Looking for the best things to do in Airlie Beach, Whitsunday Islands and Great Barrier Reef? There’s plenty to do in this awesome little town, we’ve stayed here multiple times in the last couple of years!
Not only is Airlie Beach the gateway to the incredible Whitsundays, there’s loads of top Airlie Beach activities to discover, which we are going to share with you.
Discover amazing waterfalls, beautiful National Parks and the best places to eat when you visit Airlie Beach! We did a lot of research and visited as many places as possible to bring you the ultimate guide for anyone looking to explore Airlie Beach. Read our Most Popular Whitsunday Day Trips From Airlie Beach guide to plan the tours you want to do.
Watch Our Airlie Beach & Whitsundays Video
We filmed our Whitsundays day trip and a few of the best things to do in Airlie Beach!
30 Best Things To Do In Airlie Beach
Here’s our ultimate guide for things to do at Airlie Beach in Whitsundays. This beautiful beach town in Queensland has knock out views overlooking some of the most magnificent water in the whole of Australia.
1. Jump on a Whitsundays day trip
There are so many Whitsunday day trips to choose between when looking for things to do in Airlie Beach, but which one is the best? Check out our Ocean Rafting vs Thunder Cat Review to find out which one would suit you.
In the meantime, here’s a quick run down on them.
They offer a Day Trip To Whitehaven beach but also a Scenic Flight Option as well which I absolutely highly recommend.
It’s a super fast 30 minute boat ride to Hill Inlet Lookout
The only boat which will pick you up from the inlet (a much welcome as it’s so hot on this island)
Includes 2 snorkel spots in the Great Barrier Reef
You can choose to add lunch as an extra or bring your own to make it cheaper if needed
The boat is bigger than Ocean Rafting and you can relax and chat on board
It takes one hour to arrive to Hill Inlet
You get more time at Betty’s Beach and Whitehaven Bay
Our snorkelling experience was personally better than Ocean Rafting for seeing fish and coral in the Great Barrier Reef.
2. If you only do ONE other tour than the Whitehaven Beach trip, do this one!
Aside from visiting the amazing Whitehaven Beach and Hill Inlet lookout, do not miss out on the seaplane scenic flight over the famous Whitehaven beach, and Heart Reef. Seeing both of these places is a huge bucket list that you really should do it, simply to see the perspective of the reef and of the famous beach!
When we did this experience recently, I thought it was exceptional and easily one of the best things to do in Airlie Beach! When booking this amazing experience, you’ll be taken out near to Proserpine Airport.
We actually booked ours just before we need to catch our flight as the team will drop you off at the airport afterwards. This means you can save on the shuttle bus from Airlie Beach when you leave, or book when you land. Thank me later for this tip!
3. Enjoy a relaxing tallship cruise to Whitehaven Beach
Enjoy a classic and absolutely beautiful sailing trip to Whitehaven Beach on board an incredible sailing ship. the 62-ft sailing boat will take you across the Whitsunday Passage and towards Tongue Bay for a relaxed day to watch the world go by in one of the most beautiful places in Australia (and the world!). I would 100% book this tour next time I’m in Whitsundays for sure.
4. Bucket list must! Reef Sleep & Reef Suites
The Reefsleep and Reefsuites experience on the Reefworld Pontoon is a once in a lifetime bucket list experience where you get to sleep on the Great Barrier Reef in the outer reef at Hardy Reef.
We did the Reefsleep experience recently and loved watching the sun go down and the sun rise from opposite ends of the pontoon from our luxury swag tent. We also went scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef from here and had a great time. Check out My Honest Reefsleep Review before booking this incredible experience!
5. Swim at Cedar Creek Falls
Cedar Creek Falls is a bit of a locals hidden gem! It’s an half an hour drive South of Airlie Beach and is a stunning waterfall to swim underneath on a hot day.
You can jump on this tour which will take you there! Bring mozzie spray if you’re going in the morning or late afternoon. We didn’t stay long as we were getting smashed as we turned up just before sunset which was in December. You can actually swim underneath the waterfall too!
6. Tick off a popular Airlie Beach sky dive
No trip is complete to Australia or up the East Coast of Australia if you haven’t experienced an Airlie Beach skydive! I can’t think of a better place to tick off your skydive bucket list because the views over the Whitsundays would be absolutely incredible! You can book your sky dive here as it does book up fast. It’s no wonder this is one of the best things to do in Airlie Beach!
7. Enjoy a beautiful sunset cruise
Explore the beautiful coastline of Airlie Beach with a 2 hour sunset cruise on a catamaran, which includes snacks and bubbles. If you’re lucky, you might be able to spot sea turtles on this cruise, and plan it on a Wednesday and you’ll see the locals take part in the weekly boat race.
8. Visit the lesser known islands on a jet ski tour around Whitsundays
Prefer to do things a little off the beaten track in Whitsundays? This popular two-island jet ski tour in Whitsundays and Great Barrier Reef is an action packed three hour adventure, taking you to two of the most exclusive islands, including Daydream Island and South Molle Islands. This is a fantastic tour to consider if you’d prefer to have the freedom to go on your own jet ski to explore the islands.
