Set on a peninsula on Queensland’s picturesque Whitsunday Coast, Airlie Beach has in recent years emerged from its backpacker roots into a quietly fashionable destination. While most visitors make their way here to catch a ferry to the Whitsunday Islands, these days—fresh from a multimillion-dollar upgrade of its town center—Airlie is exerting some staying power of its own.
Places of note: For tasty seafood paired with rum cocktails, Fish D’vine is known for its local chili mud crab and fresh-caught fish, which you can pick yourself from the display chiller. Breeze Bar is the place to go for afternoon drink; the casual venue is run by the same team that run the nearby SideWalk Café, so you can plop yourself down on a comfy lounge chair in the bar but still order tantalizing tapas. Staya at the hilltop Pinnacles Resort & Spa for the ultimate local luxury or, if you prefer to stay closer to the water, the apartments at the Peninsula Airlie Beach front the renovated Abell Point Marina.
How to get there: Travelers can reach Airlie Beach from two nearby airports, namely the Great Barrier Reef Airport on Hamilton Island and the Whitsunday Coast Airport, with direct domestic flights served by carriers like Qantas and JetStar from Brisbane, Sydney, and Cairns.
When to go: Visit in the spring, from September to November, before the heat of the summer peaks later in the year.