Planning a trip and wondering what are the best things to do in Airlie Beach? Well, look no further because I’ve put together an amazing guide that’ll keep you plenty busy!
Airlie Beach is referred to as the gateway to the Whitsunday Islands. This is because a few nautical miles offshore, you’ll find the Whitsundays — a group of 74 tropical islands all with unique characteristics and islands waiting for you to set foot upon them.
Airlie Beach itself is a town with a vibrant hue, complete with coconut palms, golden secluded beaches, and a pristine lagoon. It is the main tourist hub on the shores, which is the perfect way to wash away the humidity.
When visiting Airlie Beach, you’ll have the opportunity to access the Great Barrier Reef and see the amazing marine life of the world’s largest living organism. You’ll also get to go on tours to the famous Whitehaven Beach, where the sands are so fine that it will feel like you are walking on silk.
Getting to these places has never been easier with sailing boats, helicopters, and ocean rafts, depending on your style of adventure.
There are so many reasons to travel to Airlie Beach. So whether you love the ocean, sailing or just prefer to sit back on a beach and soak up the tropical sun beaming on this beautiful part of Queensland, you are guaranteed to find your piece of paradise.
Just remember to bring plenty of sunscreen, as the sun can get pretty intense in this little slice of heaven!
1) Sail the Whitsunday Islands
You don’t need to be part of a Whitsunday sailing club to enjoy these shores. Sailing here is an idyllic way and the most common way of getting around the tropical waters of the Pacific Ocean.
Sailing is one of the best ways to explore Airlie Beach, as it remains one of the most chilled-out activities to do. The skipper will handle everything leaving you to lay back on the deck with a drink as the islands pass by.
Sailing is a top choice as it allows for easy access to remote bays and inlets, which are generally places other boats won’t go. When sailing on the Whitsundays, it’s not all about lying around (unless you want to), but snorkeling and scuba diving are often part of the trip.
However, if you are looking for a sailing trip, there are so many types of boats and tours to consider. These range from privately chartered tours to group day trips. Ultimately, it all comes down to your budget.
One of the top things to do in Whitsundays is to rent a private charter. This way, the boat is all yours, and the places you want to go are all up to you and, of course, the skipper’s suggestions. Private charters are often catered to, meaning all you need to do is chill out!
Day and overnight sailing trips with other people are epic, too, don’t get me wrong. These costs are great as they are usually relatively cheap, with food and non-alcoholic drinks included in the price.
2) Chillout on Hamilton Island
Hamilton is one of the Whitsunday Islands. It is also the most popular holiday getaway from the mainland. And the epic thing is, you don’t need to be staying at a hotel or resort on Hamilton Island to get access to the island’s facilities!
Once you are on the island, there are ice cream shops, bars, and restaurants. There are also fantastic pools and spas — basically, everything you need to relax!
The best way to get to Hamilton Island is by ferry from the marina at Airlie Beach, which takes about one hour. It costs $62 each way, which is fairly expensive. So if you’re on a budget, a hot tip is to head to Shute Harbour to catch a locals ferry to Hamilton Island to avoid the cost.
3) Visit Hills Inlet Lookout
If you haven’t heard of Hill Inlet, then let me tell you what you’re missing out on. Crystal clear waters, sand whiter than snow, and sea turtles frolicking in the rolling waves as palms sway in the warm winds.
I think it’s safe to say that Hill Inlet Lookout is a treasure to Queensland and one of the most popular places to visit anywhere in Australia.
From above, Hill Inlet is a swirl of sand and sea mixed together. This is due to the raising and lowering of tides that create a natural spectacle that just has to be seen!
The best thing about Hill Inlet Lookout is that you don’t need to be in a helicopter to see this magnificent seascape. Instead, you can take an easy hike to the Whitsundays Lookout, which provides exceptional views.
4) Chill on the Iconic Whitehaven Beach
Whitehaven Beach might top the list as Australia’s most famous beach. Once at the top of Whitsunday Lookout, the long beach trailing into the distance is 4.3 miles of pure bliss.
Getting to Whitehaven Beach from Hill Inlet can be quite tricky due to the stingers in the water. So, make sure you book yourself on a tour that stops at Whitehaven Beach.