9. Spend 2 nights on a fun boat
This amazingly huge racing yacht takes up to 26 guests on a two day and two night tour to the famous Whitehaven Beach, Hill Inlet Lookout, snorkelling at Luncheon Bay, Caves Cove, Blue Pearl Bay, plus other amazing locations.
As it’s one of the fastest yachts in Australia, this is the perfect tour for the adventurous travellers! Expect all meals included while you relax on the deck and take in the views.
10. Explore the Whitsundays your way
Did you know there’s a ferry you can jump on to explore the Whitsunday islands? Instead of going on a tour, you can jump on the ferry from Airlie Beach to Daydream Island and Hamilton Island at your own time. Download the Ferry Schedule here.
11. Feel like you’re in Thailand at the affordable Palm Bay Resort
If you’re thinking about visiting the Whitsunday Islands and wondering which ones to opt for, I highly recommend Palm Bay Resort, located on Long Island. This hidden gem is an amazing adults only paradise complete with cabins on the beach and hammocks to sit outside your room admiring the views.
It’s an affordable getaway and really reminded us of a luxury backpacker experience for grown ups – like we’d all have a few drinks and in bed by 9pm. Honestly, I couldn’t rave more highly about this awesome island. You can read all about it in my We Found Paradise At Palm Bay Resort – A Review You Must Read.
12. Go for a swim at the free Airlie Beach Lagoon
Airlie Beach Lagoon easily rivals the famous Cairns Lagoon for being a fantastic free swimming pool in the heart of the town. Because you can’t swim in the main beach during stinger season (summer), a lagoon is available for all to use. There’s loads of grassy spots to put your beach towel down and sleep off that hangover!
13. Le Shack Scooter Hire
We saw a lot of people on electric scooters in Airlie Beach which you can hire from Le Shack. When we met James & Jordan who run Le Shack, we knew we had to highlight their amazing cafe and scooter hire.
Because a lot of people fly to Airlie Beach and don’r rent a car, it makes it much easier to get around town by renting out a scooter from them. Make sure you pop in for a coffee and get a beautiful insta photo on their swing outside.
14. Entertain the kids at the local playground
If you’re looking for things to do in Airlie Beach for kids, check out the playground at the end of main street next to The Airlie Beach Hotel. It’s quite an impressive playground with bridges to walk across and somewhere you can totally chill out whilst the kids run havoc!
It’s also located next door to a carpark and almost opposite The Airlie Beach Hotel, so you shouldn’t have any problems finding a park nearby.
15. Go for a swim at the hidden Boathaven Beach in town
If you continue driving along from the car park where the playground is, it looks like you’re just going down a residential street next to the harbour. But, at the end of the street is a car park which leads you to a hidden beach called Boathaven Beach. It sort of looks like a private beach for the huge homes facing it, but it’s a public beach!
I really liked this beach as it feels like you’re a million miles away from the main strip and it’s lovely and peaceful. Plus, there’s a swimming net so if you’re visiting during the Summer like we did, you don’t need to worry about the stingers in the water.
16. Get away from it all at Conway National Park
When I looked at the map of Airlie Beach, I could see it’s surrounded by Conway National Park. So I went to check it out and it turns out, Conway National Park is an absolutely stunning tropical paradise with plenty of hidden local beaches and walking trails! Just 15 minutes away from town and you’ll feel like you’ve come to another part of Australia. It’s quiet and tropical, and as you reach Shute Harbour Lookout, you’ll be in awe of the landscape.
Make sure you keep driving around Conway National Park and drive around to Harbour Avenue. The views are absolutely amazing and you can see right to Hamilton Island. I was in awe of the homes around here and spoke to one of the residents about what it’s like living in this tropical paradise. He had spent years trying to find the perfect place and voila! He found it overlooking the magnificent Whitsunday Islands.
17. Get an Airlie Beach sign selfie
It wouldn’t be a holiday in Airlie Beach without getting a classic photo of the Airlie Beach Sign. You’ll find it at the top end of the main street. It might take a little coordination getting a photo as it’s located on a roundabout. Just be careful, obviously.
18. Climb to the top of Honeyeater Lookout
If you’re looking for the best lookout in Airlie Beach, you must make the effort to go to Honeyeater Lookout. Just be prepared for a 1.5hr climb up to the top and about an hour on the way back down. It’s worth it though! Park near to Kara Crescent to start the walk.
19. Spend the day at an Airlie Beach Day Spa
If you’re looking for things to do indoors in Airlie Beach, or simply chilled out things, check out the Airlie Day Spa Express which is located right in the middle of town, on the Airlie Esplanade. With a range of beauty treatments to choose from, this could make the perfect afternoon activity in Airlie Beach.
Places To Visit Near Airlie Beach
There are a few hidden gems and places to visit near Airlie Beach which you should make the effort to go to. If you don’t have a car, hire a car from the below so you can discover these amazing things to do in near Airlie Beach.
20. Discover the local hidden gem at Hydeaway Bay
Now, I was absolutely looking forward to visiting airlie beach and checking out Hydeaway Bay but unfortunately it rained the day I wanted to head over there.
