20 Amazing Things to do in Airlie Beach (2020 Guide)

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Here’s my list of the best things to do in Airlie Beach, based on my personal experiences when living in Australia.

On Australia’s East Coast, midway between Rockhampton and Cairns exists a slice of paradise.

Airlie Beach, also known as the gateway to the Whitsunday Islands, is one of the country’s most beautiful beach towns.

Sitting pretty on the Great Barrier Reef, Airlie Beach is full of beautiful attractions, a vibrant and colourful vibe and can often be overlooked for other Queensland destinations like Cairns and Brisbane.

Boast a sub-tropical climate, Airlie beach is warm all year round, although the rainiest months and jellyfish season both occur during Australia’s summers.

However, Winter (June to October) in Airlie beach is absolutely gorgeous with highs of 25’c and sunshine often.

The weather can change at a moment’s notice being so close to the Whitsunday Islands so don’t let a little rain scare you off.

Whether you’re on the classic backpacker trail along Australia’s East Coast or looking for the perfect beach holiday location, Airlie Beach is a must-visit location for everyone.

READ MORE: Plan your trip to Australia with our Australia Travel Guide!

The Best Things to do in Airlie Beach

The perfect base to take off to any of the 74 Whitsunday Islands you’ll have your choice of white sandy islands to explore.

If you want a luxurious day full of pampering, lunch on the ocean and maybe a round of golf, Hamilton Island is where it’s at.

Adventure seekers should be sure to make tracks for a day out ocean rafting or even skydiving.

The list of Airlie Beach attractions is endless, so this list of 20 things to do in Airlie Beach is just the beginning of your best Australian holiday.

1) Lay Out at the Lagoon

One of the top Airlie Beach activities on everyone’s list is a visit to the Lagoon. Located in the heart of town right on the shoreline of the ocean and the perfect place to layout and relax.

The Lagoon is 4,300 sqm and has 4.5 million litres of fresh water pumped through the pools here.

There are several pools to choose from here, including a sheltered children’s wading pool and pools of 1 meter and 2.5-meter depths to enjoy.

Plus there are designated swimming lanes for those looking to get a workout in.

Free admission makes this a great option for those who want to lay out and swim even during stinger season.

You’ll get the gorgeous ocean views, a great spot to cool off and sheltered areas perfect for picnics nearby.

  • Location: 275 Shute Harbour Rd, Airlie Beach 4802
  • Time: 5:30 am – 7 pm (June, July, August) and 5:30 am 9 pm (September – May) Daily
  • Tickets: Free Entry for all
Things to Do in Airlie Beach Lagoon
Airlie Beach Lagoon

2) Visit a Sweet Lookout

Everybody loves a good viewpoint. And Honeyeater Lookout will not only give you a chance to check out an epic view but also a chance to spot some local wildlife.

This trail is easily accessible on foot from Airlie town centre or by car.

Start off at the top of Kara Crescent and then following signs for Honeyeater along the 8.2km roundtrip trail.

Hikers should be sure to keep an eye out for lace monitor lizards (aka Goannas) as they have been seen on the trail often and look like tiny dinosaurs with large claws.

The first portion of the trail is pretty steep and uphill through the gumtree forest and along the coastline.

Then it becomes pretty sheltered from the sun, which is a great bonus especially in the hottest months (October – April).

It takes about an hour, depending on your pace to reach the top and the lookout.

Once you do you’ll be gifted with the most amazing views of Airlie Beach and the beautiful blue ocean that stretches out for miles.

3) Wander the Whitsunday Markets

One of the best things to do in Airlie Beach on a Saturday morning is to head down to the Whitsunday Markets.

Every Saturday from 7 am – 1:30 pm the Lions Airlie Beach Community puts on a beautiful market.

Right on the foreshore of Airlie Beach, you’ll find tons of market stalls to peruse to start your weekend off right.

Grab a coffee from any one of the local vendors and then stroll through the stalls as the town begins to wake up.

You’ll find local crafts and jewellery being made onsite, food stalls, massage and reflexology tents to relax in.

You’ll also likely find a perfect souvenir to bring home.

