Dropping into a deep blue sea and backing onto the rolling hills of national park, Airlie Beach forms the gateway to the Whitsundays. Just 1300 lucky folks permanently reside on Airlie Beach, which is a tourist town decked out with the works.

At the fringe of the Great Barrier Reef, snorkelling and diving here is literally a jump into another world of brilliant colours and creatures. At the opposite end of the spectrum, skydiving here begins with a spectacular view and ends with a thrilling fall.

“Like Byron, the backpackers make Airlie Beach what it is. Trip over their sleeping bags and spend some time around the inlet bridges.” – Justin Wastnage

As sunset breaks low on the water, the sailboats bobbing at and off Airlie Beach form a spectacular orange skyline. Minutes from the beach, the town caters for holidaymakers and is a hub of fine dining, fast food, pubs and nightclubs fit for the regular city party animal.

Airlie Lagoon is a haven for swimmers who don’t want to have to play dodge the stingers, and a trek into Conway National Park is well rewarded at Cedar Creek Falls. The falls tumble 12m through rainforest into a stream that’s suitable for swimming.

Where? // 270km (3hrs 45mins) southeast of Townsville.

Did you know? // Each year in October the Paddling Through History Festival, a four-day canoe trip through the Whitsundays, departs from Airlie Beach, tracing the original routes taken by local Ngaro Aboriginals more than 6000 years earlier.


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