Airlie Beach may be two-horse small, but it's the main point of departure for many Whitsunday cruises so it's always got the lively feel of constant movement. In the day, the pace is laid back and mainly revolves around the town's artificial lagoon. This is a giant swimming pool (and we mean giant - more than the equivalent of six full-size pools) built by the council to give the town's inhabitants and visitors somewhere to swim when jellyfish season closes the beach.
The lagoon is surrounded by landscaped gardens and everything you'll need for a lazy day spent between the water and the picnic basket - BBQs, showers and toilets are all on tap.
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At night, the town sparks up and the backpacker population join the locals on Shute Harbour Road, the main center, to do the rounds of its bars, pubs and clubs. Shute Harbour Road is where you'll find most of the accommodation and eating options, which are reasonable to good. If you're taking a cruise out to the Barrier Reef or the Whitsunday Islands, you'll probably be leaving from Shute Harbour, about 10 minutes drive away from Airlie Beach itself.