Airlie Beach is known as the Heart of Australia's Great Barrier Reef (GBR) due to its position near the centre of the GBR that stretches for two thousand kilometres along the coast. Near latitude 20 degrees South, Airlie Beach and the nearby Whitsunday Islands enjoy a tropical climate and lifestyle.
The Whitsunday Islands, named by James Cook in 1770 are a sailors' paradise. Cook named the islands as he believed he passed through the area on the Christian festival day of Whit Sunday. It is now widely accepted that he didn't actually pass through on this date, as he had failed to take into account the yet to be brought into existence International Date Line a lá Phileas Fogg.
Each year the residents of Airlie Beach celebrate The Blessing of the Fleet on Whit Sunday or Pentecost Sunday. The Blessing was started by Father Keith Felgate.
Airlie Beach is a tourist destination and together with the adjacent Shute Harbour, provide one of the embarkation point for both the Whitsunday Islands and the Great Barrier Reef. Its beach is small and the sea is inhabited by marine stingers (a type of jellyfish) from November to May. In order to provide somewhere for the short term visitors tourists to swim, the local council, has built a medium sized swimming lagoon on the foreshore.