Airlie Beach Overview
Airlie Beach, often referred to as the "Gateway To The Whitsundays", has boomed in the last five years and undergone a significant and well planned expansion and is now not just a back packer retreat.
Although Airlie Beach still has it's back packer hostels, there has been significant and well planned expansion of the general tourist sector, with tasteful low rise resorts blending in with the surrounds rather than dominating them.
This vibrant town still retains its famed bohemian character but this is blended with cosmopolitan and contemporary Australian style. Here you can rub shoulders with anyone from back packers to millionaire boat owners.
Airlie Beach's Abel Point Marina has also been extended and can currently host over 500 vessels, anything from leisure craft to 40m super yachts. Excursions to the Great Barrier Reef also operate from the marina.
Airlie Beach is just a few Km from Shute Harbour, the main terminals for booking ferries to the offshore Whitsunday Islands or Great Barrier Reef excursions. There is even an overnight "Reef Sleep" excursion from Shute Harbour.
The nearest airport serviced by Virgin Blue and Jetstar is at Proserpine, only 30 minutes or so away.
Sailing to Snorkeling
Airlie Beach is the ideal location if you enjoy water sports or just messing about in the water. You will be able to go snorkeling on a reef excursion, jet skiing, para sailing, jet boating ( which includes jet boating to the beautiful Whitehaven Beach), kite surfing, ocean rafting, water skiing, tube riding, surf kayaking, cat sailing, or even try pedolos.
Cruising amongst the Whitsunday's is also extremely popular and there is a wide variety of choice on offer; anything from self skippered bareboat charters to fully catered cruises or day trips to the reef.
If you are looking for aerial adventure you will also be able to try tandem skydiving or even fly upside down in a vintage bi plane.
Whitsunday Airport is also the base for helicopter and plane tours over the Whitsunday's and Great Barrier Reef, including the famous Heart Reef.
Airlie Beach Lagoon
Airlie Beach has a manmade natural looking lagoon complex on its foreshore which includes children's paddling sections as well as deeper (up to (2m deep) pools.
The lagoon, which surrounded by tropical gardens, barbecue areas and large grassy areas is perfect for whiling away a hot afternoon. The town and its cafes are within very easy reach when you fancy something to eat.
As the lagoon is "stinger" (the local term for jelly fish) free it provides year round swimming.
Thank you to Brian Walker of Portside Whitsunday and Winston Spence of Boathaven Spa Resort for their assistance and for some of the photos used on this page.
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Where To Stay
Airlie Beach is situated on Queensland's Whitsunday coast, perfect for exploring the Whitsunday Islands and The Great Barrier Reef.
Approximate Driving Time/Distance
22.5Hrs From Sydney (1850Km)
27.5Hrs From Melbourne (2450Km)
13.5Hrs From Brisbane (1150Km)
8.5Hrs to Cairns (650Km)
See Route and Distance Calculator for more driving times and routes.
The Whitsunday Mainland
Airlie Beach is on the mainland side of the Whitsunday Passage and overlooks the magnificent Hayman Island lying just 25 km offshore.
As the town is 350 Km north of the Tropic of Capricorn it has a truly tropical location. Being north facing on the eastern coast of Australia means Airlie Beach is blessed with an increased amount of the late afternoon sun in winter and, when you need it, cooling breezes and shade in the summer.
Shute Harbour Road, the main street and back bone of Airlie Beach, is lined with a variety of good restaurants, cafes and bars, many with outdoor seating offering superb views over the Whitsunday Passage.
Shute Harbour Road also links Airlie Beach with Cannonvale, a few Km to the west, and Shute Harbour, 11 Km to the east. Shute Harbour is also a staging point for visitors traveling to the Whitsunday islands. The excellent Fantasea vessels depart both to the islands and to the Reefworld Pontoon, which is moored amongst the Great Barrier Reef.
Cannonvale, a few km from Airlie Beach, is an alternative to those on a tighter budget. The town has a large resident population, a good variety of economically priced accommodation and still has the fabulous Whitsunday Coast location.
The Airlie Beach area does offer everything from luxury penthouse resorts to Backpacker accommodation and caravan parks.
The Whitsunday Coast has a tropical latitudes of 20.2 deg south, which is north of The Tropic of Capricorn.
Max Average Temperature
Deg C/ Deg F
Winter(June-Aug):24 / 75
Spring(Sep-Nov):29 / 84
Summer(Dec-Feb):31 / 87
Autumn(Mar-May):28 / 82
Average Monthly Rainfall - mm