Airlie Beach has long been a magnet for travellers drawn to its white silica sand, azure waters and vibrant bar scene. It’s also lucky enough to have the Great Barrier Reef and Whitsunday Islands on its doorstep. Read on to discover why this beach town is one of the hottest destinations on the East Coast of Australia.
Explore Airlie Beach from the water by hiring a yacht for the day through SamBoat – no experience necessary. Alternatively, book a multi-day sailing holiday around the Whitsundays with Dream Yacht Charter.
It boasts wonderful weather year-round
Airlie Beach has a subtropical climate, which means it benefits from fine weather all year long. Summer is both the wet season and the jellyfish season, when temperatures can reach up to 32C (90F). However, Airlie Beach actually experiences less rainfall and lower humidity than the neighbouring Whitsunday Islands. In winter, the average daily temperature is a perfect 23C (73F), so plan to visit between June and October.
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It’s the gateway to the Whitsunday Islands
Airlie Beach is the main jumping-off point for the 74 Whitsunday Islands. Only seven of the islands are developed: Hamilton, Hayman, Hook, South Molle, Daydream, Long and Lindeman. The rest are just waiting to be explored by adventurous travellers. Stay at one of the best luxury hotels in the Whitsundays or discover the islands on a day trip from Airlie Beach.
The Great Barrier Reef runs along its coastline
Need we say more? While not as remote as the northerly section of the reef, it still boasts a rainbow array of marine life, from reef sharks to green sea turtles. There are several tour companies in Airlie Beach offering an assortment of Great Barrier Reef experiences, from scuba diving and snorkelling to sailing. If you’ve got time, head to Hardy Reef; it’s one of the most wildlife-rich local spots, located 100km (62mi) offshore from Airlie Beach.
It’s close to Whitehaven Beach
Whitehaven Beach is one of the most famous beaches in the world – for good reason. Blindingly white sand is lapped by the turquoise Coral Sea at this postcard-perfect spot on Whitsunday Island, the largest of the Whitsunday Islands. It’s only accessible via boat, helicopter or plane from Airlie Beach (depending on your budget). The pure silica sand stretches for 7km (4.3mi) – it’s easy to see why it’s a must-visit.
Backpackers flock here in droves
Airlie Beach is a key stop along the East Coast, one of the most popular backpacker routes in Australia. It’s situated seven hours south of Cairns and 12 hours north of Brisbane, so it’s a great place to break up the long journey. Check into a hostel and you’re guaranteed to meet other like-minded souls on a similar route – particularly handy if you’re travelling alone. There are also plenty of wallet-friendly places to eat and sink a bevvy or two, as well as a plethora of activities.
There are dozens of top restaurants and bars
Stroll along the main Airlie Beach strip and you’ll find a seriously decent selection of restaurants and bars. Book a table at the award-winning Fish D’Vine Restaurant & Rum Bar. They serve the area’s freshest seafood and stock nearly 200 rums from around the world. If you can handle it, check out their Seafood Platter, which is a feast for two or more people.
You can learn a new skill
Naturally, it’s all about watersports in Airlie Beach. Do you fancy exploring under the water or on the surface? Whitsunday Dive Centre has a purpose-built scuba diving training centre, where you can become a PADI-certified diver in one of the most beautiful locations on earth. Alternatively, take to the high seas with the aptly named Sailing Whitsundays – they run two-day/two-night courses suitable for complete beginners.
There are beautiful hiking trails in Conway National Park
There’s plenty of natural beauty to see on the mainland, too. Head to Conway National Park, just south of Airlie Beach. It’s home to secluded beaches, mangroves, rainforest and deep gullies. The best way to explore is on foot. Lace up your trainers and hit the Mount Rooper Track, a 6.7km (4.1mi) trail with breathtaking views. Looking for something a little more challenging? Follow the 28km (17mi) Conway Circuit.
It’s an adrenaline-pumping paradise
Thrillseekers will definitely get their fix in this Queensland beach town. Hop on a helicopter ride over the Whitsundays or book an aerobatic mission in a Soviet warbird, if that’s more your style. Alternatively, experience Australia’s most beautiful drop zone with Skydive Airlie Beach, or go on an exhilarating jet boat ride with Island Jet Boating.
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