I love the Whitsundays

Where is Airlie Beach?

Megan Taylor - Saturday, June 05, 2010
It's funny, I travel around the world and Australia and I am suprised about how few people know where the Whitsundays are and even fewer have ever heard of Airlie Beach, the gateway to the Whitsunday Islands.
I transferred from New York to the Whitsundays about 13 years ago and I will admit I had no idea where I was going. I was born in Australia but raised in America for 90% of my life. When I decided to come home a head hunter found a job for me at a resort on the Whitsunday Islands.  Honestly, I thought they said the Great Bite and not the Great Barrier Reef and assumed, incorrectly, that I was off to Adelaide. It was only when I got the tickets that I noticed I was off to Queensland and after a bit of research I realised I was not near any major city or anywhere I had ever heard of. What got me excited was that whenever I mentioned,  where I was going "the Whitsundays" the response was always "oh your so lucky" or "that is the most beautiful spot in the world". I'll have to admit, when I flew in over Hamilton Island Airport and looked at my new home from the birds eye view of the plane, I was amazed, I could not speak, and I took a while to remember to breath. I thought this is what it is like to win the lottery, okay not the money, but the lets say the lifestyle lottery.
A few of the staff met me on the jetty and took me down to my new home. They were trying to ease me into the fact that island staff accommodation is not great and small but that I would get used to it after a while. When I got to the apartment I laughed. It was about the size of a studio apartment in New York and it had a private balcony overlooking the tip of the island out ot the Coral Sea. I told them this apartment, with a view of a brick wall or trash tip, in New York would cost me about $2000 + a month. I was very happy.
After a few weeks managing one of the islands I realised I needed to get my bank account set up, do some serious shopping, and it would be nice to get off the island for a while. Everyone told me I needed to go over to Airlie Beach, on the mainland, for a long weekend and get myself sorted out. Now, from what I assumed, Airlie Beach was were the island transfer boats were mored and the islands received their supplies from. I had no idea that this sleepy little supply town was actually a thriving cosmopolitan community that had resorts, backpacker hostils, clubs, restaurants, great shopping, and a huge amount of activities that we could not access from the islands. I was blown away and I was in love.  Six years later, 2 kids & a husband (yes it happens on islands) I left the islands and moved to the Whitsunday Coast and settled in Airlie Beach to start my own business.
In the 13 years since I first laid eyes on Airlie Beach, she has doubled in size (so have I..okay maybe not doubled but giving it a good shot) , she has boomed with luxurious apartments, 5 star resorts, private label fashion houses, B & B's, family friendly activities, a beautiful lagoon, and a variety more restaurants and cafe's.  Somehow, Airlie Beach has grown but never lost the feel of a small town. Everyone is friendly, there is plenty to do and see on the water and on land, you do not need a car, and there are plenty of places to sit back, relax, have a great glass of wine and watch the boats sail by.
So maybe it's a good thing that a lot of people do not know where Airlie Beach is or just assume the Whitsundays is all about the islands. But if you decide to come the the Whitsundays I would make sure that you include a stay in Airlie Beach and maybe you could will win the lifestyle lottery like I did.

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