Once you are on Whitehaven Beach, the chances of seeing another soul are unlikely. Which is crazy considering its popularity.
5) Go Snorkeling
Snorkeling around the Whitsunday Islands might be my favorite activity, and you’ll soon find out why!
There are so many places to go snorkeling, and it all depends on the tour you choose. If you’ve ever wanted to find Nemo, then this is the place to do so! Water remains a beautiful 75 to 78.8 degrees Fahrenheit all year around, while water quality is generally crystal clear.
If you book any Great Barrier Reef tours, an essential part of snorkeling in these tropical waters of Australia is wearing a stinger suit that protects from critters. One of the top things to look out for is the nasty Irukandji jellyfish or even nastier box jellyfish. It is something you don’t ever want to be stung by.
But, once the stinger suit is donned, a snorkel is essential. However, flippers are often backed away from as they can cause damage to the precious reefs below.
6) Go Scuba Diving
With snorkeling, you can only get to a certain depth and see certain tropical fish and a coral reef or two. But with an oxygen tank and flippers, there’s literally a whole new world to discover.
While scuba diving is far more advanced than snorkeling, the same principles still apply. But, don’t worry if you have never scuba divided before, there are introductory courses available. And there will always be an experienced dive master by your side as you descend into the depths of this amazing underwater world!
7) Swim in an Infinity Pool
When it comes to places to stay after ticking off your long list of things to do, Airlie Beach has some of the best accommodations.
So, why not book a night or two at this incredible Airbnb listing, Ocean View Apartment? This modern two-bedroom apartment is perfect for couples or small family getaways to Airlie Beach.
It boasts open and airy interiors, a complex swimming pool and spa, and an epic view of the ocean that keep the tropical vibes going.
This is one of the best Airlie Beach Airbnb’s that promises a hotel-quality holiday. Plus, it’s quite a bargain at only $100+ per night before taxes.
8) Go Crazy with an Ocean Raft
Ocean rafts are my number one things to do at Airlie Beach. If you’re wondering what an ocean raft is, well, allow me to explain: An ocean raft is a type of boat with a lot of speed, simple.
Ocean rafts are designed to get you from Airlie Beach to the Whitsunday Islands fairly quickly. And, as you can imagine, they are seriously fun. Your trip comes with lots of bumps, waves, and tunes blasting from the boat’s sound system.
They aren’t just fast. All of the tours have the option for you to snorkel, indulge in a delicious lunch or soak up the sun on the boat’s deck.
9) Visit Daydream Island
This island, in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef, is one of the smallest islands of the Whitsunday Islands. Daydream Island is only half a mile long and 437 yards wide, and oh boy, is this place beautiful!
A few years ago, this island, Airlie Beach, and Hamilton Island were in the center of a severe cyclone that damaged vast amounts of forests, buildings, and reefs. Now, the island has three local beaches and an amazing resort on its shores.
Back when I visited, the Daydream Island Resort was still under construction and was still set to open its doors. But, the resort has opened since then and boasts an open-air cinema, multiple swimming pools, an aquarium, and restaurants.
Of course, there is also a beautiful beach and plenty of on-island activities to enjoy.
10) Play golf on a private Island
When I heard that there was an island in the Whitsundays with a golf course, I had to check it out!
Dent Island is a short boat ride from the resort Island of Hamilton Island. A proportion of the island is dedicated to world-class fairways, greens, and 360-degree views of the surrounding islands.
Despite being in such a beautiful place and the course being a Championship course, it is reasonably priced, with 9 holes starting at $110 AUD. Hamilton Island Golf Club is one of the most unique places to pick up golf clubs in Australia.
One tip from a rookie golfer: hit the ball, left and it goes in the water. Hit the ball right, and it goes in the water. So just hit it straight…easier said than done.
11) Relax on a private island
The Whitsundays have a damn lot of islands, 74 to be exact, and not all are occupied by tourists.
My personal favorite island in the Whitsunday Islands is the Molle Group which provides excellent snorkeling and Whitsunday Island. There are so many hikes, palm fringed beaches, and places to dive.
