Discover the Whitsundays through the eyes of a local with our special publication - Island Time.



Airlie Beach is the vibrant hub of the Whitsundays and the ideal mainland base for fun and adventure in the Whitsundays and Great Barrier Reef. It is the perfect starting point for activities on the water and in the lush, green rainforest of the Whitsunday Coast. Soak up the laid-back, tropical atmosphere and ease yourself into holiday mode.

Stroll through the boutiques, cafes and shops of the main street; relax by the Airlie Beach lagoon and head to the Saturday morning markets that offer a quaint range of local arts and crafts, fresh fruit and vegetables and much more. At the end of an amazing day, treat yourself at one of the alfresco restaurants - from fresh local seafood at a bustling seafood cafe, hand-made tapas made from fresh local produce, to a romantic sunset dinner for two. Airlie Beach is a cosmopolitan place with a lively village atmosphere.

During the day life revolves around the marina, the shopping and the lagoon, and at night the bars, restaurants and nightclubs come to life. Visitors to our Airlie Beach accommodation can choose from cheap eats to gourmet dining experiences complemented by a vibrant café culture with plenty of live music. 

Airlie Beach accommodation styles are as varied as the accents that can be heard in the main street. Basing a holiday in Airlie Beach has several distinct advantages. There is a large range of options for all budgets, from self contained apartments to large private holiday homes, family focused to adults only.

You can choose to stay right in the thick of things in central Airlie Beach, just out of town on scenic Cannonvale Beach or leafy Jubilee Pocket, or further afield at secluded beach townships, inland country towns and the northern beaches of Bowen. The vast majority of tour operators in the Whitsundays use Airlie Beach as their base, so you will find the greatest variety of day tours and overnight boats here.

The Whitsundays is a world renowned holiday destination, with icons like the Great Barrier Reef, Heart Reef and Whitehaven Beach at the top of millions of bucket lists the world around. Airlie Beach is the hub of the Whitsundays region, being the largest town on the Whitsunday Coast, almost entirely focused on tourism. The region has a very strong wedding industry with thousands of couples visiting each year to tie the knot to the backdrop of the stunning Whitsundays.

The Whitsundays region is made up of the 74 Whitsunday Islands and the Whitsunday Coast. The Whitsunday Coast is a cosmopolitan and inviting peninsula with beaches along the coastline, framed by national park and picturesque hinterland. Located approximately 1120 kilometres north of Brisbane and 630 kilometres south of Cairns, Airlie Beach is easily accessible by land and by air. 

If you choose to travel by plane you can fly into Hamilton Island with a short, high speed ferry ride to the mainland or fly direct into Proserpine and connect with a coach to bring you to Airlie Beach.  Either way, your holiday will have started before you know it!

Prior to European settlement, the region was inhabited by a small number of nomadic Aborigines who lived off the land and enjoyed the abundance of food and shelter. There is evidence that the Ngaro people settled in the region around 8,000 years ago and lived off a diet of small whales, turtles, shellfish, snakes, lizards, birds and marsupials. While historians suggest that French and Portugese sailors visited the region in 1522, it is accepted history that Captain James Cook on board the HMS Endeavour chartered and named Whitsunday Passage from which the region now takes its name.
In the mid-1800's the first European settlers ventured from the south and settled in the Whitsundays, growing sugarcane and grazing cattle with some so impressed by the islands' beauty that they took their cattle over to graze. Tourism took off in the 1920's when huts began to appear on some islands and the mainland to accomodate holiday makers. Airlie Beach first appeared on the map in 1936 but it wasn't until the 1970's that the secret about this charming little settlement was out which kicked off the tourism industry.