In addition to the Saturday Markets, there is also the Whitsunday Farmers Market which happens on the first and third Sunday of every month from 6 am -1 pm.

Here you’ll find local fresh produce from farmers around the area, fresh-baked treats to take away and even locally sourced goods for purchase.

READ MORE: Be sure to add these things to do in Cairns to your Australia itinerary!

4) Go off on the Whitsunday Great Walk

Also known as the Conway Circuit, this walk is one of the things to do in Airlie beach if you need a little dose of nature.

The start of this trail is actually in nearby Proserpine and ends in Airlie Beach (or vice versa) and it is a 27km circuit.

This is the perfect spot to escape the hustle and bustle of town, especially during the holidays when it can get quite hectic.

There is no rule to say you have to do the entire 27km circuit so you can do portions of the trail and come back the same way you started if you want something a little shorter.

The trail will take you through the lush rainforest and along different streams throughout the walk as well.

If you do opt for the full circuit you’ll find yourself with some pretty steep climbs but be gifted with incredible viewpoints along the way.

The Whitsunday Great Walk is actually part of a larger series of trails that can be done over 3-4 days while camping.

To camp along the way, permits are required and it should be noted that there are several water tanks to refill on the trail. But water should be treated before using it.

5) Snorkel or Scuba Dive the Great Barrier Reef

The world’s largest coral reef system and Airlie Beach is lucky enough to be sitting just off of this bit of paradise.

One of the top things to do in Airlie Beach for water lovers is to take to the ocean with a snorkel and fins and explore the ocean.

Located in the Coral Sea, there are tons of day trips offered by many outfitters where you’ll be able to see this world wonder for yourself.

There are half-day snorkel trips that bring you out in between the Whitsunday Islands and provide the mask and fins (and stinger suits depending on the time of year) to get you ready to explore the deep blue below.

If you’re looking to scuba dive or learn how this is a good spot to do just that.

With trained instructors aboard the boat, you’ll be given all the equipment and details necessary for you to start your scuba journey, in one of the most beautiful parts of the ocean.

The Great Barrier Reef is home so some incredible creatures and organisms, all of which are in danger by visitors.

But most tour operators take all necessary precautions to ensure that each visit leaves the Reef just as they found it.

If you are in doubt of whether your tour company is responsible with the reef, please do your research and check reviews prior to giving them your business.

Great Barrier Reef
Views on the Great Barrier Reef

6) Explore Conway National Park

This National Park should be on everyone’s list of things to do in Airlie Beach.

On the coast between Airlie Beach and Shute Harbour, you’ll find the entrance to the park where you can leave your car and go off exploring for the day.

There are several shorter trails including the coastal Fringe Circuit and Hayward Gully.

Both of which are perfect for those with less time or if the weather becomes too hot.

The Mt Rooper Circuit takes hikers 5.5 km around and through the beautiful rainforests.

There are tons of trails to choose from depending on your time and accessibility so it’s best to check out the National Parks website.

You’ll find this a mix of beautiful hilly rainforest sections, gorgeous beach and bay areas with some stunning viewpoints.

Rugged cliff faces over turquoise blue ocean and views out towards the Islands make this a perfect destination for anyone.

There are picnic areas along many of the trails, and opportunities for camping (with permits) in certain areas too if you’re looking to get out on the trails for a few days. 

7) Hit the Waves

Ocean Rafting is one of the best things to do in Airlie beach for anyone looking for a bit of a thrill with a side of sightseeing.

You may have been whitewater rafting but ocean rafting takes it to a whole different level.

The boats are semi-rigid but still inflatable, travel at up to 65km/h and were actually designed as rescue vehicles.

Several tour companies offer multiple tours including a day trip from Airlie Beach out to the Whitsunday Islands, one of the most iconic Airlie Beach attractions.

You’ll head out on the water towards the infamous Hill Inlet where you’ll be let off and after a short walk be gifted with one of the world’s most beautiful views of Whitehaven Beach. 

There are multiple tour options which allow for either more relaxing on the beach or more walking in the jungle depending on what you’re looking for.

However, both options include a snorkel stop (gear included) over the great barrier reef and the Hill Inlet stop.

