Fifty years ago Airlie Beach was a sleepy little town tucked in between the hills and the sea but it has grown exponentially with the rise of tourism, building up the hills and back into the hinterland (map).
Most of the growth near the sea is holiday accommodation of various kinds and the result, from a distance, is strangely reminiscent of far older towns in Italy (e.g. Positano) and Greece. The tourist dominance continues in the main street (souvenirs, travel agents, food and drink, backpacker hostels).
A nicer result of the same focus is the ‘boardwalk’ which follows the water’s edge from the main beach all the way back to Cannonvale beach, winding past the marina and occasional resorts but running mainly through parks when it has to part from the beach. I kept my eyes open for wildlife of all kinds when we did the walk. There weren’t many insects (midwinter, of course) but the birds made up for that – seagulls, of course, an Australasian Darter drying his wings on a rock near the marina, Black Ducks and a mixed group feeding on flowering gums, paperbarks and palms in parkland:
Rainbow Lorikeets and a bird which may have been a Varied Honeyeater were also feeding in the palms.
We saw a Sulphur-crested Cockatoo in the flowering eucalypt nearby, and a Forest Kingfisher (very like the Red-backed Kingfisher I saw out West recently) perched on a power line to look out for prey; a small hawk, perhaps a Nankeen Kestrel, preferred a street light as her perch. We did occasionally look out to sea …
Another easy walk from the centre of town takes you into the hills, following Airlie Creek (only a trickle at this time of year) upstream through the rainforest to a small waterfall. Birds in the bush are almost invisible but I managed photographs of butterflies feeding on flowers in sunlit spots, and a few colourful plants (fig, bitter melon).