My Honest Ocean Rafting Airlie Beach Review To The Whitsunday Islands

Looking for a day trip to the world famous Whitehaven Beach and wondering if the Ocean Rafting Tour is worth it? In this guide, I’m sharing what the Ocean Rafting tour from Airlie Beach looks like (from personal experience), so you can decide whether you want to jump on it to see some of the best beaches in Australia.

Finding the right Whitsundays cruise is vital for your holiday. If you’re going to be based in Airlie Beach during your holidays, and you’re looking for Airlie Beach day trips to Whitsundays, then I’m here to help you.

Staying in Airlie Beach tends to be a cheaper option than staying on one of the Whitsunday Islands. Plus, there’s a load of things to do in Airlie Beach, you can read our ultimate guide.

It can be quite confusing to know which is the best Whitsundays tour to go on, so we’re going to show you what it was like when we did the Ocean Rafting Airlie Beach tour. If you’re looking for more tours to consider, check out our guide for the 16 Very Best Whitsunday Tours To Choose From.

Why we went on the Ocean Rafting Tour


We actually managed to jump on a cancellation to go on this Whitsunday Islands tour! Funnily enough, I met someone on my recent flight to Airlie Beach and she has worked on all the tour boats there.

When I asked her which was her favourite, she said Ocean Rafting. Unbeknown to me, this is apparently the best Whitsundays day tour.

There are two tours to choose from, the Northern Exposure Tour (more beach time) and the Southern Lights Tour (more snorkelling time). We did the Northern Exposure Tour and could have happily had even more time at the beach than the 2 hours we did have! You can book both tours here.

If you’re considering going on the Thunder Cat tour, check out our review Whitsundays Boat Tour: Ocean Rafting vs Thunder Cat where I break down the pros and cons for two very similar tours.

What is Ocean Rafting?


When I booked the Ocean Rafting Whitsundays tour, I didn’t really know what it was. I was kinda confused as it sounds like white water rafting, but around Whitsundays. When I saw the photos of it, it looked like a speedboat. It turns out Ocean Rafting IS a speed boat.

I did wonder about the spins and driving fast, as that’s not my kinda thing to be honest. I’m not a huge fan of thinking I might fall off a boat with my camera in my hand, but I knew we would just have to go with it, because we had no other options.

If you’re wondering how fast that boat actually goes, it does go fast in sections, but not scary fast. At the very end of the trip on the way back into the harbour, we did do a few spins which was actually quite fun. So if you’re a bit of a wimp like me, I can assure you, there’s nothing to worry about. I just made sure I sat in the seats on the boat, rather than perched on the side.

Watch our Airlie Beach & Whitsundays video

What does a day trip to Whitsundays look like?


We arrived at the Coral Sea Marina North quite late as we drove up from Mackay early in the morning. We ended up parking a good five minutes walk from the meeting point next door to Sorento Restaurant and had to leg it to make sure we got on the boat in time.

Parking is actually really cheap and isn’t much more than $10 for the whole day which is amazing considering how many people go on Whitsunday tours. If you’re staying in town, Ocean Rafting offers return transfers to your hotel. After our recent stay, I would highly recommend staying at Coral Seal Marina Resort which is a fantastic resort, right on the water with an excellent pool.

The tour starts at 8am and drops you back to the harbour or to your hotel at around 4pm so you’ve got the entire day out to enjoy the Whitsundays, as well as time to enjoy the sunset in Airlie Beach.

Stinger Suits

When we checked in at the Ocean Rafting counter, we had to pay an extra fee to hire out stinger suits because we visited at Christmas time. During November to May, you absolutely have to wear stinger suits in the water, unless you are swimming in an enclosed swimming net at a beach for example.

Where to grab a quick breakfast before the Whitsundays day trip


If we had arrived earlier, we totally would have gone to Bohemian Raw Cafe for breakfast. But because we were running late, we popped into Kiosk Cafe next door to Ocean Rafting and picked up a sausage roll and a coffee before we were off on the boat.

What lunch looked like on the Ocean Rafting Airlie Beach tour


We also pre-paid for lunch on board as well. I knew we wouldn’t have time to get lunch beforehand so we paid an extra $20 each for a chicken and noodle salad. It wasn’t a great lunch option to be honest, but it did taste fresh and cold.

Because it’s so hot in Airlie Beach, I’m not too sure what lunch option we would have brought with us unless we had a small cool bag on hand. Be mindful that there’s not a lot of room to store your stuff on the boat, so don’t bring a big esky.