The sand is the whitest you’ll ever see as you pull up to the beach, and once you step foot onto the sand you’ll hear the squeak under your feet.

The turquoise water is perfect for floating around, and you may even get the chance to see a flat plane land nearby.

This day trip is a great mix of adventure and sightseeing which makes it perfect for everyone.

8) Sail the Whitsundays

You can’t visit the gateway to the Whitsundays and not actually explore the Whitsundays.

The best way to do that? Sailing of course!

One of the most iconic things to do in Airlie Beach is to head for a boat and make for the open water.

Whether you’re looking for a day trip, live aboard for a few days, a private charter or even (if you have the money) a million-dollar yacht experience you’ll be able to take your pick of trips to sail the Whitsundays.

With most tours, you’ll sail out of Airlie Beach and around the beautiful archipelago on a gorgeous sailboat.

The boat will likely have all equipment, including paddleboards, floaties and snorkelling equipment on board.

No matter what you’re looking for or what you’re budget is, there is a sailing trip for everyone to be able to experience the magic of these islands.

9) Find Heaven on Hamilton Island

The largest of the Whitsunday Islands and the only one with its own airport, Hamilton Island has won many awards over the years including Australian Travellers ‘Most Desirable Island Escape’ title.

If you are headed over to stay on the Island, some resorts offer private transfers.

But if you want to head over on your own you can grab the ferry from Airlie Beach or Shute Harbour and in about an hour you’ll be stepping off into paradise.

Swimming should be top of the list.

Catseye Beach is the best slice of beach on the island and makes for the perfect place to lay out and float in the ocean.

Sail’s Pool, Main Pool and Bougainvillea Pool are all available to the public as well in case you want to trade in some beach time for the pool.

There are several walking trails on the island worth exploring as well, including the steep but with a spectacular view, Passage Peak.

Resort Lookout is the second-highest point on the island so you know the views from here will be amazing.

If you’re looking for a bit more privacy check out Coral Cove for a secluded beach to enjoy.

Water sports are a must here. From stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking, jet skis, and even snorkel gear, you can hire it all when you get to the island.

Indulge in some world-class dining options and even take in a spa treatment. There’s no shortage of luxuries to treat yourself with.

And to top it all off Hamilton Island sees one of the best sunsets in the Whitsundays too.

READ MORE: While you’re in the area be sure to check out these things to do in Brisbane.

10) Get Sky High

While getting out on the ocean is one of the best ways to experience Queensland and Airlie Beach, the next best option is to get high above it.

With a scenic flight, passengers get the chance to experience the absolute beauty of the islands and the Great Barrier Reef in a whole new way.

Several companies give you the opportunity to choose from a fixed-wing plane, a helicopter or even a flight + cruise adventure.

The signature scenic flight option includes incredible aerial views over the Whitsundays and the Reef.

You’ll be able to see the gorgeous Heart Reef and Hill Inlet and you soar above the ocean.

And as every passenger gets a window seat, you’ll see better than any drone could with your own two eyes. Location: 1/384 Shute Harbour Rd, 4802

Scenic Flight Airlie Beach
Views from a Scenic Flight in Airlie Beach

11) Take a Day Trip to Daydream Island

One of the most magical Airlie Beach activities for anyone is to head out for a day on Daydream Island.

Most likely named after the fact that this place literally looks like what people daydream about Daydream is part of the Molle group of islands.

Measuring only 1 km in length, Daydream Island may be small but is packed with amazing things and is only 10km from Airlie Beach by ferry.

Similar to Hamilton Island, there is a luxury resort on the island and guests of the resort will have access to amazing amenities.

But visitors to the island can also indulge too.

Discover the natural beauty that surrounds the island by renting out glass bottom boats and exploring the ocean.

There are also kayaking and paddleboard rentals on the beaches.

Maybe you crave a bit more excitement, there are parasailing outfitters on the beach that will be able to give you an amazing view from above and maybe even a dip in the ocean as you come down.

Lover’s Cove is the perfect spot to take in a beautiful sunset, and Daydream Island Resort boardwalk is a great spot to go for an afternoon stroll post-beach fun.

