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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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, which means a swim in the water requires a stinger suit - made from rash top type material. 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.
Airlie has a great (or chaotic, depending on your view) nightlife with bars concentrated on the main road.