— words by Fiona Harper

Shrugging off its 'drinking town with a sailing problem' reputation, Airlie Beach is all grown up and showing off a new-found maturity.

But don't worry, the tropical Whitsundays town hasn't lost its propensity for fun nor its sense of humour. It's still a good time town that knows how to kick up its heels. Which the area has been doing nicely since Lindeman Island leaseholders lured paying guests to the island in the 1920's.

By the mid 1930's island 'resorts' started popping up all over the place. As holiday makers took home tales of paradise amongst Robinson Crusoe-like islands, the region's 'sailing problem' became one of its biggest attractions.

The Whitsundays can be logically divided into mainland and islands with the best holidays dabbling their toes in both camps. Island resorts range from laid back and eco-friendly, to family pads and some of the most telling examples of modern Australian luxury, with Hamilton Island in particular covering most bases.