Airlie Beach (pronounced Air-lee) is the coastal town that serves as the jump-off point for the Whitsundays. It’s the budget town to Hamilton Island’s luxury, and it’s targeted more for backpackers.
The Whitsundays have at least a dozen charter companies for sailing vacations, and most of them are based in Airlie beach at the Abell Point Marina.
Instead of getting a marina slip or a mooring, we anchored outside the mooring field, which was about a one-kilometer dinghy ride into the dock. Abell Point Marina does have a nice dinghy dock near the public boat ramp.
An alternative is to anchor in Airlie Bay inside of the mooring field, close to the beach. We did see a few boats in there, including an FP Orana, but I’m sure that the depth gets pretty shallow at low tide.
Since we were lucky enough to be in town on a Saturday, we attended the Whitsunday Saturday Markets. This market is held at the foreshore, with a good mix of crafts, ready-to-eat foods, and produce. Our favorite purchase was some sugar cane juice with lime, so delicious on a hot day!
The lagoon is a public space on the waterfront. While there is an actual beach in Airlie, the lagoon is a pool and man-made beach. There’s a nearby kiddie pool, fountains, and bbq pits. It’s pretty popular!
The Bicentennial Boardwalk runs 3.7 km from Airlie Beach to Cannonvale. It runs alongside the beach and lagoon in Airlie, and then through the marina (pedestrian only) and into Cannonvale, where it’s a park with basketball courts, public restrooms, and outdoor sculptures.
It’s a pretty gorgeous view over the marina and mountains towards sunset from Hemingway’s Restaurant. The Garden Bar is a comfortable outdoor space perfect for sundowners.