Airlie Beach

Sitting on lovely undulating coastline traditionally owned by the Ngaro and Gia peoples, Airlie is the gateway to the unparalleled Whitsunday Islands and an essential stop on most east-coast road trips. Its multiple hostels, sprawling beer gardens and myriad tour operators are strung along Shute Harbour Rd, separated from Pioneer Bay by a lovely lawn-fringed swimming lagoon.

Between the swanky cafes and clinking masts of the Abell Point and Port of Airlie marinas, you'll find all you need in this beachside holiday hub: bars, restaurants, supermarkets, hotels and a seemingly unending string of flawlessly tanned European backpackers. Those looking to avoid the party scene – families especially – will have no trouble finding quieter lodgings close enough to the centre of town. And if that's still too hectic, the forests and walking trails of Conway National Park lie just south and east of town.

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Airlie Beach.