- Firstly, you’re going to need access to a boat, so be sure to charter someone with experience.
- Secondly, you’re going to need to select an island with the least amount of people on it. Thankfully, that can be done by taking sailing trips and cruising past in your boat.
- Thirdly, outstretch your beach towel, apply sunscreen, and soak in those warming rays of light.
Most islands and white sand beaches in the Whitsundays rarely have people on them. If you don’t have access to a boat to take trips from Airlie Beach, there are heaps of beaches around Shute Harbour and Cannonvale Beach to chill out on.
12) Stay on Hayman Island
Hayman Island is known as the most expensive place to stay in Australia near Airlie Beach. That can be a big problem when I live off two-minute noodles on a nightly basis, but that’s not the case for everyone.
Hayman Island is so damn luxurious and one step above Hamilton Island in terms of views, activities, and things to do. But, if you have a spare $650 for each night, then this is the place to spend it.
Here, you’ll be spoiled with spectacular rooms, a personal pool, and everything you need to be as comfortable as possible.
13) Hike to Honeyeater Lookout
If you’re keen to dry your feet, then why not go hiking into the jungles of Airlie Beach? Honeyeater Lookout is an exceptional lookout above which oversees Airlie Beach and Cannonvale.
Getting to Honeyeater Lookout is an uphill hike of 5 miles, taking roughly 3 hours to complete. However, if you are feeling like a bigger and more challenging hike, the Conway Circuit can be completed in 6 hours.
This trail is usually reserved for very fit people. However, why not divide it up into two or three days? It will really challenge you in a different way where you have to be fully self-sufficient, but it is worth it to enjoy the island’s natural beauty.
14) Chill at the Airlie Beach Lagoon
If you have just finished hiking to Honeyeater Lookout, the Airlie Beach Lagoon needs to be your next stop.
The Airlie Beach Lagoon is the local’s place to chill out when temperatures get too hot and humid. And if you’re like me and need to cool down after going on an epic 5-mile hike, head straight for the lagoon to wash off the dirt and sweat…maybe shower first.
The lagoon has palm trees everywhere, which you can lie under. Or if you want to cook up a barbecue, there are facilities to do so.
15) Seafood it Up
Airlie Beach is known for its delicious, sustainable seafood. And it’s pretty much available everywhere in town, from the classic fish and chips to a mouth-watering crab and barramundi.
One place I just need to get to every time I am in Airlie Beach is Fish D’Vine, located behind Airlie Beach Hotel. The seafood options are out of this world and while the menu is expensive, what you get served is stunning. Barramundi served with a vegetable ratatouille is a personal hit for me.
If seafood isn’t your thing, there is a Rum Bar attached to the restaurant in the Caribbean of Australia. So why not enjoy one or two of the 560 rums available? Captain Jack Sparrow would be in pirate heaven.
If you’re out on Hamilton Island, there’s no shortage of freshly caught seafood. This island has a huge selection of restaurants suiting different budgets, from the architecturally stunning Hamilton Island Yacht Club overlooking Dent Island to Coca Chu, a Vietnamese-inspired eatery.
You’re certainly not going hungry in the Whitsundays.
“FISHI “Fresh Island Seafood” or as our kids call their fish dinner “FISHI,” is a family-run business located on Hamilton Island, officially started in 2013 by Matt and myself, who have been full-time residents of Hamilton Island since we met here in 1998. Recently moved to Airlie Beach to expand.”
16) Catch a helicopter or seaplane
There’s probably no better place in the world to board a helicopter or seaplane than the Whitsundays, and you may have already figured out why that is!
If you’re thinking of going on a scenic flight over the Whitsundays, make sure to get a helicopter with the doors off option so you can get a fresh dose of sea salt air. If your camera is handy, this is where the money snap is!
Helicopters regularly land on the strip of sand on Whitehaven Beach, giving you time to chill out in this one-of-a-kind piece of paradise.
Seaplanes, on the other hand, are epic for scenic flights as well as ocean landings. One of the prime spots for a seaplane to land is the waters of the colorful Whitehaven Beach. If you want to stick to the skies, opt for a flight over Hill Inlet, or why not circle the entire 74 islands?