This locals hidden gem of a beach looks absolutely amazing and it’s on my list to visit next time for sure! It’s a 45 minute drive to Hydeaway Bay from Airlie Beach, and has accommodation and a campsite next to the beach.
21. As well as Dingo Beach
Around the corner from Hydeaway Bay in Cape Gloucester is the beautiful Dingo Beach. This beach looks absolutely beautiful and there’s a stinger net so you can happily swim and make the most of this pristine beach in the Whitsundays.
22. Spot the famous kangaroos at Cape Hillsborough beach at sunrise
Cape Hillsborough National Park is located a 1h30m drive South of Airlie Beach and it’s famous for the wild kangaroo’s on the beach at sunrise. The beach is absolutely beautiful and you really feel like you’re away from it all and it’s definitely worth a visit.
There is a fantastic campground on this beach which would be worth staying at overnight so you can see the kangaroos at sunrise. We loved visiting this stunning place and it’s one of those pinch me moments for anyone looking to see kangaroos on the beach on the East Coast.
23. Discover beautiful and underrated town of Bowen
If you’re looking for more places to visit near to Airlie Beach, we recommend driving one hour up the road to Bowen. Firstly it’s home to the Big Mango which is home to the best frozen mango we’ve ever had! You’ll probably see loads of stalls on the way to Bowen selling freshly grown mangos super cheap too!
Make sure you head over to Horseshoe Bay which is a stunning little beach in Bowen complete with the perfect shaped boulders protecting it. Bowen has been put on the map as the new up and coming beach destination in Australia. The town is a bit run down but the beaches and campsites are pretty spectacular, even if it was cloudy on the day we visited.
Where To Eat & Drink In Airlie Beach
Looking for the best Airlie Beach restaurants? Here’s some of the most popular places to eat in Airlie Beach. We didn’t have amazing meals, but we loved the evening holiday vibe at the restaurants. I’m sure there’s some hidden gems worth exploring.
24. Airlie Beach Hotel
The Airlie Beach Hotel is basically king pin when it comes to Airlie Beach restaurants and pubs. It takes over a large part of the bottom half of the main strip and is brightly lit, it would be hard to miss. It’s packed every night and wouldn’t be somewhere I’d recommend staying at purely for noise purposes (there’s accommodation above it).
Although it’s a really busy pub, we recommend being mindful and making sure you support other restaurants and pubs in the town as well. We didn’t actually eat here but it was packed all of the time.
25. Magnums Bar
I remember Magnums in Airlie Beach when I first visited back in 2006. This long established bar is the perfect place to come to if you want to basically have more than a few beers. It attracts mostly backpackers and 20 something year old Aussies, but it looks like a good laugh with all open air drinking on long benches – the perfect opportunity to meet other people. They have live music and DJs on most nights.
26. KC’s Bar & Grill For Live Music
KC’s Bar & Grill is another popular bar in Airlie Beach which is a bit more quirky than the others in town. With an outback decor theme, expect live music from bands which attracts a more older crowd for the 30+ somethings.
27. Local’s favourite Beaches Bar & Grill
If you’re looking to find a more local pub in Airlie Beach, go and check out Beaches Bar & Grill. With cheaper bar prices than the other places in town, you’ll find friendly locals hanging out here.
28. Hidden gem at Northerlies Beach Bar & Grill
We actually only found Northerlies Beach Bar & Grill because we were staying nearby. Located down a deserted road, you’ll almost wonder if you’re heading in the right direction to find this local hangout. When you reach the end of the road, you’ll basically come to a resort style pub which overlooks Airlie Beach.
There’s a fantastic outdoor area, complete with an outdoor bar and stage. We could only dream of the parties held here which would be amazing! They run a shuttle bus to and from the town if you don’t want to drive.
29. Fish D’Vine for seafood & cocktails
We heard Fish D’Vine is one of the best places to eat in Airlie Beach so we managed to get a reservation when we stayed in town on our way back home.
Home to some of the freshest seafood in Airlie Beach and a rum collection with over 500 worldwide rums, it was unsurprising that everyone in the restaurant (including myself) was ordering cocktails.
I tried to Blueberry mojito and it was actually really good! We had the fish curry & ocean basket and I must say the curry was the better option.
Try Sorrento at Coral Sea Marina for more seafood and sunset cocktails.
30. La Tabella for a posh dinner
We had also read La Tabella is one of the best Airlie Beach restaurants as well. When we walked past the restaurant, the food did indeed look excellent. It’s worth mentioning this place because we would have dined here if we had more time.
Where To Stay In Airlie Beach
Looking for the best Airlie Beach accommodation? Look no further.
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.
Luxury: Mirage Whitsundays – five minute drive from Airlie Beach with outdoor pool and beautiful palm trees.
Backpacker: Magnums – legendary and long standing backpacker resort for party goers.
Don’t Forget To Watch Our Airlie Beach Video
More Airlie Beach and Whitsunday guides to read
If you’re looking for more inspiration for your Whitsundays trip and more things to do in Airlie Beach, check out our popular guides below! Check out our Queensland guides page for more travel guides to help you plan your East Coast trip.