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Airlie Beach, QLD

Tourist hub and mainland access point for the Whitsunday Islands.

For all those people who do not fly into Hamilton Island airport, Airlie Beach is the entry point to the complex mixture of islands and resort towns known as the Whitsundays. This booming holiday town lies between Cannonvale and Shute Harbour; is ideally located at the bottom of the Conway Ranges beside a beautiful tropical beach and extensive marina; and is ideal for people planning to take a boat from Shute Harbour or Airlie Maritime Terminal out to the Whitsundays. Airlie Beach township is a strip of holiday gift shops, eating places ranging from fast foods to quality restaurants, pubs and bars, and a wide range of accommodation catering for everyone from backpackers to upmarket holidaymakers. The township has a distinctly tropical ambience and at night it is driven by the huge numbers of backpackers who fill the pubs along Harbour Road.

Location

Located beside a tropical beach at the base of the Conway Ranges Airlie Beach is 1118 km north of Brisbane and 150 km north of Mackay.

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Origin of Name

The town probably takes its name from the parish of Airlie - as in Airlie Castle and the Earl of Airlie -  in Scotland.

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Things to See and Do

Whitsundays
Aussie Towns has specific entries on the three islands with resorts: Hamilton Island, Hayman Island and Daydream Island.

Cruises
Cruise Whitsunday, which operate from Airlie Maritime Terminal, offer a range of cruises around the Whitsundays including day and half day cruises to Whitehaven Beach (with stops at Daydream Island and Hamilton Island) and full day Great Barrier Reef Adventures. For more details check out https://www.cruisewhitsundays.com.

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Other Attractions in the Area

Conway National Park
To the south of Airlie Beach lies the Conway National Park. It can be accessed from Airlie Beach by following Shute Harbour Road south-east for 6.5 km to the park's day use area. The park has a number of walking tracks which take the visitor through a variety of vegetation types including lowland rainforest, mangroves and open forest. Take the Mt Rooper track for spectacular Whitsunday Passage and island views. You can access the Swamp Bay camping area on foot or by boat.
The Queensland National Parks website describes the area as "This park includes the rainforest-clad Conway Peninsula and protects the largest area of lowland tropical rainforest in Queensland outside Tropical North Queensland. Hoop pines grow on coastal ridges and in damp gullies, emerging above the rainforest canopy. Rugged, steep, rocky cliffs provide a spectacular 35 km-long backdrop to the Whitsunday Passage and islands. Dry vine thicket, mangroves, open forests with a grasstree understorey, paperbark and pandanus woodlands, and patches of lowland rainforest with twisted vines grow in the park. It is home to two of Australia's mound-building birds, the Australian brush-turkey and the orange-footed scrubfowl. Rising steeply behind busy coastal settlements, the Conway Range appears impenetrable. Through climate fluctuations over tens of thousands of years, the rainforest has persisted here, providing a continuous refuge for wildlife.
"The park's vegetation is very similar to that on the Whitsunday islands because thousands of years ago the sea level rose, drowning coastal valleys and creating the islands. For thousands of years, the Ngaro and Gia people roamed these forests, harvesting riches of the land and the adjoining sea country. Today the adjacent waters are protected in marine parks."