17) Visit Shute Harbour
Shute Harbour is a 15 to 20-minute drive from Jubilee Pocket in Airlie Beach. Shute Harbor is the place where everything gets shipped over to the resort islands. but there’s more to this place than boats.
One of the best-kept secrets is Coral Beach, a small strip of dead coral on the edge of a lush rainforest. There’s a very good chance you’ll be the only one here, and that’s such a rare thing with anything near Airlie Beach.
Getting to Coral Beach is a 30-minute walk each way with a few undulating sections of the track.
If you want to escape Airlie Beach, Shute Harbour has a few places for accommodation otherwise. Shute Harbour is also a great half-day or full-day getaway.
18) Airlie Beach Coastal Walk
Getting out and about before the tropical heat kicks in is a must, especially when there’s a stunning connection just a short walk from Jubilee Pocket to Cannonvale.
The Bicentennial Walkway is relatively flat and is 3.7 miles long, taking you past Abell Point Marina, Pigeon Island, and Airlie Beach Lagoon.
Cannonvale is mostly the place to go if you need to get groceries or go shopping, but there are more things to do here than one would think.
Cannonvale has an incredible coastal walk along the Coral Esplanade that connects Cannonvale to the Coral Sea Marina and down to Airlie Beach.
Directly in front of Cannonvale is Pigeon Island. It is an island that can be accessed when the tides are really low but watch out for cone shells!
If you want to go on a boat cruise or hire a kayak, the Coral Sea Marina at Abel Point is the place. To enquire otherwise, head to Airlie Beach for more information.
20) Party it up!
Everyone loves to let their hair down, especially when you’re on holiday. Airlie Beach is one of, if not the best, party towns in Australia. This coastal town has an exceptional array of bars and clubs.
Here are a few of my favorite sips and things to do in Airlie Beach at night:
- Rum Bar – located at Fish D’Vine, 560 choices of rum gives me 1.5 new rums to try each and every day of the year!
- 74 Taphouse – one of the newest bars on the block, Taphouse has no shortage of local and imported beer.
- Anchor Bar – has the best views of the Whitsundays by far, and when you have a drink in hand, things don’t get much better.
21) Skydiving Airlie Beach
Australia’s most beautiful drop zone
Last but certainly not least, for the adrenaline junkies out there, I would strongly suggest skydiving over the Whitsundays!
This was the very first place I ever skydived, and the views and weather were simply perfect! I loved my experience there, and I know you’ll love it! After an intense free fall rush, you’ll enjoy unbelievable views of paradise!
Check out Skydive Airlie Beach for prices, availability, and any other information you’d need!
Where to stay in Airlie Beach – Accommodation Options
Accommodation is aplenty both in Airlie Beach and Hamilton Island, so here are a few to match everyone’s budget and type of travel style.
- Pinnacles Resort: Have some stunning views of the Whitsunday Islands and the town of Airlie Beach. Prices start at $360 AUD per night.
- Nomads Airlie Beach Hostel: this is your typical Nomads hostel, but being in Australia, it will cost you more than it would anywhere else in the world. Prices for a dorm bed start at $455 AUD.
- Reef View Hotel: this is probably the best-priced hotel on Hamilton Island, but it still will leave your pockets feeling much lighter. With prices starting at $396, it could be worse.
If you are looking at staying on Hamilton Island, there are so many options however, they will come at a hefty price tag, so why not stay on a yacht and drift under the night sky?
Am I Missing Any Epic Things to Do in Airlie Beach, Australia?
During my trip along the east coast of Australia, my time spent exploring Airlie Beach was easily one of the most memorable! So, these are my top tips on what to do in Airlie Beach.
If you’ve been there recently and think I need to add any specific tour company, sailing trip, activity, day trip, restaurant, or bar- I’d love to hear from you so I can keep my blog as up-to-date as possible!!
No matter though, I’m sure you’ll absolutely fall in love with this charming town!
Planning a Trip To Australia…?
I’ve spent HEAPS of time down under, and my travel blog is filled with articles and travel guides just like this. Check out a couple of them below, and feel free to reach out to me if you ever have any questions!
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