This classic Aussie beach hotel was built during the booming tourism years of the 1970s, grew in popularity and expanded throughout the 80s and 90s. With the best views in Airlie Beach, it's easy to see why it was - and is - so popular. By 2019, some of its common areas were looking a little dated (the last refurbishment was in 2012), so it was time to teach this old dog new tricks. The reception and lobby now hold a smart marble front desk, and serious attention has been paid to its seafront pool, restaurant and bar area, replacing the tired old sea resort feel with a smart, modern look. The marina next door, bought in 2013, is now also part of the burgeoning resort.
Set on the coast on a headland that juts out to the left of Airlie Beach, the resort has views across Airlie Bay and towards the Whitsundays. It's a five-minute walk from Airlie Beach town, but if you've come to Airlie Beach to soak up the sea, then this is where you want to be.
The hotel is made for capitalising on the magnificent Coral Sea setting. Pass through reception and the bar, spa and open-air restaurant are all positioned around the huge central pool, where guests float around on black-and-white bean bags, drinks in hand. There are also plenty of spots to perch among the palm-tree lined coast to watch the sun set. Settle under matching black-and-white striped umbrellas, on the cute man-made beach, or the lawn that lures the anti-sand brigade. There's even a private jetty and a swing begging 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 a person which gives access to the pool and a popular "Poolside Sunday Session" with a live DJ.
A lick of paint and some new flooring have given these rooms a new lease on life. With an old-school beach resort charm, the light and comfortable rooms are spacious and include a kitchenette and retro furnishings (not part of the update). But the piece de resistance is the large balcony complete with hammock and spa bath, which sits right over the water as it laps the pebbly shores underneath. As a bonus I'm visited by sulphur-crested cockatoos in the morning (who may have been expecting to share my breakfast on the balcony).
I waste no time ordering room service to capitalise on those sea views, and my breakfast is delivered promptly, two mornings running. I order sourdough toast with avocado, feta and tomato with a soy flat white. I venture down to the new restaurant, "The Rocks", which overlooks the pool and sea, for dinner. Cured salmon with a red pepper salsa and panfried fish with spinach and prawns are as enjoyable as the views. The staff are also warm and friendly which caps off a great meal.
While Coral Sea is not central, as such - Airlie Beach town is a five-minute walk away - and there's an abundance of restaurants and bars to choose from. The pick of the bunch is La Tabella Trattoria for Italian cuisine, and Fish D'vine is popular for seafood. To the hotel's western side is their swanky new marina; there are some unique day trips out 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 takes in ancient rock paintings and ceremonies, as well as exploring inlets, beaches and rainforest most boats can't access. whitsundayparadiseexplorer.com
With spacious rooms, a huge inviting pool and great atmosphere, plus unparalleled views of the Whitsunday coast, this charming seaside resort is irresistible.
Rooms from $295 per night. 25 Ocean View Ave, Airlie Beach, Queensland, Ph: (07) 4964 1300; coralsearesort.com
It is easy to while away a few hours on the room's balcony from the hammock. This is also easily done from the bean bags in the pool.
I am apparently in the only room that is not equipped with a telephone to call room service. I have to use my mobile to call reception who hook me up.
The writer was a guest of Tourism & Events Queensland