There are a total of eight walks in the National Park.
(1) Coastal Fringe Circuit (Grade 2) walking track which is 1.2 km one way. It starts at the day-use area, passes through lowland rainforest and crosses a small tidal creek.
(2) Hayward Gully (Grade 2) walking track which is 1.6 km one way from Mt Rooper day use area. This track branches off the Coastal Fringe Circuit to Hayward Gully, with its lowland rainforest and rocky gullies.
(3) Swamp Bay (Grade 3) walking track which is a distance of 2.1 km one way starts at the Car Park and passes the foot of Mt Rooper to arrive at Swamp Bay, where a coral-strewn beach offers views of the Molle islands. Signs along this track describe Indigenous use of local plants.
(4) Mount Rooper - The turn-off to Mt Rooper is 200 m along the Swamp Bay track. The track passes through low woodland growing in shallow, stony, clay soils where brushbox, grasstrees and wattles are prominent. Although grasstrees here are small, they can grow to 4 m tall elsewhere. Their pale yellow flowers on spear-like stalks provide food for many insects. There is Conway Outlook (Grade 3) walking track which is 800 metres and climbs up through mixed forests for a view over Shute Harbour to the Conway Range.  There is another Mt Rooper (Grade 3) walking track which is 2.3 km long and passes across shallow, stony clay soils support brush box, grasstrees, wattles and other woodland vegetation to a panoramic vista of the Whitsunday Passage and the islands.
There is a Mt Rooper Circuit (Grade 3) walking track which is 5.4 km and has views of Daydream and North Molle islands. It descends through mixed forest to the Swamp Bay track.
There is also a Mt Rooper Circuit and Swamp Bay (Grade 3) walking track which is 7.2 km and tincludes both the Circuit and Swamp Bay tracks for a one-day walk.
(5) Coral Beach (Grade 3) walking track is 1.1 km which starts and finishes at Coral Beach car park. A brochure describing Indigenous use of the coastal environment is available from the leaflet box at the start. It has impressive views across Whitsunday Passage from Coral Beach.
(6) The Beak (Grade 3) walking track is 620 m from Coral Beach. It continues from Coral Beach continue on to The Beak. Walk east along Coral Beach and watch for the lookout symbol.
(7) Kingfisher Circuit (Grade 3) walking track is 2 km which winds down into a moist rainforest valley then ascend to meet up with the Conway circuit. Turn right to return to the car park or left to find the Wompoo way turn-off, a further 1.5km along the Conway circuit.
(8) Wompoo Way (Grade 3) walking track which is 7 km return to Forestry Road car park. Follow the Conway circuit 2.3 km from the Forestry Road car park and then turn left onto the Wompoo way turn-off to reach a calm creek lined with Alexandra palms. Listen for wompoo fruit-doves calling from the canopy.
Check out http://www.nprsr.qld.gov.au/parks/conway/about.html for more details.

Cedar Creek Falls
Located about halfway between Airlie Beach and Proserpine on Saltwater Creek Road, Cedar Creek Falls are set in a beautiful and mountainous region on the edge of the Conway National Park. The falls tumble 12 metres through rainforest into a stream which is ideal for swimming if you want to escape the heat and warmth of the ocean. The falls are set in a natural rock amphitheatre. They are spectacular in the wet season and are surrounded by abundant flora and fauna including majestic white cedar trees, Alexandra Palms, wild orchids, colourful butterflies and many beautiful birds. The waterhole is an easy walk from the parking area and there are also bush walks up and around the falls for the more energetic. For more information check out http://www.queensland.com/en-au/attraction/cedar-creek-falls#spanel. There is a detailed map of the route from Airlie Beach at http://www.queensland.com/en-au/journey/airlie-beach-to-cedar-creek-falls.

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History

* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area was occupied by members of the Darumbal Aboriginal language group.

* In 1770 Captain Cook sailed up the coast and named Cape Conway.

* In 1904 an early settler, Thomas Abell, took up land at Airlie Beach to grow vegetables and fruit.

* In 1935 the Queensland Lands Department offered land beside the beach for sale. It was named Airlie Beach which was probably a reference to Abell's home in Scotland.

* By 1936 the land was known officially as Airlie Beach.

* The town's first post office was opened in 1959.

* Shute Harbour was opened in 1961.

* The Airlie Beach Hotel Motel opened in 1968.

* The area became known as the town of Whitsunday in 1987.

* In 2001 Airlie Beach lagoon with stinger-free swimming pools was opened.

* A new footbridge connecting the lagoon and the main street was opened.

* In 2010 Cyclone Ului caused damage to the town.

* The town was again hit by a cyclone - Cyclone Yasi - in 2011.

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Visitor Information

Airlie Beach Information Centre, 259 Shute Harbour Road, tel: 1800 677 119 or (07) 4946 5299.

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Useful Websites

The University of Queensland site - http://queenslandplaces.com.au/airlie-beach - has useful information about the history of the town.

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