Airlie Beach, Queensland © Tourism Whitsundays
3 days in Airlie Beach
Explore all the adventures Airlie Beach, and the Whitsundays, have to offer.
By Tourism Whitsundays
Airlie Beach is a laid-back tropical resort town in the heart of the Whitsundays. This little haven is the perfect place to base yourself to explore all that’s on offer in the Whitsunday region. With snorkelling, hiking, dining and sunsets to enjoy, this is a holiday made for couples, families and adventure-seekers alike.
What to expect
- Discover the coast and hinterland of Airlie Beach
- Head out on a day trip to Whitehaven Beach and snorkel the Great Barrier Reef
- Take in the beautiful surroundings on a chartered sunset cruise
- Time: 3 days
- Transport: car
- Price: $$$
Day 1: Get to know Airlie Beach
Much of the Bicentennial Boardwalk is pram-friendly, and Airlie Beach Lagoon offers a children's pool and wading area.
Whether you drive or fly to Airlie Beach, your first stop should be the Whitsundays Visitor Information Centre, located along the A1 highway just a ten-minute drive from the Whitsunday Coast Airport. Stop to get the lay of the land from the friendly volunteers, all of whom are locals and can share information about tours and off-the-radar gems.
Drive about 20 minutes from the visitor centre to arrive in the quaint coastal town of Airlie Beach. After arriving, the morning is yours. Take your pick from perusing the Airlie Beach Markets (held on the Esplanade on Saturday mornings), soaking up the sun at the Airlie Beach Lagoon or getting your legs moving on the Bicentennial Boardwalk (keep your eyes peeled for turtles and dugongs along the way). For something a bit more action-packed, book a morning Rainforest Discovery tour with Whitsunday Segway Tours. You’ll ride your own Segway through the lush Conway National Park rainforest.
For lunch, head to Fat Frog Café near Cannonvale Beach. It’s not just a delicious meal that draws people here; you’ll also enjoy beautiful views of the water.
There are so many memorable ways to explore the water near Airlie Beach, and a jetski tour is sure to be unforgettable. With Whitsunday Jetski Tours, you can choose from several adventures that offer 1.5, two or three hours of jetskiing across breathtaking turquoise water and around stunning islands – and there's no previous experience required. The Ultimate Island Trek even includes a poolside lunch and an hour to relax at Palm Bay Resort.
There’s no better way to spend your first evening in Airlie than on a relaxing sunset cruise. Hop onboard with Sundowner Cruises and watch the sun sink into the sea. You'll be dropped off at Coral Sea Marina, just a few metres from Sorrento Restaurant and Bar, the perfect choice for dinner. This award-winning restaurant serves inventive fare that focuses on the best produce the region has to offer.
Spend the night at Coral Sea Resort just a five-minute walk from your dinner.
Day 2: Explore the coast and hinterland
This morning, drive ten minutes from Airlie Beach toward Shute Harbour, turning into the car park at the Conway National Park Swamp Bay and Mt Rooper sign. This short (2.1-kilometre / 1.3-mile) yet challenging walk is worth your while, offering unsurpassed views over the Whitsunday Islands and beyond.
Satiate your post-walk hunger with breakfast at The Deck. Here you’ll be treated to fresh local produce and a hive of Main Street activity as visitors begin strolling through the myriad of shops available in search of the perfect souvenir.
After breakfast, explore the Whitsunday Coast hinterland. Home to waterfalls, hikes and green canopies, you’re sure to uncover a hidden gem or two. Cedar Creek Falls, located 30 minutes from the main street of Airlie Beach, is a freshwater swimming hole where you can enjoy a refreshing dip. When you’re dry, venture through the walking tracks that lead to the top of the falls and enjoy the stunning views.
Hop back in the car and head to Hydeaway Bay, a local favourite located around 45 minutes' drive north of Cedar Creek Falls. Stop for a late lunch at Cape Gloucester Beach Resort before exploring the beaches of Hydeaway Bay. Home to a stretch of sand over two kilometres (1.25 miles) long with five public access points, you will likely have a section of beach all to yourself.
Drive back to Airlie Beach in time for dinner. After a full day of activities, grab some fish and chips from Whitsunday Seafood Bar, located along the foreshore, and enjoy an al fresco dinner under the stars.
Return to your accommodation at Coral Sea Resort.
Day 3: Marvel at the Great Barrier Reef
Depart Coral Sea Marina at 9am on board Red Cat Adventures’ Thundercat Tour for an exhilarating day exploring Whitsunday Island and the Great Barrier Reef. After a short cruise out to the island, your guides will take you on the easy walk up to the famous Hill Inlet lookout to see the signature swirling sandbars of Whitehaven Beach from above. Grab the perfect selfie at this picturesque spot before jumping back on the boat. You’ll have a quick lunch before disembarking on Whitehaven Beach for a few hours of exploring, sun soaking and swimming. Marvel at the bright white sand of this unique spot, which is 98 per cent pure silica. It has a texture similar to flour and is so fine you can polish your jewellery with it.
Finally, jump on board your boat once more for a short trip out to Mantaray Bay to snorkel the clear waters and come face to face with colourful fish, including giant Maori wrasse. After you’ve met all the local underwater residents, you’ll be back at Abell Point Marina by about 5pm.
If you’re up for it, visit some of the area’s favourite watering holes, which are very popular with backpackers in the summer. Magnums regularly has live music or, if you prefer an older crowd, enjoy artfully prepared cocktails and a delicious meal with unrivalled views at The Garden Bar Bistro near Coral Sea Marina.