Airlie Beach is a tropical tourist town that knows how to have a good time

Located in the heart of the Whitsundays, Airlie Beach is a fantastic launching pad for exploring the Great Barrier Reef. With a laid-back vibe, lovely locals and lively bars and restaurants, it might even turn out to be a highlight of your East Coast adventure. Whether you fancy relaxing by the lawn-fringed lagoon, meandering around the many cafes and boutiques, or dining on local seafood, there's loads to see and do. Do as much or as little as you like — you're on tropical time here.

Our Airlie Beach tours

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Tailor-Made trips

Take four or more on an exclusive trip and tailor your itinerary

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Highlights of Airlie Beach

snorkelling with turtles

Snorkel the Great Barrier Reef

Explore one of the world's most incredible natural wonders, the Great Barrier Reef, on a day tour from Airlie Beach. It takes just a few hours to reach the outer-reef pontoon where you can swim with shimmering fish in every colour of the rainbow. If you're lucky, you might see turtles or graceful stingrays gliding past. 

Sailing in the Whitsundays

Go on a sailing adventure

Get ready your sunscreen and sunhat at the ready... we're going sailing! Feel the sun on your back and the wind in your hair as we cruise around the postcard-perfect Whitsunday Islands. Sit back and relax with a cool drink and enjoy views of the national park and distant resorts. On a clear night, you might catch a glimpse of the sparkling Southern Cross after sunset.

A plate of prawns and a glass of beer

Wine and dine

The main strip of Airlie Beach is packed with cafes, restaurants and bars playing live music. And for a small town, the foodie scene certainly packs a punch! From locally sourced seafood to burgers and tapas, your taste buds are in for a treat. If you fancy a sundowner, have a cocktail overlooking the marina or take your pick of lively beer gardens.

Whitehaven Beach

Visit Whitehaven Beach

Drop anchor and relax on the soft white sand of one of the world's most beautiful beaches. (Don't just take our word for it — Tripadvisor also named it the world's best beach in 2021.) With 98% pure silica sand lapped by bright blue waters, photos will never do these views justice... but you can definitely try! For the best photo ops, climb to the top of the Hill Inlet Lookout on the northern end of the beach.

Airlie Beach tour reviews

Airlie Beach FAQs

Trips from 1 January 2023 onwards

From 1 January 2023, Intrepid will no longer require travellers to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19 (excluding all Polar trips and select adventure cruises). However, we continue to strongly recommend that all Intrepid travellers and leaders get vaccinated to protect themselves and others.

Specific proof of testing or vaccination may still be required by your destination or airline. Please ensure you check travel and entry requirements carefully.

Learn more about Intrepid's COVID-19 proof of vaccination policy

Our East Coast adventures start in Sydney or Brisbane. Whitsunday Coast Airport in Proserpine is the closest airport to Airlie Beach. If you fly into Whitsunday Coast Airport, you'll need to drive or take a transfer to Airlie Beach. This is easy to arrange as buses meet all incoming flights. The drive from Whitsunday Coast Airport to Airlie Beach takes around 25 minutes.

Learn more about how to get to Airlie Beach

If you don't have far to go it's easy to walk around Airlie Beach as the town is compact and almost completely flat. If you'd like to travel further afield, local bus services are provided by Whitsunday Transit and run until around 10pm most days. You can also catch a taxi, or rent a hire car or bicycle.

Airlie Beach has a tropical climate, so any time of year is a good time to visit. That being said, August to October is considered to be a particularly good period as the weather is dry. June to October also offers whale watching opportunities, when humpbacks migrate to the warm Whitsunday waters to birth their young.

If you're visiting Airlie Beach between October and May, it's advisable to wear a stinger suit when swimming in the ocean to protect yourself from possible jellyfish stings.

Airlie Beach is a laid-back destination so you can leave your fancy clothes at home. Sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat are a must, even in winter, as the sun reflects off the sparkling Coral Sea. There's a supermarket in the heart of town which is handy in case you forget to pack any essentials.

There's no need to get dressed up, even if you're staying at one of the resorts at Airlie Beach. Casual clothes or active wear are fine during the day. Smart casual is the usual dress code at restaurants.

Airlie Beach is on the mainland so there's good mobile data and wi-fi coverage in town and the surrounding areas.

Airlie Beach is on the mainland so there's good mobile coverage. Just note that you may be cut off or have patchy reception if you head out on a sailing trip on the open water.

You can swim in certain areas at Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays — but only if you follow local advice and observe warning signs for jellyfish. One of the most popular swimming spots is the Airlie Beach Lagoon on the oceanfront as it's filled with chlorinated saltwater and is patrolled by lifeguards.

Learn more about swimming at Airlie Beach

We're committed to making travel widely accessible, regardless of ability or disability. That’s why we do our best to help as many people see the world as possible, regardless of any physical or mental limitations they might have. However, we’re always happy to talk to travellers with disabilities and see if we can help guide them towards the most suitable itinerary for their needs and where possible, make reasonable adjustments to our itineraries.

Learn more about accessible travel with Intrepid

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