 180 degree views of the Coral Sea and the Whitsunday Islands.

The view from Nautilus on the Hill in Airlie Beach, which is a luxury holiday rental.

BEST PERFORMING WHITSUNDAY SUBURBS FOR HOUSES AND UNITS

Suburb Property type Median sale price 3mth change 12mth change Rental yield

Collinsville House $100,000 14.9% n.a. 12.5%

Jubilee Pocket Unit $181,000 0.6% 26.6% 9.8%

Bowen House $280,000 8.2% 5.7% 5.6%

Jubilee Pocket House $405,250 -0.6% 5.3% 5.8%

Cannon Valley House $555,000 12.0% 0.9% n.a.

Airlie Beach Unit $335,000 3.1% 0.0% 6.7%

Cannonvale House $432,500 -3.4% -2.3% 6.0%

Proserpine House $277,500 0.0% -4.3% 6.6%

Airlie Beach House $625,000 -3.8% -7.4% n.a.

Bowen Unit $179,000 -13.9% -8.2% 8.7%

Cannonvale Unit $210,000 0.0% -8.7% 8.7%

(Source: CoreLogic)

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