Last Updated: 14th Nov 2013

<p><img src="http://downloads.contiki.com/contikipedia/australia/aust_stock/35.jpg" class="rightwise" title="whitsundays jet skiiing" alt="whitsundays jet skiiing" /> There are 74 islands that make up the Whitsunday group of islands on the <a href="/contikipedia/articles/east-coast">East Coast</a> of Australia. These tropical islands are often surrounded by sensational sandy beaches and azure blue seas and most of the islands are uninhabited, preserved as pristine national parks.</p> <p>A small number do however have resorts, some of the more famous being Hamilton, Hayman, Brampton, Daydream, Lindeman and <a href="/contikipedia/articles/daydream-island">Daydream Island</a>.</p> <p>Most Contiki Tours visiting the region offer the opportunity to take the amazing <a href="/contikipedia/articles/sailing-the-whitsundays">Sailing the Whitsundays</a> option while you can also simply chill out, relax and enjoy the island life on Long Island.</p> <h2>Airlie Beach</h2> <p>Airlie Beach is a coastal town along the Queensland coast and is generally known as the &#8216;gateway to the Whitsundays&#8217;. Airlie is a colourful, cosmopolitan and inviting holiday town in its own right however with a palm fringed beach overlooking the calm waters of Pioneer Bay.</p> <p>The town is usually packed with holiday makers preparing to head out for adventure in the Whitsundays or people just chilling out after returning from the islands.</p> <h2>Shute Harbour</h2> <p>Around 10 kilometers (6 miles) east of Airlie Beach is Shute Harbour — the embarkation point for ferries to the island resorts as well as reef and charter operations. The large sheltered inlet, sprinkled with boats and flanked by steep, wooded banks, is a hive of marine activity. So much so that it ranks as the second busiest commuter port in Australia after Sydney&#8217;s <a href="/contikipedia/articles/circular-quay-and-the-rocks">Circular Quay</a>.</p>