Parking in Airlie Beach is an impossible game of musical chairs. Only 47 limited time parking spaces available in the main street, Shute Harbour Road, by my count. The rest are driveways, bus stops, taxi ranks, loading zones and no standing areas.
Every piece of traffic going anywhere in the Whitsundays has to pass through Shute Harbour Road. It is the only road between Proserpine and Shute Harbour, and passes through every town in the Whitsundays. No wonder the formerly small fishing town of Airlie Beach now has a rush hour!
The one lane each way Shute Harbour Road between Airlie Beach and the main ferry port at Shute Harbour has bends, steep hills and unprotected roadside hazards. The 100 kph speed limit is absurd. On Sunday 6 April 2008 a motorcyclist was killed when he failed to take a curve. Just the next day, RACQ issued a long awaited report saying the Proserpine to Shute Harbour Road was one of the most dangerous in the state, and in need of urgent upgrading. Shute Harbour Road was given only a two star safety rating.
Residents in Flametree have called the Department of Main Roads for lower speed limits and improved roadside safety. Road alignment is often terrible, the shoulder width is absolutely minimal, with no place to pull off for considerable lengths of the road. There are also unprotected roadside hazards, like drainage ditches.
Free parking has almost totally disappeared from the Airlie Beach CBD.
There is a paid Whitsunday Regional Council parking area at the western end of Airlie Beach, by the Lagoon. There is another paid Whitsunday Regional Council parking area mid town, the Airlie Creek Parking Area, at the eastern end of the Lagoon, alongside Airlie Creek. Airlie Creek is usually the source of floods in Airlie Beach main street, at least during the rainy season.
Much of the former parking at the eastern end of town is being used by the Port of Airlie Marina developers. There is still some parking at the far end of The Esplanade, near the Whitsunday Sailing Club, until the developers bury it. There are numerous complaints by stall holders and visitors to the local Saturday markets about the lack of parking space during construction. Lions Club, Council and Meridien met again in August 2009 regarding future parking options for the 100 stall holders and 250 visitors to the Saturday Airlie Beach markets.
Magnum's Village has a large private parking area for customers. Entry is from the eastern end of Watersun Way (formerly Harper Street) opposite Golden Orchid Drive. The previous desultory enforcement of parking limits meant many vehicles were parked overnight and long term, despite not being customers. This area is now run as paid ticket parking by a private company, Paul McIlvride's Whitsunday Parking.
Airlie Beach Hotel, at the eastern end of town, also has a large private parking space. This space was also abused by non-patrons of the hotel. Whitsunday Parking are now also running this area as paid ticket parking. Hotel restaurant patrons can have tickets refunded when they purchase their meal.
Council cry broke, but in June and July 2009 found enough money to have a parking office stake out the Saturday Markets. Market stall holders complained about being booked while attempting to unload. There is no doubt that the Port of Airlie Marina construction changes have made parking near the markets on Saturday far more difficult. What limited parking was available was often abused, blocking bus traffic. So something needed to be done. However the marina construction has already taken years, and will take years more. Some temporary changes, just for market days, would surely be in order.
Despite the paid parking, there are complaints in the local paper about campers squatting at Abel Point marina, at The Esplanade, at Magnum's Village, and in the main street. It certainly does not seem that the no parking areas are being adequately checked, if no parking is the aim. I do note parking inspectors at Airlie Beach hotel.
Part of the parking problem for camper vans is that several caravan parks in the Whitsundays have closed. Some caravan parks are being developed into resort accommodation. Others are being used as housing for construction workers.
Where the Rainforest meets the Sea, until the developers arrived, and the golden sand comes in dump trucks.