How many people on the boat?


There were two guys from Ocean Rafting hosting our trip and both were absolutely lovely. I think it’s really important to have a good tour guide because it can really make or brake a trip. I have no doubt all of the people working at Ocean Rafting would be really good, because everyone we met from the check-in staff to the tour guides were all super nice.

There were about 20 people on our tour but there were a couple more boats from Ocean Rafting heading out on a similar route to us. You don’t get a lot of room on the boat and because it’s going quite fast, you can’t really talk so much on the boat.

Climbing up to Hill Inlet

Within about 30 minutes we had already made it right next to the famous Hill Inlet beach. This is one of the highlights about going on an Ocean Rafting Whitsundays tour is because it doesn’t take as long as other boats to get to Whitehaven Beach.

As it only took us about 30-40 minutes to get there, other boats can take around 2 hours. This means you’ll spend more time soaking up the incredible beauty of Whitehaven Beach.

Hill Inlet at Whitehaven Beach

When you get off the boat, bring water with you as you’ll spend about 10 minutes climbing up a gradual stair case to the top of Hill Inlet. This is the best view you’ll get of Whitehaven Beach, and it’s the most famous lookout point.

Another way to get an even better view of Whitehaven Beach is to do a combo Ocean Rafting and Scenic Flight. We ended up doing this on a separate trip and I can confirm it’s absolutely worth it and easily a massive highlight for being one of the best Airlie Beach attractions you need to do.

Steve stepped in to take the photo of the engaged couple on our boat

When we made it up to Hill Inlet, there’s two lookout points on iconic hill inlet beach and we were lucky to witness a beautiful proposal from our boat. Our tour guide actually helped the guy coordinate enough time to propose to his now fiance. It was a beautiful moment at one of the great lookouts in Australia!

Which beach is Whitehaven Beach?

I was quite confused about which beach is Whitehaven Beach when looking out to the inlet. It turns out the beach opposite us with the stretch of sand coming out into the water is Whitehaven Beach.

Below the lookout is another beach which you’ve probably seen a lot of images of on the internet. This is North Whitehaven Beach which is where we walked down to next and spent a good 1h30m hanging out on.

North Whitehaven Beach


Known as one of the world’s best beaches, Whitehaven Beach is Australia’s most famous beach (after Bondi Beach of course!). It’s undeniably stunning and both Steve and I announced how we felt like we could have been in the Maldives again. It’s a proper slice of paradise like no other, and somewhere everyone needs to witness at least once in their lives.

Although Whitehaven Beach was quite busy, our Ocean Rafting boat turned up and took us over to the next beach so we could have it to ourselves. Because the boat is quite small, Ocean Rafting is the only boats in Whitsundays which are allowed to drive up to Whitehaven Beach.

If you’re on a sailing boat for example, you’ll need to walk back to where you were dropped off to go up to Hill Inlet on the other side of the whitsunday island (it’s about a 5 minute walk or so) to get back onto your boat.

We spent 1h30m on the beach underneath the Hill Inlet lookout

Make sure you bring sunscreen with you because Whitehaven Beach is 98% silica sand. It’s the finest sand in the world (Lake Mckenzie in Fraser Island takes second place) which means the sun reflecting off the sand is more likely to burn your skin. I saw a lot of very sunburnt Australians walking around Airlie Beach during our time there, so make sure you cover up.


We went swimming in the crystal clear water with our stinger suits on but there were so many sting rays in the water, it was crazy! Just stay quite shallow and don’t go out far when you’re swimming in the water. We had our lunch during this stop before we got back on board to go to our two snorkelling spots of the day.

Snorkelling in Whitsundays

We snorkelled near to Daydream Island and to be honest, we didn’t see much at all. When I asked one of the guides about snorkelling in Whitsundays, you need to go out to the outer reef because I think Cyclone Debbie had a lot do with the lack of fish and coral in the water now.


If you’re looking for the best snorkelling in Whitsundays, I would recommend spending two days on the magical Reef Sleep pontoon where you’ll snorkel around Hardy Reef which is in the outer reef and sleep under the stars in a swag tent.

Here you’ll find pristine snorkelling reefs which haven’t been as affected as the underwater life near to Airlie Beach. We did it recently and wrote this guide, My Honest Reefsleep Whitsundays Review: What You Need To Know.

