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Published January 4th 2022
A Whitsunday's Hot Spot
Airlie Beach is the major tourism hub and mainland entry point to Queensland's magnificent Whitsunday region.
Airlie Beach is a little slice of paradise found just under 1,100-kilometres north of Brisbane. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
Airlie Beach is 1,097-kilometres north of Brisbane, at the base of the Conway Ranges, home to the beautiful Conway National Park. Captain James Cook named Cape Conway in 1770 as he passed on his east coast voyage of discovery.
The township itself is exactly what you'd expect to find in the heart of a thriving tourism precinct - a plethora of gift shops, eateries, pubs & bars and a range of accommodation from basic back-packers to quality units, holiday lets and upmarket hotels and resorts. It's also home to an impressive marina and the Airlie Maritime Terminal, from where a range of cruises operate throughout the Whitsundays and to the nearby Great Barrier Reef.
Passengers are ferried from a cruise liner anchored off-shore for a day visit to Airlie Beach. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
The standout attraction for visitors to Airlie Beach is undoubtedly the Whitsunday Islands and the region's bareboat charter industry, home to the largest fleet of bareboat charter vessels in the southern hemisphere operating a multi-million dollar industry throughout the Whitsunday region of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. With its infrastructure firmly established at Airlie Beach and nearby Schute Harbour, bareboat chartering opens the door on this wonderland of over 100 islands and rocky islets.
Paradise it may be but dangerous stingers make the waters around Airlie Beach dangerous for part of the year. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
If you've got even the slightest interest in boats, a Whitsunday cruising adventure is the ultimate getaway. Believe me - you haven't lived until you've achieved the satisfaction of commanding your own little ship, made passage through one of the world's great cruising grounds and cracked a bottle of Champagne under the stars in celebration of your first anchorage.
The man-made Airlie Beach Lagoon provides a safe swimming environment year 'round. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
Airlie Beach is also a popular stop-over for cruise liners that anchor off-shore and ferry passengers ashore for the day. The first European settler at Airlie Beach is thought to have been Thomas Abell who arrived in 1904 and took up a smallholding to grow fruit and vegetables.
Airlie Beach is home to a large variety of shops, eateries and pubs & bars. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
The first beach-front blocks were offered for sale in 1935 and by 1936 the site was officially known as Airlie Beach. The first Post Office opened in 1959 and 1968, few would have envisioned the future of Airlie's accommodation industry when the first hotel/motel opened.
The largest fleet of bare-boat charter vessels in the southern hemisphere is based in Airlie Beach and nearby Schute Harbour. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
In 2001, the Airlie Beach Lagoon was opened providing locals and visitors alike a safe year-round swimming pool. In 2010 and again in 2011, the town suffered significant damage when first Cyclone ULUI and then Cyclone YASI ripped through the region.
Airlie Beach is arguably the number one tourist town in Australia and it has suffered greatly throughout the ongoing COVID pandemic. As we strive to achieve a 'COVID normal' lifestyle, it's one place that desperately needs tourism to return.
Before travelling, don't forget to check for any COVID restrictions or short-term limitations that may affect local operators.
Cruise ship passengers enjoy a day on the sand at Airlie Beach. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
Top-10 Things to Do In and Around Airlie Beach
1. Sail the Whitsunday's with any number of bare-boat charter operators located in Airlie Beach and Schute Harbour.
2. Head to Whitehaven Beach for a day walking and snorkelling this most pristine of Queensland's beaches.
3. Take a scenic flight over the Whitsunday Island's and Great Barrier Reef departing from Airlie Beach.
4. Join a 1-hour jet-ski safari exploring the coast and bays around Airlie Beach.
5. Take the ferry from Airlie Beach or Schute Harbour to Hamilton Island. Spend the day relaxing amidst the islands bars, beaches, restaurants, pools and spas.
6. Hike to the Whitsunday's Lookout above Hill Inlet for some of the best coastal views imaginable.
7. Snorkel or SCUBA dive any number of nearby sites with experienced tour leaders in crystal clear waters and a year-round water temperature around 24-degrees.
8. Visit Daydream Island. It may be tiny, around a kilometre long and half a kilometre wide but Daydream and its resort are well worth a visit.
9. If you're into walking take the 3-hour, 8-kilometre (all uphill) hike to Honeyeater Lookout overlooking Airlie Beach and Cannonvale.
10. Relax at the Airlie Beach Lagoon with its safe swimming, palm trees and BBQ facilities.
Airlie Beach Marina hosts vessels of all types, from private yachts .....
..... to large commercial ferries. Photo's: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
Staying There …
The extent of accommodation options available in and around Airlie Beach are far too great to detail here. Go to the website www.airliebeachtourism.com.au for a full list of facilities, availability and online bookings.
Getting There …..
Airlie Beach is 1,097-kilometres north of Brisbane, just under a 13-hour drive via the Bruce Highway/A1.
Australia's domestic airlines operate regular return services to both Hamilton Island and Proserpine from most Capital cities.
Whether you're seeking luxury on the water or luxury ashore you'll find it at Airlie Beach. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
Why? Don't miss the opportunity to visit one of Australia's major tourism hubs and mainland entry point to Queensland's magnificent Whitsunday region.
When:April to November generally offers bright, clear skies and pleasant temperatures. June to August provide magnificent sailing conditions and September through October is peak season in the Whitsunday's.