Escaping a wintery Melbourne for sunny Airlie Beach is a real treat. My first view of the beach, azure sea and islands is from a corner room at Airlie Beach Hotel. Later I enjoy a drink with a picture-perfect sunset on the jetty at Coral Sea Resort, an unforgettable experience. A seafood starter at Sidewalk Café is a great introduction to the buzzy town, followed by piping fresh fish risotto at stalwart Fish D’Vine.

I spend 36 hours in the bracing fresh sea air, travelling with Cruise Whitsundays to the outer Hardy Reef. A trip in the submersible boat, followed by a snorkel through the marine wonderland of the Great Barrier Reef is one of those things that everyone should do. Sleeping in a swag on top of the pontoon at Reef World feels like a close encounter with nature.

Dinner at Tides restaurant shows again the sophisticated dining options at Airlie Beach. I stay overnight in Mediterranean-style Coral Sea Resort and breakfast at dreamy Clippers overlooking the sparkling ocean.

Jen Sturgess of Airlie Beach Transfers & Tours is a mine of information about the region. It’s lovely to go off the beaten track to Hydeaway Bay and lunch at Montes on another balmy day.

My last night is at Marina Shores, another place that captures the great views outside. A handy breakfast from Whitsundays Provisioning means I’m out early on the Bicentennial Walk for a last stroll and coffee at the Fat Frog at Cannonvale before finishing my trip.

Check out the video of my trip: