Airlie Beach, Queensland, Australia
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Airlie Beach is the gateway to the Australia of your dreams. Although the Queensland town offers many antipodean delights such as palm-fringed beaches, a huge man-made lagoon and alfresco dining, there’s a great reason to head straight out of town: This is the jumping-off point for the magnificent Whitsundays, a group of 74 islands that are famous for their timeless natural beauty, white-sand beaches and crystal-clear water.Your options here are pretty much limitless—charter a boat and sail around the archipelago; snorkel or scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef; or snap the perfect selfie on sublime Whitehaven Beach, consistently named among the best beaches in the world. There are many other activities closer to shore—from kayaking to glass-bottom boat tours—as well as hiking through lowland tropical rain forest in Conway National Park, for those who want to keep their feet firmly on the ground. And if you’re simply looking to kick back with a drink in hand and enjoy the magnificent views, head to cosmopolitan Hamilton Island, the largest inhabited island of the Whitsundays, for its stylish restaurants and bars.Note: Stinger (jellyfish) season in the Whitsundays is from October to May; you’re advised to wear a stinger suit in the water during this time.