PHOTOS: Airlie Beach ‘alive again’ after restrictions ease
AIRLIE Beach was a hive of activity today as coronavirus restrictions eased, with residents, tourists and business owners saying it felt like the Whitsundays "were alive again."
From today, people will be able to have gatherings of up to 10 people including outdoors in parks and national parks, and recreational travel is now allowed up to 150km from home.
Ten people at once will also be allowed to dine-in restaurants, cafes, pubs, RSLs, clubs and hotels.
Owner of The Deck, Jane Lange, said they had been so busy since opening this morning that they had to move their dine-in patrons from their sidewalk to inside the premises to effectively patrol social-distancing.
"We had to stop for half an hour and just take stock of the situation, it's been brilliant," she said.
"It was busier than we expected so we moved our dine-in customers inside because with the takeaway at the front as well we just couldn't police it effectively."
She said she had seen lots of customers who had used the eased restrictions on recreational travel and made the journey north from Mackay.
"It's been a mix of couples and families mostly. Everyone has been out and about.
"I couldn't be happier, Airlie Beach feels alive again."
Local residents Judy Adsett and Cathy Shepherd originally planned to have their coffee as takeaway, but when the offer of dine-in at The Deck was available instead they jumped at the chance.
"It's so great to be able to sit down and enjoy our drinks inside again," Ms Shepherd said.
"There's a much more positive feeling in Airlie Beach today."
The Airlie Beach Lagoon, which had today reopened with a 50-person limit in the water and 50-person limit in the parklands, was significantly more quiet than normal with about ten people using the iconic facility.
However, Beach Book Boutique employee Leah Perrin, who looked out to the lagoon and surrounding area, said she had seen more people walking along the Airlie Beach foreshore than she had in two months.
"I've worked most weekends since the pandemic started and this is by far the most people I've seen," she said.
"But the best part has been how many of them look happy. Most people I've seen lately have looked a little glum but today has just been smiles from everyone."
Down the road at KC's Bar and Grill, Mackay residents Jacinda Stewart and James Larkin had travelled to the region to support the Whitsundays.
"With the 150km rule now we're able to move more, so we decided to come to Airlie Beach and support the region," Mr Larkin said.
"The vibe has been really good, we've seen a lot of people out who look very happy to be here."
It had been a long almost eight-weeks for Cannonvale resident Sally Anne who celebrated the chance to dine-in with an espresso martini at Sidewalk Cafe.
"It's so good to be out again. There's people out and about in Airlie Beach once again," she said.
"Let's hope this is the start of normality returning to Airlie Beach."