Airlie Beach, Queensland
Gateway to the pristine coral cays and islands of the Whitsunday Islands.

Map of the Great Barrier Reef

Airlie Beach, formerly renowned as a backpacker’s paradise, is one of North Queensland’s fastest growing destinations. It is among the main gateways into the irresistible Whitsunday Islands chain, but still provides an outstanding holiday destination for all types of travelers. Airlie Beach is just north of Mackay and south of Townsville.

Photo: Airlie Beach

Despite its commercialisation in recent years, the town still boasts a relaxed yet touristy ambiance, with lots of things to see and do. Even though the town of Airlie is home to a great beach, stingers make it difficult to swim between November and May. Nevertheless, the Airlie Lagoon, which was built at the town’s foreshore, is a man-made public swimming pool that provides great entertainment, including picnics, barbecues and of course, cooling off.

During the non-stinger season (June to September), swimming, sailing, snorkeling, diving and other water sports are popular off Airlie’s beach. Along the waterfront, there is also a Saturday morning market that offers a range of spectacular goods and merchandise, such as locally-produced art and food. Even though the town is never usually busy, crowds can be seen at this morning market.

A diverse range of hotels and lodgings can be found in the town, so tourists can always opt to use it as a base to explore the incredible Whitsunday coast. Visit the many tour operators in Airlie Beach, which offer unforgettable daytrips into the Great Barrier Reef; in particular, the Whitsunday Islands. Snorkeling, diving, island hopping and fishing are all popular tours-based activities that are available from the town. The Abell Point Marina and the newly constructed Port of Airlie are where most of the daytrips into the reef make berth.

Shute Harbour

Photo: Shute HarbourLocated about 10kms to the east of Airlie Beach, the protected port known as Shute Harbour remains one of the busiest sea-ports in Australia. It stands as an important gateway into the Whitsunday Coast, which includes some of the Great Barrier Reef’s most secluded and pristine coral-fringed islands.

This bustling port is the perfect place to find charter boats, which offer unrivaled sea trips into the surrounding reef. Located just off-shore from Shute Harbour are dozens of memorable diving and snorkeling spots, so full-day tours are recommended. Speed boats, catamarans and a range of other sea-vessels are available, so tourists have a massive list to choose from.

Trout, Travelly, squid and Barramundi are all waiting within the Whitsunday Passage and beyond, making Shute Harbour a popular place for fishing tours. Avid fishermen travel here from all over the globe to experience the challenging reef and deep-water fishing possibilities. Even though fishing from the harbour is prohibited, a pontoon has been constructed to allow for locals and visitors to fish directly from the mainland too.

Don’t forget, this site is also close to the Whitsunday Airport, where scenic flights are available. There is no better way to take in the awe-inspiring scenery of the Whitsunday Coast than be seaplane. From the air, a kaleidoscope of blues, greens and golds put on a magical show for tourists.

The beauty of the reef may be Shute Harbour’s most alluring feature. Nevertheless, surrounding this site is the Conway National Park, which boasts a plethora of beautiful walking tracks that range from easy to somewhat challenging. Outdoor enthusiasts will adore this reserve, as it boasts an extensive tropical rainforest, despite its location halfway up the Queensland coast.

Skydive at Airlie Beach

If you only ever skydive once, you should skydive from Airlie Beach – overlooking the beautiful Whitsundays. Take off from the airport at Airlie Beach, with views to die for (not literally!). Jump from up to 14000 feet, the higher you go, the longer you will be in freefall.

Airlie Beach Accommodation

Travellers looking for that true beach-getaway along the Great Barrier Reef should stop their search at Airlie Beach. This laid-back, chilled-out town is a gateway to many dozens of pristine coral cays and islands of the Whitsundays. It is a popular destination to visit year-round, thanks to its warm climate and enticing attractions. Hotels in Airlie Beach have seen a change in ambiance and clientele over the last few decades. What was once a primarily backpacking accommodation scene has now transformed into a holiday market for all travellers.


Map of Airlie Beach

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