Airlie Beach is the gateway to the Whitsunday Islands, Whitehaven Beach and the Great Barrier Reef. It’s a colourful, cosmopolitan and inviting holiday town lying on the shores of a palm fringed beach overlooking the waters of Pioneer Bay - dotted with yachts. Airlie is part of the picturesque mainland peninsula that reaches out to the Whitsunday Passage and provides the ideal mainland base for exploring the Whitsundays.
As you drive into Airlie Beach (through Cannonvale) the road climbs above Coral Sea Marina (formerly Abell Point Marina), providing expansive views of the indented coastline, the aquamarine sea and the shapes of distant islands on the horizon. You cannot avoid the holiday feeling that scene evokes, nor the relaxed tropical ambience as you wander around the village streets and down to the vast lagoon - a free public swimming pool.
Airlie Beach offers visitors a broad array of accommodation from stylish resorts hotels and apartments on the hillside to AirB&Bs, traditional B&Bs, camping and caravan parks as well as motels and hostels.
You can find camping options in town with a few hostels providing a parking over night option plus facilities for a small fee. Caravan parks are located in the suburbs of Cannonvale and Jubilee Pocket. Public toilets and shower facilities can be found at the lagoon, near the sailing club and VMR and at Cannonvale Beach.
There’s a range of cheap hostels in Airlie’s town centre. Most of them also offer private double rooms. Some of them have pubs ‘in’ them and are therefore more noisy until closing time at around 11pm.
Airlie Beach has affordable but nice apartments right in town and there’s a few motels and B&Bs on the hills in walking distance to everything. Parking is usually included with them.
If you feel like treating yourself, a stay in one of Airlie’s resorts will give you that extra bit of luxury. Modern rooms and a swim in the infinity (drop edge) pool with a view over the bay and islands give you a complete holiday feeling.
Airlie Beach has a range of resort wear shops and travel agents. There is a big brand super market right in town behind McDonalds. Watersports equipment shops are located in the Coral Sea Marina village. As Airlie Beach is a remote tourism town, prices are overall more expensive than in other parts of Australia. For BCF and other large department stores, drive to the outside of Cannonvale.
Coral Sea Marina (formerly Abell Point Marina) is Airlie’s biggest marina and is located before the town’s centre on Shingly Drive. Nearly all boat tours depart from the Coral Sea Marina (formerly Abell Point Marina), some from the northern (roundabout) marina end, some from the southern end of the marina. Most shops are located at the northern end (bottle shop, dive gear, chandlery, kiosk). The Port of Airlie is a new marina and lifestyle facility close to the town centre, all ferry services now run from here.Shute Harbour is re-opened and some tours and ferries operate from Shute Harbour (at the end of Shute Harbour Road).
Every Saturday the foreshore turns into a bustling market with stalls selling fresh fruit and vegies, local arts and crafts and all manner of other goods. Live musicians entertain shoppers. Just walk towards the Sailing Club and you can’t miss it.
Airlie Beach built a large public open swimming pool on the foreshore around 15 years ago. The Lagoon is patrolled by Lifesavers from 6am to 9pm and enables locals and tourists safe and clean swimming all year. The picturesque park around the Lagoon is the perfect ‘hang-out’ on any day, with many trees providing shade and a view out to the ocean. You can also find toilets and shower facilities at the Lagoon.
A great scenic walk and must-do when in Airlie Beach. The 3.7 km long Bicentennial Walk stretches along the coast starting from the Whitsunday Sailing Club, past the Lagoon, through the Coral Sea Resort car park, behind Coral Sea Marina (formerly Abell Point Marina), along a boardwalk and park all the way to Cannonvale Beach.
There’s a range of beaches in and around Airlie Beach. Tidal changes can make them a bit muddy during low tide. There’s a watersports beach on Waterson Way north (left) of the Lagoon, a beach south of the Lagoon towards the Sailing Club, Boathaven Beach in front of Port of Airlie and Cannonvale Beach at the end of the Bicentennial Walk. Dingo Beach is ca. 40min north of Airlie Beach and is well worth the visit as are the many beaches in Bowen (1 hour north).
Airlie Beach is paradise for a keel boat sailor. Every Wednesday evening the Twilight Race takes place followed by a big night at the Whitsunday Sailing Club. You can watch the races from the shore and sometimes the boats take extra crew (enquire at the sailing club). Every year in August two big race weeks take place starting off with Airlie Beach Race Week and followed by Hamilton Island Race Week.