Where is Airlie Beach Australia Review

Alan from Whitsunday Dive Centre, Great Barrier Reef Diving Expert

airlie beach

Where is Airlie Beach located? Airlie Beach is a small coastal town located in Central Queensland. A popular tourist destination for International travellers, Airlie Beach is a rare mixture of ecological attractions and wonderful restaurants and bars.

Airlie Beach is situated in a picturesque location adjacent to the magnificent Whitsunday Islands.

The Great Barrier Reef and the Whitsunday Islands are waiting for you when you visit Airlie Beach. Some of the best known resort islands that can be accessed from Airlie Beach are Hayman Island, Hamilton Island, Daydream Island and South Molle Island

Where exactly is Airlie Beach located? Airlie Beach is located on the northeast coast of Australia in the state of Queensland about 1098km on the National Highway from Brisbane.

Latitude 20.27' south
Longitude 148.72' east

Airlie Beach lies north of the Tropic of Capricorn and in the top northern sector of the Australian state of Queensland. Boats leave Airlie Beach at regular intervals to take visitors to the Whitsunday Islands and Great Barrier Reef. Sailing is one of the most popular activities in Airlie Beach and you can charter a bareboat, join a liveaboard cruise or take a day sailing trip . Getting to Airlie Beach


Officially, Airlie Beach is part of the Whitsunday Region and is administerd by the Whitsunday Regional Council. Airlie Beach is often referred to as the Gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. The dominant industry in Airlie Beach is tourism. Sugar production, beef cattle and mining are also important industries in the region.

Airlie Beach has a Domestic airport that is located a 40 minute drive from the town. All flights are met by taxis and an airport shuttle.

It is a 1 hour 20 minuts flight from Brisbane and a 2.5 hour direct flight from Sydney.

The main entry points to Airlie Beach are via the airport or by road from Brisbane in the south or Cairns in the north

A History of Airlie Beach

Before the arrival of European settlers, Airlie Beach and The Whitsunday Islands were home to the Darumbai (Dharumbai), indigenous Australians who occupied most of central Queensland. The Darumbai language has now been classed as extinct although a few Darumbai words live on in a couple of the towns in Queensland.
In 1770 Captain Cook named Cape Conway, which is just south of Airlie Beach. It?s a national park with numerous walks and literally no residents (the 2016 census recorded zero population).

Cairns City

A pioneering family headed by Thomas Abell settled in Airlie Beach in 1904. His wife and 9 children settled in the area which was then dense rainforest. Most of the rainforest is gone now but pockets of it still exist outside of the main town area. The change in just 116 years is quite extraordinary.
In 1917 a road started to be built to connect Airlie Beach to Proserpine. Before it was completed in 1918 the only way to get there was on foot or by boat up the Proserpine River.

The Queensland Lands Department put some of the land by the beach up for sale in 1935 and it was marketed as Airlie Beach for the first time. It?s believed it was named Airlie Beach in reference to a parish in Scotland where Abell was originally from. It was officially founded in 1936.


Jetties were created and Shute Harbour was opened for tourism in 1961, making it much easier for people to visit. The Airlie Beach Hotel Motel opened in 1968 and still exists today, although it?s somewhat different to how it originally looked.

By 1970 tourism had begun to really make its mark in the area, although tourists and especially locals had been visiting the islands since the 1920?s. Over the years tourism slowly grew with overnight trips as well as day trips gaining in popularity. Hamilton Island, Hayman Island, Daydream Island, South Molle Island, Lindeman Island, Hook Island, Long Island and Hayman Island are all accessed from Airlie Beach. The 1980?s saw redevelopment of the islands into the popular resorts you see these days.
Airlie Beach Lagoon was built in 2001, meaning safe swimming with no need for stinger suits for all tourists and residents.
Coral Sea Resort Marina and Boat Haven Marina which are both located a short 5 minute walk from the main street of Airlie Beach, have taken over from Shute Harbour as the main departure and arrival points for tourist vessels heading to the Great Barrier Reef or Whitsunday Islands.

The resort town has grown so much since those days and although there are only about 2000 residents, there are numerous hotels, backpackers hostels and campgrounds which gives the impression of a much larger population.

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