A row of 10 replica fishing boats, sitting high on a hill outside Airlie Beach, with sweeping views of the Coral Sea, provide some of the most unusual accommodation in the Whitsunday region. These boat “cabins” are complemented by three luxury suites – also with a nautical theme – in the main lodge building.
Freedom Shores is six miles or a 13-minute drive from the main Whitsundays centre of Airlie Beach, in a largely rural setting, with a prime position overlooking Pioneer Bay. The nearest airport is Whitsunday Coast at Proserpine, a 30-minute drive from the resort. A free shuttle bus to the town operates every hour from noon to 8pm, giving easy access to shops, restaurants and day tours.
This is a resort with a difference, where all the cabins are designed to look like small fishing boats. Their model is the original ‘real’ boat, a 60-year-old Denver, which has a slightly different configuration to the replicas (and a lower ceiling). The main attraction – although you can’t stay aboard her – is Shangri-La, the boat used by General MacArthur during the Battle of the Coral Sea in the Second World War, now used as the platform for a deck just perfect for drinks or breakfast. Even the palm trees tell a story; some came from the set of Pirates of the Caribbean, which was filmed nearby.
An open reception and lounge area spills onto a fenced 65ft-long pool that overlooks Pioneer Bay, across to Airlie Beach township and to the extensive landscaped grounds surrounding the resort. Guests can play cricket or volleyball, go fishing off the shore (or on a tour) or catch the shuttle bus to Airlie Beach. The resort is family-owned and service standards are high; the on-site manager is a registered butler with experience looking after prime ministers, royalty and film stars. Nothing is too much trouble.
Nautical and very nice. There’s the potential for the boats to be kitsch or twee, but décor is so tasteful that they escape that fate. The cabins – which carry names, not numbers – are compact but adequate, with queen-sized beds, a small fitted seat and a deck with table and two chairs on the foredeck. Clever design makes for surprises (such as the ironing board that folds into a drawer). Bathrooms have surprisingly roomy showers, and the lovely soap is handmade locally. The three suites are far more luxurious, with private patios (two with ocean views, one with a courtyard garden), double showers, king-sized beds, and large striking artworks of yachts.
A continental breakfast is served in the lounge, or for those who prefer a table and chairs, on the deck outside. It’s strong on local fresh fruit, with the usual cereals, juices, and pastries. A two-minute downhill walk brings you to the resort’s Northerlies Beach Bar & Grill, where the nautical theme continues with a striking bar made from the hull of another large fishing boat. Northerlies is right on the beachfront, with tables and casual seating right down to the sand. The menu is heavy on steaks but there’s also a ‘cold and raw’ bar with seafood and local fish; impressive seafood platters cost AUD $37 (£21) for 300 grams or AUD $72 (£41) for 650 grams.
Double rooms from AUD $249 (£141), year-round. Breakfast included. Free Wi-Fi.
There is one adapted room.
All three suites are interconnectable for families. Children are welcome, and there’s a bright collection of pool toys for their use. The restaurant has a childrens’ menu.