10 Best things to do in tropical Airlie Beach
Considered the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, Airlie Beach is the onshore travel hub to explore the Whitsunday Islands. This guide, jam-packed with things to do when visiting Airlie Beach.
Airlie Beach is the mainland town amidst a tropical archipelago of 74 tropical islands which are part of the Great Barrier Reef. With palm-fringed beaches, beachfront parks, alfresco bars and restaurants its the perfect tropical getaway.
The Great Barrier Reef protects the islands from large surf, ensuring the islands are an ideal location for sailing, swimming, snorkelling and relaxing on secluded beaches and inlets.
If you’re planning a trip to Airlie Beach, you are in for a treat.
My favourite things to do in Airlie Beach
- Snorkel or scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef
- Visit Whitehaven Beach – the the whitest sand beach in the world
- Explore the tropical rainforests
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The 10 Best things to do in Airlie Beach
There’s so much to see and do in the Whitsundays’. Choose your own pace.
Take up adventurous activities such as deep sea diving, snorkelling, learning to sail, jet boating and hiking through tropical rainforest.
Or, relax and unwind by enjoying the gorgeous white sand beaches, beautiful cool waterfalls, go shopping and spend those lazy days catching up on your reading.
The choice is yours.
Soak up the sunshine in the Airlie Beach Lagoon
Along the esplanade in Airlie Beach is a huge man-made lagoon. Soak up some serious sunshine and swim all year round. It’s a great place to hang out with the family when you have a day to spare.
Settle under a shade trees to enjoy the warmth of the Whitsunday’s and stay out of the sun. Remember to Slip, Slop and Slap.
Visit Whitehaven Beach & Heart Reef
Whitehaven Beach is renowned for having the whitest sand in the world, and is a ‘must see’ to add to your bucket list. People travel from all over the world to see the white sands of Whitehaven Beach and swim in the crystal clear waters of Hamilton Island and nearby Heart Reef.
Take a romantic flight over Heart Reef – just because you can!
Take a walk in the Rainforest
Conway National Park is one of the best kept secrets of the Whitsunday hinterland and just a few minutes drive into the hinterland of Airlie Beach.
There are several walking trails within Conway National Park which include scenic lookouts with spectacular views of the Whitsunday Passage and islands. Keep your eyes open for the endangered Proserpine rock wallaby on your hikes.
Have an Underwater Reef ‘Sleep Over’
Sleep under the stars in an Australian swag at ReefSleep, a permanently moored pontoon on Hardy Reef – one of the most spectacular reefs of the Great Barrier Reef.
Cruise Whitsundays will take you snorkelling on its large luxury catamaran during the day but when the day trippers leave, you (and up to 17 other guests) will spend the night. For a truly unique experience watch the reef come alive after dark from the underwater observatory.
Discover the fabulous Restaurants and Bars
Airlie Beach has a range of restaurants, cafes and bars to cater to all tastes and budgets. It’s the perfect place to taste some of the freshest seafood dishes in Australia.
Visit the Clipper Restaurant Bar and Lounge at the Coral Sea Resort for stunning views across the inlet. Try Fish D’Vine & the Rum Bar, Hemmingways or the Shipwrecked Seafood Bar & Grill while you’re in town. You won’t be disappointed!
Swim at Cedar Creek Falls
Halfway between Airlie Beach and Proserpine, Cedar Creek Falls is a natural amphitheatre with fresh running water all year around. It is the perfect freshwater swimming hole to refresh and revitalise as you take in the natural surrounds.
Swim beneath the falls or take one of the short hikes nearby for some stunning views of the Whitsunday Islands. See Australian wildlife, birds and butterflies as well as native orchids growing wild.
Choose your favourite water sports
- Rent a kayak or do a sea kayak tour with Salty Dog Sea Kayaking.
- Go scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef with one of Airlie Beach’s many dive companies.
- Hire a Jet Ski, a one-hour offshore jet boat ride with Island Jet Boating will have your adrenaline pumping before you know it.
- Take a Charter on a luxury cabin cruiser or take a bare-boat sailing charter (one of the only places in the world that offers a sail-yourself charter experience)
Learn to Sail for FREE
The Whitsunday’s Sailing Club conducts Twilight Yacht Racing every Wednesday from 3pm to 7pm.
In exchange for your deckhand skills you can be ‘in training’ onboard a yacht sailing in one of the most beautiful locations on the Great Barrier Reef.
Get involved: Go to the Whitsunday Sailing Club at 2pm on any Wednesday and offer your services. Novices are both welcome and encouraged.
Bird watching – the feathered kind
The Whitsundays’ are home to hundreds of bird species who nest in this region. Follow the ‘boardwalk’ along the water’s edge for an abundance of bird spotting opportunities including the Australasian Darter, Black Ducks and noisy Rainbow Lorikeets.
Keep your eyes peeled for Kookaburras, Yellow-faced honey eaters, Ospreys, Herons and Egrets. You won’t need any help spotting the noisy sulphur-crested cockatoos who create a racket at Airlie Beach.
Fishing in the Whitsundays is one of those ‘must-do’ things for your bucket list. With an average water temperature of 27 degrees Celsius, fish are practically jumping into your boat.
The Whitsundays’ waters are abundant with Marlin, Giant Trevally (GT’s) and Mackerel as well as the renowned Red Emperor and Coral Trout. If you want to do some onshore fishing, head to Shute Harbour to fish from the custom-made fishing pontoon.
How to get to Airlie Beach
- By air: Fly from Sydney, Brisbane or Cairns to Whitsunday Coast Airport. Jetstar, Tigerair and Virgin Australia all fly into this airport.
- Shuttle buses transfer between the airport and Airlie Beach and take about 40 minutes and will take you to your accommodation.
- By car: A two-hour drive south is the closest city of Mackay, whilst three hours north is Townsville. Hire cars are available for day trips.
- By rail: The Spirit of Queensland train travels between Brisbane and Cairns, stopping at Proserpine Rail Station.
- By bus: Greyhound service the coast roads and stop at the Airlie Beach Bus Terminal.
Where to stay in Airlie Beach
Accommodation in Airlie Beach is easy to find but to make life easier, I’ve included a location map outlining accommodation opportunities from Booking.com.
I recommend you choose somewhere close to the main street in Airlie Beach for easy access to restaurants and cafes.
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5 Essential Items to pack for your trip to Queensland
- A Good Camera: There will be plenty of great photo moments wherever you are in sunny Queensland so bring along a good camera. I highly recommend the Sony a6000. It’s light, compact and takes amazing photos!
- Beach Shoes: The outdoor lifestyle in Australia means you will need specially designed beach shoes (commonly called thongs)! Be comfortable, treat yourself to a pair here. Perfect for the beach. I love mine.
- An Australian Guidebook: There is nothing like Lonely Planet Guidebooks so get yourself a copy of their Australia Travel Guide to take you to the best places to visit in Australia.
- A Stainless Steel Water Bottle: Stay hydrated in the harsh Australian sun. Get yourself a Yeti Stainless Steel water bottle and refill as you go. Tap water is drinkable in Australia – and free!
- Slap on a Sun Hat: You will need a good sun hat for protection. Here’s a packable & foldable Furtalk Womens Beach Hat. Don’t ruin your holiday with sunburn!
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