Top things to do in Airlie Beach

Airlie Beach is the gateway to the Whitsunday Islands and the Great Barrier Reef.  To make sure you get the most out of your visit, here’s our top 10 things to do in 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, making it an ideal location for sailing, swimming, snorkelling and relaxing on secluded beaches and inlets.

My favourite things to do in Airlie Beach

  • Snorkel or scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef
  • Set foot on Whitehaven – the the whitest sand beach in the world 
  • Explore the tropical rainforests
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The Best of Airlie Beach

Whitsunday Islands

There’s so much to see and do in the Whitsundays’

Here is our 10 top things to do in Airlie Beach

Choose your pace – take up adventurous activities such as diving, learning to sail, jet boating and hiking through tropical rainforest.  Or, relax and unwind by enjoying the gorgeous beaches, beautiful waterfalls, go shopping and spend those lazy days catching up on your reading.

#1 Soak up the sunshine in the Airlie Beach lagoon

Airlie Beach Lagoon

In Airlie Beach central is a huge man-made lagoon.  Soak up some serious sunshine and swim with Lifeguards on duty all year round.   There’s a great children’s pool close by and plenty of shade trees for those who want to enjoy the Whitsunday’s warmth and stay out of the sun.

#2 Visit Whitehaven Beach & Heart Reef

Whitehaven Beach

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 on Hamilton Island and nearby Heart Reef.

Include a romantic flight over Heart Reef – just because you can!

#3 Take a walk in the Rainforest

The green & gold Cairns Birdwing Butterfly

Conway National Park is one of the best kept secrets of the Whitsunday hinterland and just a few minutes drive from 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.

#4 Have a Reef ‘Sleep Over’

Dive the Great Barrier Reef - Whitsundays

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 adventurers 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.

#5 Discover the fabulous Restaurants and Bars

Airlie Dining

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!

#6 Swim at Cedar Creek Falls

Airlie ParkHalfway 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 as well as native orchids growing wild and beautiful butterflies.

Read more:  Cutest Australian wildlife

#7 Choose your favourite water sports

Sail the Whitsundays

Consider these:

  • 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)

#8 Learn to Sail for FREE

Staycation sunset magic

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.

#9 Bird watching (of the feathered kind)

The Laughing Kookaburra

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 charismatic sulphur-crested cockatoos who create a racket at Airlie Beach.

#10 Go fishing

Whitsunday fishing 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.

Where to stay


Booking.com

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.

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things to do in Airlie Beach

What were your favourite things to do in Airlie Beach?

Can you imagine snorkelling along the Great Barrier Reef, sunbaking on beautiful Whitehaven Beach or sailing a yacht through the Whitsunday Islands?  Perhaps you’ve done it already?  Do you have any tips to share?