Airlie Beach is a small area that is packed full with bars, clubs, restaurants and tour offices, with accommodation options ranging from campsites to five star hotels.
A common concern when visiting Airlie Beach are the stingers, which can be a problem between October and April. Ocean swimming is restricted at that time, but the Airlie Beach Lagoon makes up for it. It's stinger-free year-round, holds 4.5 million litres of salt water, is patrolled every day from 7am to 9pm and is surrounded by landscaped gardens, barbecue facilities and picnic tables.
6km (4 miles) east of Airlie Beach is Conway National Park, a beautiful coastal park looking across the Whitsunday Passage. It is home to Proserpine rock-wallabies, the Australian brush-turkey and orange-footed scrubfowl. From the lookout at Mount Rooper, there are views of Hamilton, Dent, Long and Henning islands.
The islands are the main attraction of course and visitors will have the happy problem of deciding which type of boat to charter to the Whitsundays. Shute Harbour, 10km (six miles) east of Airlie Beach, is the departure point for many of the vessels.