We think Lady Elliot Island near Bundaberg is the best snorkelling in Great Barrier Reef

And, if you’re looking to find the best snorkelling in Great Barrier Reef as a whole, I doubt you’ll find any better than in Lady Elliot Island in Southern Great Barrier Reef located off the coast from Bundaberg. It is mind blowing swimming in a lagoon with 30+ turtles! Plus it’s home to the worlds best manta ray diving experience. 

Summary of our Whitsundays day trip

Do to break it down for you, here are the pros and cons for booking an Ocean Rafting Whitsundays tour and the cons too.


  • If you’re short on time, this is a fantastic option to make the most of Whitsundays.
  • It’s a speedboat meaning you’ll spend more time on Whitehaven Beach rather than sailing to get there.
  • The Ocean Rafting staff are really nice and helpful and really got out of their way to provide excellent service.
  • It’s cheaper than most of the other Whitsundays tours.
  • You can add on a scenic flight with your booking (I 100% recommend this!). Find out more about a scenic flight here.


  • You don’t get the romantic sailing experience of chilling out on the deck on the way to Whitehaven Beach.
  • The speedboat is quite fast so you can’t sit back and chat on the boat.
  • Snorkelling isn’t great, but that’s the Whitsundays not the tour’s fault.
  • If you have longer, you might want to do a 2 or 3 day tour of Whitsundays instead.

Would we go on the tour again?

I would definitely go on the Ocean Rafting Whitsundays tour again if we were short on time. It’s a great way to make the most of the Whitsundays and I’m glad we did the trip.

Last time I came to Whitsundays, I went on a sailing boat for two days and it rained the entire time. People were constantly sick and it wasn’t a great experience. This time round, I saw it in a whole different light.

Although it can be hard to choose the right day to go on a tour in regards to the weather, the weather apps appear to get the forecast quite wrong when you’re up in the tropics. It said it was going to rain but with a bit of sun on the day we went and it didn’t rain at all. Always check for how many mm of rain is predicted rather than the percentage of rainfall, but you probably already knew that!

We hope our Ocean Rafting review has helped you plan your Whitsundays day trip!

Looking for more Whitsunday tours to consider?


While it can feel confusing with the amount of tours to choose from, these are my top Whitsunday Islands tours I recommend doing:

  1. 1 hour scenic flight over the stunning Whitehaven Beach, and Heart Reef – this tour is absolutely amazing and should 100% be on your list to do when visiting Airlie Beach! I would either time it when you land or are leaving Airlie Beach as it takes off near Proserpine Airport and they can either pick you up from there airport or drop you off there.
  2. Sky dive over the Whitsunday Islands – there’s no better place in Australia to jump out of a plane than here. Tick off this bucket list experience while you’re here.
  3. Jet ski tour – jump on this 2 hour tour to Daydream Island and South Molle Island, while visiting lesser known beaches and islands for an adventure like no other!
  4. Palm Bay Resort – this isn’t a tour but I highly recommend staying at the adults only Palm Bay Resort in Long Island. This hidden and affordable gem will make you feel like you’re in Thailand. It’s one of our ultimate favourite places in Australia.

More Airlie Beach & Whitsunday Islands travel guides!


If you’re looking to plan a trip to Airlie Beach and The Whitsundays, check out our travel guides to inspire you. We dive into the hidden gems, waterfalls, favourite islands and tours and so much more. We’ve been lucky to visit the region multiple times over the last few years and hope our love for this area will help you make amazing memories.

And if you’re planning an East Coast trip, check out our Queensland guides page for more travel guides to help you see some more of the lesser known hidden gems.

Find The Best Airlie Beach Accommodation


Looking for the best Airlie Beach accommodation? Look no further.

  1. Luxury: Coral Sea Marina Resort – we stayed here and it’s fantastic (pictured). The outdoor pool is an amazing spot to kick back at sunset on the day bed with a cocktail in hand.
  2. Luxury: Mirage Whitsundays – five minute drive from Airlie Beach with outdoor pool and beautiful palm trees.
  3. Mid range: Whitsunday Terraces Resort – jaw-dropping views overlooking the Whitsundays and Airlie Beach.
  4. Backpacker: Magnums – legendary and long standing backpacker resort for party goers.

Don’t Forget To Watch Our Airlie Beach & Whitsundays Video!

Ocean Rafting Whitsundays Day Trip



If you found this post helpful, please share it with your friends and family on your social media pages 🙂