Hostelworld Guide for Airlie Beach

Eoin White


As a launch pad to the stunning Whitsunday Islands and Great Barrier Reef, Airlie Beach attracts the bulk of travellers exploring the east coast of Australia, which has led to it becoming much more than just a stopover town. Its main thoroughfare is Shute Harbour Road, and here you'll find everything that this small town has to offer. You'll also encounter countless tour companies dealing in wild adventures at sea during the day include sailing, snorkeling, scuba-diving, kayaking and speed boating, while on dry land an equally wild nightlife awaits you. But the main attractions here are the breathtaking Whitsunday Islands. You can choose from a host of multi-day cruises which bring you all around this UNESCO World Heritage site and also to jewel in the crown, Whitehaven Beach. Explore this region and you'll leave thinking you've just seen paradise. You won't be far wrong.



In this Guide...      

Useful Information
After Dark
Places to Eat
Top Attractions
Budget Tips
Where to Shop

 The Essentials


Getting There

By plane: The Whitsunday Coast Airport isn't actually on the coast but a 25 minute drive inland in a place called Proserpine. From here there are regular transfers to Airlie Beach.

By train: Proserpine is also home to the nearest train station. 'Whitsunday Coaches' are on hand to meet every train and take you right to the door to your accommodation.

By bus: If you're arriving by bus you'll be dropped off 100 metres from Shute Harbour Road, Airlie Beach's main road.

Getting Around

On foot: 'Airlie' is small...very small. Walking around is the only way to go. Shute Harbour Road is the main street and all the hostels, bars, restaurants and booking offices are either on it or branch off it.

By bus: There may be a few occasions when taking a bus is required, especially if you're going to the neighbouring town of Cannonvale or the nearby national parks. Whitsunday Transit run buses up and down Shute Harbour Road 7 days a week.

By taxi: The chances are that you won't be needing a taxi while in Airlie but just in case it's good to know that there's a taxi rank right in the middle of Shute Harbour Road.

 Airlie Beach facts

Name: Originally called plain old Airlie by a Scottish Chairman of the regional council after the town of Airlie in Scotland, Airlie Beach took on its current name in 1904.
Population: Airlie Beach is home to around 25,000 people.
Founded: While the Whitsundays were first named in 1770 by Captain Cook (a mistake in timekeeping meant that it was actually a Whitmonday), Airlie wasn't founded until 1904 when farmers took up residence along the coast. Taking its name from the town of Airlie in Scotland, it didn't become Airlie Beach until 1959 after locals pushed for the much more popular name.

Resting on the same latitude as Rio de Janeiro, Mauritius, Tahiti and New Caledonia, Airlie Beach basks in a subtropical climate which means an average daily temperature of around 27C. What this means is that it's a perfect place to visit at any time of the year, with winter temperatures rarely dropping below 23C. During the summer months you can expect 30C heat most days, so make sure to take precaution as the sun is quite severe in this part of the world. Water temperatures remain pretty constant year round at 25C but it's probably best to stick to the man made lagoon as these warm waters attract thousands of stingers.

 Good to know...

Language: English
Currency: Australian Dollar (AUD)
Electricity: 240 volts, 50 cycles. Plug: v-shaped flat prongs
Telephone Code: +61 (Australia)
Emergency Code: 000
Time Zone: GMT +10 hours

Embassies / Consulates

USA: +61 (0)2 9373 9200*
UK: +61 (0)2 9247 7521*
Canada: +61 (0)2 6270 4000*
South Africa: +61 (0)2 6273 2424**
Ireland: +61 (0)2 9231 6999*
Germany: +61 (0)7 4041 5344
Spain: +61 (0)2 9261 2433*
Italy: +61 (0)2 9392 7939*
New Zealand: +61 (0)2 8256 2000*
France: +61 (0)2 9261 5779*

*Number is for embassy in Sydney
**Number is for embassy in Canberra

Hostelworld Guide for Airlie Beach

 After Dark

 Cheap Eats

Magnums, 366 Shute Harbour Road Airlie's not a big place so Magnums can't be missed, especially at night. The bar is packed seven nights a week thanks to its adjoined hostel and because it's a popular place for the after parties of returning sailing excursions. Inside you'll also find 'M@SS', the town's wildest nightclub. Open daily 10am-3am.

Paddy Shenanigans, 352 Shute Harbor Road Airlie's obligatory Irish pub is exactly as you'd expect - the drinks flow, the dance floor is heaving, the barstaff move at lightning speed, there's sport on the television and deep and meaningful conversations abound. Above all, the sound of a live band can also be heard. Great fun. Open daily 5pm-late.

Mama Africa's, 263 Shute Harbour Road Just as the rest of Airle Beach is winding down for the night, Mama Africa's springs to life. Easily the most popular spot in town, this African-themed club only gets going after midnight yet somehow manages to be both chilled out and manic at the same time. Open daily 11pm-late.

