Buzzing with backpackers, AIRLIE BEACH is nestled between the sea and a hillside covered in apartment blocks, with all services crammed into one short stretch of Shute Harbour Road and the 100m-long Esplanade. Despite the name, Airlie Beach has only a couple of gritty stretches of sand, which get covered at high tide – though the view of the deep turquoise bay, dotted with yachts and cruisers, is gorgeous. To make up the shortfall, there’s a free, open-air landscaped pool between Shute Harbour Road and the sea, complete with showers, changing rooms, picnic hotplates, benches, emerald lawns and even a little sand. From here, a boardwalk skirts around the headland to Abel Point Marina.

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