Airlie Beach - most famous for being the gateway to the Whitsundays Islands! Located in Tropical North Queensland, Airlie Beach is situated around 12 hours north of Brisbane and 7 hours south of Cairns. The tiny bustling town of Airlie Beach attracts visitors eager to explore the stunning Whitsundays all year round and with the Great Barrier Reef at its doorstep there are plenty of sights and activities to keep you busy.
A trip to Airlie Beach isn't all about the islands, ok, so it mainly is but there are loads of other things to do as well.
Top 10 things to do in Airlie Beach
1. Sail the Whitsunday Islands
Of course this had to be first, it's the main reason you're coming to Airlie Beach! 74 beautiful islands of paradise make up the Whitsunday Islands and the best way to explore this popular destination is by a sailing tour. There are many different sailing tours to choose from, from racing maxi yachts to Pirates of the Caribbean style schooners. Depending on how much time you have in Airlie Beach, you can choose from 1 day sailing trips to 5 night liveaboards! An ocean rafting trip is also a great option for those who are a bit short on time too. See our Guide to the Whitsundays...
2. Take a Scenic Flight
If you don't have time to do a full sailing trip then it's worth considering a scenic flight over the islands. You can choose 25 minute flights or even better an hour long flight. The planes are small enough to guarantee everyone a window seat so you can see the famous Whitehaven Beach, Hill Inlet and the longer tours include Heart Reef as well. Scenic flights are a great way to see the islands and to learn more with a commentary on the way. You never know you might also spot some marine life from above!
3. Visit Whitehaven Beach
Located on the largest of the Whitsunday Islands, Whitehaven Beach is the most popular draw card to Airlie Beach. Most of the sailing tours will include a visit to Whitehaven Beach but there are many other ways to experience the crystal clear waters and white silica sands of this infamous beach! Depending on your budget, there are Helicopter Tours, Scenic Flights and 1 Day Cruises that head out there.
4. Explore the Great Barrier Reef at Reefworld
As the Whitsundays are located within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, most sailing tours to the islands will include a snorkelling and / or scuba diving stop at one of the area's fringing reefs. However if you want to get serious, a visit to the Reefworld is a must! Reefworld is a platoon that sits upon Hardy Reef and can be reached by a boat transfer. The platoon has sun decks, a waterslide into the ocean, an underwater observatory, dive centre, snorkel hire, massage facilities and buffet lunch options.
5. Sea Kayaking
A great way to explore some of the tropical islands and fringing reefs is by sea kayak. Salty Dog offer half day tours, full day tours and even 6 day expeditions. You can enjoy the beautiful turquoise waters, stop off for some swimming and snorkelling and you get a nice cheese and fruit platter during a break ready for your journey back to Shute Harbour. If you're lucky enough to be In Airlie Beach between July and September you might even spot a humpback whale up close!
6. Get Wet in Jet Boat
Have yourself an adrenaline rush whilst speeding around Pioneer Bay in a Jet Boat. As well as giving yourself a thrill you'll see the best of Airlie Beach from the water. The boats often spot turtles, rays and even the rare Dugong. Marvel at multi-million dollar mansions, enjoy the wildlife and even go past a shipwreck. This trip is sure to take your breath away in more ways than one.
7. Spend a day at Hamilton Island
This "luxurious" island of the Whitsundays can be quite expensive if you are wanting to spend a night here, however there are 1 day Hamilton Island packages that depart from Airlie Beach and allow you to soak up the glitz and glamour for a day. The packages include ferry transfers to and from Airlie Beach and full use of the resort's facilities - including the beach front swimming pool Cocktail bar!
8. Whitsunday Crocodile Safari
Go on a Whitsunday Crocodile Safari to explore the coastline and estuaries which are home to numerous species of birds, mammals, reptiles and marine animals. Obviously the focus of this trip is to spot saltwater crocodiles. You'll explore Prosperpine River in the safety of a boat whilst looking for some of the 150 saltwater crocodiles that live here amongst the mangroves. On this trip you'll also get a wagon train ride driven by a tractor to see the wildlife in the freshwater wetlands. A day to remember!
9. Whitsunday Jet Ski Tours
Imagine zooming through the Whitsunday Islands, fringing reefs and bays by Jet Ski! Doesn't get much better than that right? Whitsunday Jet Ski Tours offer a number of tour options available depending on what you want to see and how long you want to spend whizzing around paradise! Never been on a Jet Ski before? No worries! The tour caters for all levels of experience.
10. Skydive over the Whitsundays
Why not tick off two items on the Bucket List at once? Yes... imagine it, jumping out of a plane at 14,000ft above the 74 islands that make up the World Heritage Listed Whitsundays. Skydive Airlie Beach will not only guarantee you an absolute rush, but also the chance to take in the views of the islands from above! And trust us... the views are out of this world!
If you were wondering what to do in Airlie Beach then I hope I've given you plenty of ideas. if not then don't worry, there's loads more Airlie Beach activities to do!
Ready to explore Airlie Beach and the Whitsunday Islands?
- Book your accommodation at Base Airlie Beach Resort!
- Read everything you need to know about The Whitsundays in our Complete Guide to The Whitsundays.
- Travelling the east coast of Australia? Read our Complete Backpacker's Guide to Australia's East Coast!