Are you thinking about a holiday in the Whitsundays? It’s one of Australia’s most beautiful holiday destinations, and should on every serious traveller’s bucket-list.

Airlie Beach is one of the best places to stay to explore both the Whitsundays and the Great Barrier Reef, so we’ve written a guide to everything Airlie – where to stay, what to do, when to visit, how to get there and more.

What are you waiting for? Keep reading, and learn everything you need to know before embarking on a holiday to this stunning part of Queensland.

 

Overview of Airlie Beach Township

Airlie Beach overview

Airlie Beach is roughly 1,100 kilometres north of Brisbane, sitting on the shores of the Whitsundays Coast about halfway between Mackay and Townsville.  Famous for its proximity to both the Whitsundays and the Great Barrier Reef generally, it’s still managed to retain a small-town ambience, with population levels staying at around 1,200.

Girded by the aquamarine waters of the Coral Sea and backed by vast tracts of subtropical rainforest, this is a town that borders on idyllic – although tourism peaks over spring, it never feels hackneyed or overworked, and there’s still plenty of quiet places that lie well off the beaten path.

 

History

great barrier reef aerial shot

The Whitsundays, Airlie Beach and Bowen regions were originally inhabited by four First Nations tribes: the Ngaro (the Whitsundays islands and foreshore), the Juru (Bowen region) and the Gia (Airlie Beach area).  Lieutenant James Cook initially surveyed the Whitsundays in 1770 (and named Cape Conway), but contact between the tribes and European settlers was uneventful until the 1860s.

Airlie Beach saw its first settler in 1904 with the arrival of Thomas Abell, a British farmer who cleared away sections of rainforest to grow vegetables and tropical fruit.

In 1935, the Proserpine Council named Airlie Beach after Airlie Parish in Scotland, which lay close to the childhood home of the council’s chairman.  The first post office was opened in 1959, with a population of 83 households, most of whom were farmers.

From the ’60s onwards, Airlie began to make a name for itself as a tourism destination, and farming quickly took a back seat to excursions to the Whitsundays and flights over the Great Barrier Reef.

Now, it’s one of Queensland’s most popular tourism destinations, with over 482,000 vacationers recorded in 2015.  Mining, agriculture and maritime industries still play a significant roles in Airlie Beach’s economy, but tourism definitely takes the cake, which means holidaymakers have everything they need at their fingertips.  Tourist-friendly facilities, hosts of well-coordinated activities and a selection of high-quality restaurants make Airlie Beach one of the best places to enjoy the beauty of the Great Barrier Reef.

 

Airlie Beach Attractions

airlie beach harbour

Your Airlie Beach holiday will probably feature a lot of out-of-town driving and between-island sailing, but that doesn’t mean the township itself doesn’t have plenty of cool features to check out.  From family-friendly spots like Boathaven Beach to the picturesque Honeyeater Lookout, there’s plenty of interesting spots to explore in Airlie.

Boathaven Beach

This tranquil beach is perfect for a relaxing dip, and features a netted swimming area.

Three Plank Jetty

A rustic local attraction located along Mandalay Road, Three Plank Jetty comes as marketed: a very narrow jetty composed of three planks of timber.

Coral Sea Marina

Want to see what unbridled luxury looks like?  Visit Coral Sea Marina, berth of Airlie Beach’s famous yachts.

Pigeon Reef

Located just off the mainland, Pigeon Reef is adjacent to an island of the same name, and is perfect for a bit of easy snorkelling or diving.

Honeyeater Lookout Trail

Located in the vast tracts of bushland that border Airlie Beach, Honeyeater Lookout Trail is a roughly 8km-return trail that culminates in panoramic views of Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays.

Fairy Tree Park

Fairy Tree Park is perfect for families.  This palm-shaded space has eating areas and a sheltered swimming lagoon.

Whitsunday Saturday Markets

A local market featuring produce, food stalls, local craftspeople and artists, the Whitsunday Saturday Markets are great for embracing Airlie Beach’s vibe.

Restaurants

For such a small town, Airlie Beach has an incredible dining scene.  Check out our top 10 Airlie Beach restaurants and eateries here.

What about the Whitsundays? The Great Barrier Reef?

Don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten about all the biggest tourist attractions that Airlie has to offer.  In fact, we wrote an entire article about the top 10 things to do in Airlie Beach.  Have a read of it here.

 

When to Visit

conway yachts

Airlie Beach is one of those stunning destinations that’s perfect for visiting at any time of the year.

September and October are the peak months – the stunning spring weather lands perfectly between the heat of summer and the cooler temperatures of winter.  Daytime averages over these months sit at 28.5°C, with an average of 3.5 days of rain.

January to March often sees heavy rainfall, so these months are considered Airlie Beach’s off-season, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad time to visit.  Warm temperatures and high humidity mean water-based activities are definitely the best choice, and you’ll probably be able to get better prices on tours and activities.  Daytime averages sit at 31°C, with an average of 13 days of rain.

June to August are the traditional sailing months.  You’ll encounter festivals like the Airlie Beach Race Week, which includes yacht racing, live music and local food stalls.  Daytime averages sit at 23°C, with an average of 4 days of rain.

 

How to Get to Airlie Beach

hamilton island airport

 

Airlie Beach’s remote location means you won’t be able to fly straight into town.  The three closest airports are Hamilton Island Airport (HTI), Whitsunday Coast Airport (PPP) and Whitsunday Airport Australia (WSY); travellers flying from cities other than the Gold Coast and Brisbane will probably have a short stopover in Brisbane Airport (BNE).

If you fly into Hamilton Island, you’ll need to book a ferry ride to the mainland.  Each trip takes about an hour, and is run by local operator Cruise Whitsundays.  Alternatively, if you fly into Whitsunday Coast Airport, you can book a normal transfer to Airlie (roughly 25 minutes by road).

For those wanting to explore the Whitsunday Coast hinterland, car rental services like Gypsy Car Rentals and Hertz offer a range of vehicles suitable for both couples and families.

 

Airlie Beach Accommodation

As a tourist hub, Airlie Beach has its fair share of beachside motels and apartments, but it’s hard to find the kind of luxury accommodation offered by Club Wyndham Airlie Beach, the most recent addition to our global suite of properties.

Situated on Mount Whitsunday Drive, it’s a resort with panoramic views of the Whitsundays, and broad balconies that welcome refreshing breezes sweeping in from the ocean.

The rooms are outfitted with a range of modern luxuries like spa baths, laundry facilities, fully-equipped kitchens, daily room service and complimentary WiFi.  Their clean, bright aesthetic and abundance of natural lighting means you’ll be able to enjoy the Airlie Beach vibe even if you want a quiet day inside.

Choose from one, two, or three-bedroom apartments – each option has access to Club Wyndham Airlie Beach’s on-site amenities, like a sprawling outdoor pool and spa, a fully-equipped gymnasium, free undercover parking and Tides Restaurant and Bar (one of Airlie Beach’s top fine dining establishments).

If all that wasn’t enough, you’re less than 10 minutes’ walk from the water’s edge, and an easy 5-minute drive from the main street.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a loved-up couple looking for a romantic getaway, or a child-laden family wanting a break – Club Wyndham Airlie Beach is the perfect choice of accommodation for you.


We certainly can’t tell you everything about Airlie Beach in this article, but we hope that you’ve managed to learn something about this incredible north Queensland destination.

If you’re looking to explore the Whitsundays in person, get in touch with our team, and we’ll guide you through the booking process.

Alternatively, if you’re happy just reading about the world’s most exciting locations, subscribe to this blog – we publish interesting, helpful content on a regular basis, and we’d love to help inspire your next holiday.

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