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Airlee Beach or Airlea Beach? How do you say it?

Airlee Beach, Airlie Beach, or Airlea Beach... it doesn't really matter how you spell it ... or pronounce it ... its just another way of saying paradise.

If you want to sound like a local though, try rhyming it with hairy peach and you'll be in.

Today, this beach town--the gateway to the gorgeous Whitsunday Islands and the heart of the Great Barrier Reef--is party headquarters for thousands of travellers from near and far. With a main street crowded with lively pubs, happening clubs, laidback cafes, and fancy restaurants, Airlie Beach is the perfect pit stop for tourists of all styles. Here is where wanderers share their travel stories and new adventures are begun. Step off Airlies doorstep and dive into underwater adventures, a Whitehaven Beach frolic, and coral reef encounters just to name a few.

The name Airlie was most likely the gift of a wistful Scottish-born councillor in the 1930's whose hometown, Montrose, in Scotland was close to the Scottish Parish of Airlie, but it was not until 1987 that the full name Airlie Beach was officially approved by council.

Including Beach in the name does send travellers searching for a long stretch of sand but the official beach of Airlie Beach, as many have discovered, is not quite worth writing home about. It is a quaint, partly rocky, curve of sand that hugs the small peninsula branching off the main street. This is still a lovely beach for an evening stroll but not great for a paddle or swim. For those watersports look no further than the sparkling, palm-tree-fringed, manmade lagoon, complete with stretches of sand for sunbathing, which is perfectly located on the waterside of main street.

At the end of the day, of course, it's not what you call a place but what experiences you enjoy there that make it memorable. And Airlies offerings for adventures are diverse, far-reaching, accessible and easily affordable.

The climate is season-defying and swimmer-friendly, staying balmy and tropical most of the year. This is a gift of Airlie Beach's north-facing aspect, which shelters it from the South East Trade Winds, and its good geographical company (positioned with a longitude and latitude that closely matches Tahiti, Hawaii and the Bahamas). Almost exactly halfway along the 2000-kilometre stretch of the Great Barrier Reef, Airlie Beach is the best launching point for exploring the Reef as well as the lush islands that make up the Whitsundays.

Abel Point Marina and Port of Airlie harbour over 300 commercial vessels, providing sailing and powered boat tours for every budget, taste, and timeframe. Scuba diving, snorkelling, paddle boarding, kayaking, hiking, and beachcombing are just a few of the activities available with overnight sailing trips the most popular way to best explore the Islands, the Reef and the beaches. Anchoring during the night at any number of the Islands' coves or bays, these trips allow tourists to see the turquoise waters lit by sunrises and sunsets, to revel under the star-studded skies, and to chance a meeting with native locals such as loggerhead turtles, dolphins, and coy reef fish. During the right season whales may coast by too.

It is encounters such as these that make a holiday an adventure of a lifetime. So, find it on a map, pronounce it as best you can, but make sure you visit it at least once and discover all that this little town opens the door to.

Sam Clapham
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