Airlie Beach's History

The small coastal town of Airlie Beach can be found on the Queensland coast, just west of the famous Whitsunday Islands. Shrouded in an interesting Indigenous Australian and European history, Airlie Beach is now a thriving holiday town attracting national and international travellers from all corners of the world.


Airlie Beach’s history is now annually commemorated during the ‘Paddling Through History Festival’. Celebrating over 6000 years of maritime, settling and culture history, this four day canoe trip around the Whitsunday Islands pays tribute to the traditional routes taken by the original Ngaro people.


The first documented European to sight the Airlie Beach mainland was Captain James Cook in 1770, as he sailed through the Great Barrier Reef. Named after the day they were sighted, Captain Cook sailed through the Whitsunday Passage past South Molle, Daydream and the Airlie Beach mainland to the west and Dent, Whitsunday, Hayman and Hook Islands to the east.


As time passed, the first settlers to the mainland and islands encounter some problems and violent confrontations with the indigenous Australian community known as the Ngaro people. From 1904 a farming community settled on the southern side of Shute Harbour Road and other small communities started arising at Horseshoe Bay and Jubilee Pocket in around 1936. History then has it, the first land sales, in the area locally known as Airlie Beach, were in January 1936. But only on the 14th of August, 1959, after heavy protests from the 83 residents, did the town officially become known as ‘Airlie Beach’. Presently, Airlie Beach is a popular town for travellers and known to be the getaway point to the Whitsunday Islands.