Don’t let the name fool you – Airlie Beach has far more to it than sea and sand. This hub of aquatic activities hosts two large commercial marinas near the town centre, making it a prime spot to take a catamaran cruise or a quick hop over to the Whitsunday Islands. Once a backpacker haven, the town is now frequented by all kinds of travellers eager to soak up the year-round warm weather, nightlife and local seafood.
The Port of Airlie is the best place to join boat tours, which range from crocodile spotting and sailing, to snorkelling and scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef. If you’re after a good old-fashioned seaside experience, then take a day cruise to the heavenly shores of Whitehaven Beach – where the Whitsundays’ many-hued waters meet swirling silica sands.
Airlie Beach, on Queensland's breathtaking Whitstunday Coast
Airlie Beach’s wealth of activities also includes four-wheel drive tours, bushwalking and Segway rides through town. Every Saturday morning, traders set up shop along the palm-tree-lined waterfront, selling everything from locally made jewellery to international street food. Many revellers also flock to Airlie Beach for its renowned nightlife, as pub-lined streets fill with locals seven days a week. Meanwhile, backpacker hostels offer cheap, chilled beer and games of pool, volleyball and giant Jenga.
Airlie Beach is a prime spot for snorkelling and scuba diving
No trip to Airlie Beach is complete without laying your towel down at its laid-back lagoon. Neighboured by lush landscaped gardens, the man-made beach was built to provide a sting-free swimming area due to the abundance of jellyfish in local waters. And with a sandy beach and children's pool, this manufactured marvel makes for the ultimate chill-out spot.
Explore the Whitsunday region on a catamaran cruise
When to go?
With subtropical weather all year round, Airlie Beach has a 365-day holiday vibe. The heat peaks in January, when the average temperature hits 30 degrees. Booking.com travellers rate July, September, and October as the best time to visit – despite being busy, you’ll get calm seas combined with warm days and mild nights.
Where to stay?
The 25-metre swimming pool at Coral Sea Resort
Coral Sea Resort – Airlie Beach, Australia
If this resort was any more ‘beachfront’, it would be in the sea. On site you’ll find a 25-metre swimming pool, seafront restaurant, and a cocktail lounge. The staff are highly spoken of, and can help you arrange local tours such as overnight sailing to the Whitsundays.
Tropical surroundings at Mango House Resort
Best Western Mango House Resort – Airlie Beach, Australia
Mango House is nestled amongst swaying palm trees, ferns and frangipani flowers. Every apartment comes with a balcony or patio overlooking the pool area or Conway National Park. Booking.com guests rave about the property’s great location and tree-lined outdoor pool.
Mantra Boathouse's stylish and serene apartments
Mantra Boathouse Apartments – Airlie Beach, Australia
Just six minutes’ walk from the beach, these slick apartments feature private balconies overlooking the Coral Sea. Booking.com guests frequently mention the views over the Port of Airlie Marina – host to many restaurants, bars and shops. Apartments come with all mod cons, and there’s also an on-site pool thrown in for good measure.