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Airlie Beach is where you will find the Whitsundays - a group of spectacular islands (and where you can find the unbelievably gorgeous Whitehaven Beach) and it's often a stopping point for most travelers on their way up the East Coast to Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef. The Whitsundays, named by explorer James Cook, are a huge tourist destination. The Whitsundays included 74 islands and are great for snorkeling, diving and especially sailing. From Airlie, you can book a number of different sailing trips - everything from ones where you are part of the crew, to other ships where all you have to do is relax.
Airlie Beach is quite popular with backpackers and there is no shortage of accommodations and clubs/pubs catering to this demographic - you can find just about any kind of entertainment here. Foam parties, anyone? Maybe jelly wrestling is more your thing? M@ss Nightclub is a popular one for travelers because of its bar and the live music.
Travelers besides backpackers, however, will find things to enjoy as well. Shopping, dining, places to learn to dive - the amount of activities are seemingly endless. Airlie's a decent place to get an opal, too. Perhaps not as good as Coober Pedy (in South Australia), but there are a number of shops focused on opals.
Be careful of entering the water between November and May because of stingers in the area - check with locals before going in, especially if the water is warm. The rainy season in Airlie is between January and March.