Airlie Beach – Gateway to the Whitsunday Islands

Airlie Beach in the Whitsundays

Airlie Beach is the gateway to the Whitsunday Islands.

A tropical town of palm-fringed beaches, beachfront parks and alfresco bars and restaurants, Airlie Beach is the gateway to the Whitsundays.  Visit the Islands, dive on the Great Barrier Reef and explore the white sandy beaches.

A unique destination with something for everyone, Airlie Beach is the mainland town amidst a tropical archipelago of 74 tropical islands which are part of the Great Barrier Reef.

The Great Barrier Reef protects the islands from large surf, making it an ideal location for sailing, swimming, snorkeling and relaxing on secluded beaches and inlets.

Highlights

  • Snorkel or scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef
  • Set foot on the the whitest sand beach in the world – Whitehaven Beach
  • Explore the tropical rainforests

People travel from all over the world to see the white sands of Whitehaven Beach on Hamilton Island and the unique Heart Reef.

More than an island paradise, Airlie Beach is close to Conway National Park with tropical rainforest and beautiful waterfalls.  Explore it all!

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The Best of Airlie Beach

Whitsunday Islands

Go Shopping

The main street of Airlie Beach is the shopping hub. You will find everything from souvenirs to swimwear by premier Australian companies. If you’re interested in a little Australian made jewelry to take home – there’s plenty of treasures to choose from.  Airlie has a number of specialty art and photographic galleries, so take a unique memory home with you.  Head to the Esplanade on Saturday mornings for locally made jewelry, clothes and crafts.

Learn to Sail

Sail the Whitsundays

The Whitsunday Islands are among the most sensational sailing destinations in the world, with a number of sailing tours on offer.  Choices mean that you can opt for luxury cabin cruisers to bare-boat charters (sail yourself charters).   For those who don’t know how to sail?  Learn to Sail Whitsundays will teach you how, with a range of courses from beginners to Sail Learn to Earn, a great option for those with a working holiday visa.

Take a scenic flight

Heart Reef - Whitsundays

Magical memories are created in this part of Australia.  Whitehaven Beach is renowned for having the whitest sand in the world, and is a ‘must see’ to add to your bucket list.  See the highlights of the Whitsunday Islands, including romantic Heart Reef from the windows of a seaplane or helicopter with Air Whitsunday or Cruise Whitsundays.

Lounge in the Airlie Beach Lagoon

In Airlie Beach central is a huge man-made lagoon.  Soak up some serious sunshine and swim with Lifeguards on duty all year round.   There’s a great children’s pool close by.  There’s lots of shade trees for those who want to take their tanning slowly.

Explore the Rainforest

JConway National Park is one of the best kept secrets of the Whitsunday hinterland and just a few minutes drive from Airlie Beach.  Scenic lookouts and numerous walking trails wind through lush rainforest and stunning waterfalls flowing when it rains. The Coastal Fringe Circuit is a flat, easy walk of 1.2 kilometres (0.7 miles). If you’re lucky, you might spot an endangered Proserpine rock wallaby or other unique Australian wildlife along the way.

Have a Reef ‘Sleep Over’

Dive the Great Barrier Reef - Whitsundays

Sleep under the stars in an Australian swag at ReefSleep, a permanently moored pontoon on Hardy Reef – one of the most spectacular stretches of the Great Barrier Reef. Cruise Whitsundays will take you snorkeling on its large luxury catamaran during the day but when the day adventurers leave, you (and up to 17 other guests) will spend the night. Watch the reef come alive after dark from the underwater observatory.  A truly unique experience.

Discover the fabulous Restaurants and Bars

Dine casual or in style, Airlie Beach has a range of restaurants, cafes and bars to cater to all tastes and budgets.  It’s the perfect place to taste some of the best seafood dishes in Australia and guaranteed to convince you to linger longer in this beautiful little town.  Try the Clipper Restaurant Bar and Lounge, Hemmingways or the Shipwrecked Seafood Bar & Grill while you’re in town – you won’t be disappointed!

How to get there

By air – Fly from Sydney, Brisbane or Cairns to Whitsunday Coast Airport.   Jetstar, Tigerair and Virgin Australia all fly into this airport.

Shuttle buses transfer between the airport and Airlie Beach and take about 40 minutes and will take you to your accommodation.

By car –  A two-hour drive south is the closest city of Mackay, whilst three hours north is Townsville.  Cars may also be hired in Airlie Beach to do some local day trips.

By rail – The Spirit of Queensland train travels between Brisbane and Cairns, stopping at Proserpine Rail Station.

By bus – Greyhound service the coast roads and stop at the Airlie Beach Bus Terminal.

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Airlie Beach - Gateway to the Whitsundays

Can you imagine snorkeling along the Great Barrier Reef, sunbaking on beautiful Whitehaven Beach or sailing a yacht through the magical Whitsunday Islands?  Perhaps you’ve done it already?  Do you have any tips to share?