Today the names Whitsunday and Whitsunday Islands encompass the large town of Whitsunday (created in 1987 to include the mainland settlements of Airlie Beach, Cannonvale and Shute Harbour). Airlie Beach is the mainland tourist centre of The Whitsundays; Cannonvale is predominantly a residential area for the locals; Shute Harbour is a major set-off point for aircraft and ferries to the islands. Sea cruises depart from the Port of Airlie, Abell Point Marina and Shute Harbour.
Location: 1135 km north of Brisbane (Airlie Beach)
The Airlie Beach Lagoon is a man-made swimming area with a family-friendly beach and park. The town is also known for nightlife ranging from backpacker bars to clubs. The centre of the Airlie Beach township is accommodation to suit all types and budgets, a myriad of gift shops, eating places ranging from fast foods to quality restaurants, pubs and bars, and shops catering for the needs of holiday makers. Located only a few metres from the beach the shopping centre has a holiday feel. The whole township has a distinctly tropical flavour.
The Whitsunday Islands are the most well known and well visited island group in Australia. They have become the epitome of the perfect tropical island holiday destination and are synonymous with the image of paradise. As one of the country's major tourist attractions and holiday destinations, these islands and the neighbouring coast are considered a very special part of Australia. Located just north of the Tropic of Capricorn, the Whitsundays are right in the heart of the World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef. The main islands lay directly between the Queensland Coast and The Great Barrier Reef to the east. Follow the link below for activities and tours in the Whitsunday Islands.
A peaceful coastal park overlooking the Whitsunday Passage, protecting rainforest-clad mountains, forested hills and deep valleys. The park offers superb views over the islands from Mount Rooper lookout or the ridge above secluded Coral Beach. Conway National Park's size and undeveloped nature makes it a very significant wilderness area. The park extends north along the coastline to the tip of Cape Conway, 30 km south of Shute Harbour and includes the rainforest-clad Conway Peninsula. It 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.
Enjoy a different Whitsunday experience and walk or mountain-bike the Great Walk on a 30 km journey through Conway National Park, starting at Brandy Creek, and finishing at Airlie Beach. With tracks of varying distance and difficulty, everyone can explore the Conway Range. The entire Great Walk is a three-day escape, but you can choose shorter walks or rides that are linked to the main track. Two short tracks can be accessed from Brandy Creek car park.
10km east of Airlie Beach, Shute Harbour is a buzzing marine transit facility, one of the boarding points for ferries to the islands, island/reef boating operations and moorings for private boats. Shute Harbour seaplane air base is the largest in the southern hemisphere. Shute Harbour is home to a busy marine transit facility, which includes one of the boarding points for ferries to the islands, as well as island/reef boating operations and moorings for private boats.
The Whitsundays are well developed as a tourist destination and boast a diverse range of tropical island resorts and hotels as well as the coastal resort village of Airlie Beach, catering fully for all tastes and budgets from 'el-cheapo' backpacker style accommodation to the up-market five-star resorts. As the nightlife of the Whitsundays is centred around the downtown area of Airlie Beach, it can get a bit noisy at night, so keep this in mind if selecting accommodation there.
The options are limitless here ... you can enjoy the mainland, charter your own yacht, cruise the beautiful Whitsunday islands, dive and snorkel the cays and surrounding reef, fish, see the Whitsundays and the Great Barrier Reef from above, or just sit back and relax on the beautiful island resorts.
Prior to 1936 the most easterly of the two small bays sitting on either side of the mouth of Airlie Creek was known as Horseshoe Bay and the land behind it as Jubilee Pocket and from about 1904 the land on the southern side of what is now Shute Harbour Road was occupied by a farming community. In December 1935 the Lands Department decided to throw open for selection the land fronting the water on the northern side of the road, and wrote to the Proserpine Shire Council asking it to suggest a name. The then Council chairman, Robert Shepherd, put forward 'Airlie' and this was confirmed at a meeting of the Council on 9 January 1936 (The Proserpine Guardian 18 January 1936) though the reason for Shepherd s choice is not known. He was born in 1879 in Montrose on the east coast of Scotland and spent his early life there before coming to Australia in 1904. The Parish of Airlie lies about 30 kilometres to the west of Montrose, and it is possible Shepherd had some association with that area and was influenced by memories of it.
During 1935 it was rumoured in the press (The Proserpine Guardian 8 June 1935) that the Earl of Airlie was to succeed Sir Isaac Isaacs as Governor General of Australia, and this also may have played a part. As it happened, the Earl did not become Governor General, the post being taken by Lord Gowrie in 1936. Another factor which may have influenced Shepherd was that in the Parish of Airlie in Scotland is a Glen Isla, a name that already existed near Proserpine when Shepherd arrived in the area. He obviously was keen on Scottish names for he named his two local properties Montrose and Braemar. Whatever the reason, the Whitsunday's 'Airlie' undoubtedly comes from the Scottish Airlie.
The Parish of Airlie lies on the northern slope of the valley of Strathmore in the county of Angus. It is tiny, about six miles by four, but nevertheless is quite famous in Scottish history. There is no town of Airlie as such, but there is a series of hamlets with Airlie names, such as Mains of Airlie, Airlie Kirkton, Newton of Airlie and so on. Airlie Castle is the official seat of the Earl of Airlie, the title dating from 1639 when it was granted to the Ogilvy family. The Earl's younger brother, Angus Ogilvy, is the husband of Princess Alexandra.
Following the proclamation of the new township, land between Shute Harbour Road and the waterfront was opened for selection. The first sale in January 1936 saw four blocks bought by C.E.Mazlin, F.H.Rogers, J.T.Foxlee and H.E.Foxlee, three at £45 ($90) and one at £15 ($30). By May a further two blocks had been sold, to S.R. Abell and R.T. Barr. Almost immediately after the name Airlie was adopted and the town of Airlie was born in Lands Department records, the area became known locally as 'Airlie Beach', and this name was to become common usage in later years.
On 6 April 1959 the residents petitioned for an official post office, which was approved on 9 July 1959 with a request to the residents to suggest a name for it. On 14 August 'Airlie Beach' was put forward and later approved by the Post Master General and the Lands Department. The first postmaster was H.J. Rowe in whose store the post office was located. The application for the post office contained the information that there were eighty-three residences in the area of which fifty-three were permanently occupied; there were sixty-nine permanent adult residents and the area carried mainly fruit and small-crop farming. Thus, while the official name of the town then was 'Airlie', the post office carried its own official name of 'Airlie Beach'. However, in the Government Gazette of 31 January 1987 the name 'Airlie Beach' was adopted for the town.