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Airlie Beach

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Airlie Beach

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Travellers and locals relax at Airlie Beach's lagoon

Airlie Beach (or "Airlie) is a town in Queensland, Australia and is the closest port from which to access the Whitsunday islands on the Great Barrier Reef.[1] With around 25,000 residents it is developed to cater for almost every kind of tourist and backpacker, and is the major hub for trips out to the Whitsunday islands. Abel point marina is the location for taking boats out to islands, and is a brisk fifteen minute walk from Shute Harbour Road, Airlie's High Street, around a recently renovated sea side board walk.

There is a wide choice of accomodation from budget backpackers, to self contained units, to luxury resorts right next to the Marina. Airlie has a great (or chaotic, depending on your view) nightlife with bars concentrated on the main road. Despite its name, Airlie Beach is not the best place for the beach itself. The few near the Shute Harbour Rd are small and pretty, but the presence of jellyfish (the Irukandji are the most common form, but there are signs up detailing different species near the beaches) means people do not swim in the water. "Stinger season" lasts from around October to around May. However more than making up for this, Airlie has a fantastic man made lagoon. This is around two hundred metres long and fifty wide, landscaped with a bridge and grass to lie on surrounding. It is watched by life guards during the day and security at night, and because it is open to swim in at all times the lagoon makes relaxing in Airlie pure delight. On Saturday morning there is a charming market along the waterfront, with a range of locally produced foods and souvenirs.

The airport is currently the focus of some controversy, since the Queensland government drew up plans to close it down in favour of a new airport that can be an international terminal, but a further hour 's journey away. Mainland residents fear that this move will hit local business hard, since with the longer to ports like Airlie, tourists may choose to fly straight to the Hamilton Island airport. Apparently, the new airport proposals would not offer any faster or better connections to the towns. The website has been set up as part of the campaign, and travellers keeping an eye out can see the campaigns in shops all around the local towns.


Airlie beach used to be a backpacker haven but has now been discovered by Australians and has consequently become more commercialised in recent years. Still plenty of good cheap accommodation and an excellent stop off on the East Coast of Australia.

Get in

A plane just having landed at Whitsunday Coast airport

Flying to Proserpine Airport, also known as Whitsunday Coast Airport, in Proserpine is the easiest way to reach Airlie. There is also a train station in Proserpine for those travelling up the East coast. The two main airlines flying to here are Virgin Blue and Jetstar. After arriving at the airport, luggage is driven around the side of the building be collected from a trailer.

Get around

A number of buses serve the airport terminal, and drive to Airlie beach or other locations but all but one must be prebooked, for instance with Cruise Whitsundays. The tickets cost a flat $15 per person one way and can be purchased in a queue at a clearly marked booth just inside the arrival gate. The bus driver mans the booth, and when everyone has got a ticket (about 30-40 minutes wait from arrival) the bus gets going. Another option is to take a taxi, for which there is also a booth inside the arrivals gate. However taxi rides seem to match the bus price, and cost $15 per person. Also, there may not be any taxis waiting. The ride to Airlie beach is smooth and takes about 40 minutes. The driver will ask where you are staying and take you to the door of the hostel or hotel in Airlie Beach.



  • Diving
  • Sailing
  • Pony trekking
  • Just chilling




  • Beaches Backpackers right in the centre of town has many dorm beds and is connected to one of the liveliest bar in town. A normal dorm sleeps eight, has its own shower and toilet, fridge and tv. These are fairly clean, depending on your co-habitees. The cost is $24 per night, with a $10 deposit for the doorkey (don't lose it!). The bar (open to everyone) has live music every Friday and Saturday singing teeny songs to cater for the large young British and Irish contingent of visitors.
  • Magnum's hostel is also on the main road and is connected to a food court, bar, club and unfortunately seedy looking joints for the pokies (slot machines for gambling). In the bar the crowd looks older the live music more alternative and rock style.
  • Backpackers by the bay is an excellent choice for something smaller, and is the 2004 Whitsunday Tourism award winner. There is a very good kitchen for cooking, a small pool, bar, tables and sofas on a relaxed terrace looking into the harbour (unfortunately undergoing construction at the moment for a new marina!). The staff are friendly and offer helpful advice, the dorms sleep four, are kept clean and artistically decorated. The dorms cost is $26 a night (although there may be reductions for YHA card holders). The location is not on the High street, but a five minute walk along the main road and up some steps (although the actual address is 12 Hermitage Drive). There is a bus stop just outside for the motionally challenged, or for trips back to the Proserpine airport.
  • Flametree Tourist Village Nestles in 7 acres of shady tropical foliage next to the Conway National Park. Just minutes in one direction to Shute Harbour, gateway to the 74 islands of the spectacular Whitsundays, and in the other to the tourist centre of Airlie Beach, with it's many shops and fine restaurants.

Get out

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