Major port for trips to the Whitsunday islands and the outer Great Barrier Reef.
Located 8 km from Airlie Beach on a short winding journey through the Conway National Park, which has a camping and picnic area, the tiny settlement of Shute Harbour is effectively nothing more than a lot of parking spaces and a harbour where the cruises and the ferries leave for the Whitsunday Islands.
The publicity claims that Shute Harbour is the second busiest harbour in Australia after Circular Quay. This is somewhat misleading as (a) Circular Quay is not a harbour and (b) it doesn’t really define what it means by busy. However the point probably is that there are a lot of boats and cruise vessels which depart from Shute Harbour for journeys to the Whitsunday Islands. One of the most appealing of all these journeys would have to be sailing in the original Gretel, Australia’s first challenger for the America’s Cup (it lost 4-1 to Weatherly in 1962), which now sails daily from Shute Harbour.
Another claim made by Shute Harbour, which shows the scale of tourist operations in the area, is that it is now the largest seaplane airbase in the southern hemisphere.