 Some rum in the sun

RumBar, Shop 2 / Beach Plaza, The Esplanade These people love rum. Not only do they stock a huge and ever increasing stock of the world's most diverse spirit, but the staff here are also passionate about what they serve and how they serve it. If you're new to rum don't worry - these guys have suggestions to get anyone hooked. Open daily 11.30am-midnight.

Beaches, 356 Shute Harbour Road This huge bar can pack in over 800 people, and it seems that it's close to reaching capacity most nights of the week. It's the perfect place to meet other backpackers as everyone squeezes together side by side along picnic tables to share travel stories and drinks. Chances are you'll hear it before you see it. Open daily 7pm-late.

Neptune, Esplanade When in a seaside town, it would be rude not to sample the best fish and chips on offer. Neptune has been serving huge portions of 'caught-that-morning' fish for over 50 years now, and has a huge selection of seafood for you to choose from. Ignore the imitators, Neptune is the real deal. Open daily 10am-8.30pm

Waterfront Bar & Grill, Beach Plaza Overlooking the beach, this backpacker favourite always makes an effort to include specials in its menu for the budget conscious among us. Whether for breakfast, lunch or dinner, it's a nice and spacious place to chill out and eat well. Open daily 7am-midnight.


Off Ya Noodle & Pasta Bar, Beach Plaza, Shp 10, The Esplanade 'When two great chefs come together expect the best of both worlds'. So reads the cocky menu but once you're through your meal you'll be inclined to agree. Whether you opt for a noodle or pasta dish you're guaranteed fresh grub that's freshly cooked right in front of you. Open daily 11am-9pm.1

Mama's Boys, 366 Shute Harbour Road A part of the sprawling Magnum complex that is busy day and night, Mama's Boys serves great value pub-style meals and specialises in filling you up. The menu is huge and covers steaks, burgers, pastas, seafood, salads and pizzas. Open daily 9am- 5pm.

KC's Steak & Seafood Bar, 382 Shute Harbour Road If you're in the mood for spoiling yourself with a steak but don't want to break the bank KC's is the place for you. An ideal way to start the night, this bar and grill serves up delicious meals, hosts regular live music and is a nice place to spend a few hours among friends. Open daily 10am-midnight.

 Don't Miss

 Budget Tips

Sailing the Whitsundays A 3-4 day boat trip around the Whitsundays is nirvana for sailors, heaven for scuba-divers, paradise for snorkelers and pure bliss for those looking to spend long days sunbathing on the deck of a luxurious yacht. Sailing around the islands might blow your budget but it's worth spoiling yourself every now and then, especially for this.

 Time is of the essence

Ocean Rafting Offering three adventures in one, Ocean Rafting is ideal if you've only got a day to explore the Whitsunday Islands. The tour is on a rigid, inflatable boat that hurtles through the water at breakneck speed, becoming airborne over waves and leaving your heart racing. Then you take in the spectacular Whitehaven Beach before snorkeling over pristine reefs.

Trip on the Proserpine River A trip down the Proserpine River is the best way to see the species of birds, mammals and reptiles that live along it. But what you really want to catch a sighting of are wild estuarine crocodiles as you sit snugly in the tour boat.

Skydive over the Whitsundays While you can skydive in every major stop along the east coast of Australia, nowhere comes close to the Whitsunday Islands in terms of scenery. After the jump from 14,000ft and freefall of 55 seconds, the view of Queensland's celebrated archipelago will simply take your breath away.

Visit Conway National Park & State Forest There's a lot more to the Whitsunday region than just islands and reefs, and if you venture inland you'll find some gorgeous walking tracks through the lush Conway National Park and State Forest. Daily buses travel there regularly from Shute Harbour Road.

Contact your hostel for tour info.

Go on standby for tours If you are planning a tour around the islands and want to save a little bit of cash, make sure to ask your tour operator if there are standby rates available. Space on a boat can open up at the last minute, suiting both parties to get you onboard with the sweetener of a little discount.

Use free WiFi in Beach Plaza As free wifi is becoming rarer and rarer these days, the hourly fees here and there all add up. This is what makes it particularly refreshing it is to find somewhere like the Beach Plaza which offers free, super-fast WiFi to all customers who eat or drink in any of its stores.

Take advantage of free barbecues As with the rest of the east coast, Airlie Beach provides waterfront BBQs that are free to use. Heading to the supermarket and grabbing some meat for dinner is a great way to save money, eat well and enjoy views of the ocean with your meal. The BBQs are available to use 24 hours a day and are ideal for a big group of hungry friends who've become tired of pasta and noodles.

 Lazing at the lagoon

Relax at the Airlie Beach Lagoon Despite its name, the beach isn't where most people decide to engage in some tan management. This is due to the presence of jellyfish in the waters from October to May. As an alternative Airlie has a man-made lagoon off the main street. The grass and sand banks are popular for sunbathing while the water is watched over by lifeguards during the day and security at night.

Use the free bus service on Hamilton Island If you decide to stay on Hamilton Island when in Airlie Beach (it's one of the most famous of all the Whitsunday Islands), make sure to take advantage of the island's free buses. There are three routes which take you to the island's attractions, making them very handy.

Hostelworld Guide for Airlie Beach