Stop in for lunch at the resort or even book in for a day of pampering at the spa.

Everything you’ll find on the island will be better than even you could dream up.

12) Go Golfing

For those looking to get out on the back nine and give your clubs a swing, Airlie Beach has some fantastic golf courses to visit.

You don’t need to be a professional to take to the greens, and these courses aren’t a bad place to check out the views either.

If you’re outside of Airlie Beach and on Hamilton Island, you’ll be hitting balls on one of Australia’s most scenic courses out there.

You’ll have your choice of several courses within Airlie Beach including The Whitsundays Country Golf Club on Shute Harbour Road.

This is a championship, 18 hole course with one of the best views in the state.

Just outside of Airlie Beach you can head to Proserpine Golf Course where you’ll find 18 holes open 7 days a week with the opportunity to spot some wildlife on the course too.

While some courses may be members only, if you are with a guest of the club you’ll have access to the course.

If golf isn’t your idea of a fun day out, stop in for a cocktail or lunch at the course club and take in the lovely views just the same.

13) Chase Waterfalls at Cedar Creek

Less than a 30-minute drive and you’ll find one of the top things to do in Airlie Beach.

Cedar Creek Falls is a gorgeous natural waterhole in the Queensland hinterland.

The drive from Airlie Beach will take you through the past cane fields out into the rainforest and this beauty spot.

The falls are beautiful and particularly so after a big rainfall, as you’ll be able to hear the water rushing from the parking lot.

Pack up the car with all the necessities for a full day out because guaranteed you won’t want to leave once you arrive.

Swim the freshwater swimming hole at the base of the falls and, if you’re feeling brave enough, you can actually climb to the top of the falls and look down.

There are several runoff streams from the main pool which are perfect for sitting in to cool down on the hottest days.

There are a few areas around the falls to explore on foot so be sure to keep your eyes peeled for butterflies, beautiful birds and lush vegetation.

Cedar Creek Falls
Cedar Creek Falls

14) Treat Yourself on Hayman Island

One of the most decadent things to do in Airlie Beach is to treat yourself to a day on Hayman Island.

Hayman Island is a private island that is open to the public and made famous by a luxury resort opened in the 1950s.

A highly sought after wedding destination, but not to be missed by anyone looking for a bit of fun in the sun with the most beautiful setting.

Head to Cook Lookout, the highest point on the island, and an awesome vantage point to soak in all the views.

Being on an island allows for tons of water sports including kayaking, paddleboarding and even a futuristic underwater scooter.

Scooter riders will glide on top of the water while being able to get a fantastic view of the islands.

If you’re hoping for a dreamy day of pampering the Hayman Spa is world-class.

With 11 treatment rooms offering massages, facials and specialty water treatments this is is the perfect oasis.

Dine at the world-class resort restaurant or check out the oceanfront bar, everything on Hayman Island is absolutely divine.

15) Fly Above the Ocean

One of the best ways to do some Airlie Beach sightseeing is definitely from above.

Add some adrenaline-pumping fun to your trip by booking in for a skydive.

Get the thrill of a lifetime with skydive that includes a freefall at over 220 km/hour for 60 seconds then float under the canopy as you make your way down to the drop zone on the beach.

No matter what your experience level is or option you choose you’ll be in for a treat.

Soar above the ocean before jumping over the most beautiful islands in the country and maybe even the world.

Be sure to keep your eyes open as you jump, you wouldn’t want to miss anything!

16) Head out to Cannonvale

Barely 5 minutes away from the bustling shores of Airlie Beach is the quieter and cute town of Cannonvale.

This is considered to be the main centre for Airlie Beach when it comes to grocery shopping, getting petrol, big chain restaurants.

But it also has some great things to do.

Cannonvale’s sheltered beach is a perfect refuge for anyone looking to dodge the crowds.

You’ll also find tons of public use BBQ’s along the shore here as well as a great park and some really cool tidal pools to soak in.

If you just need to stretch your legs then the walk from Airlie Beach to Cannonvale is a great option to see a more local side of the city.

Pop into the Fat Frog Beach cafe for homemade treats or an awesome lunch with a fantastic view of the ocean.

With tons of lovely little parks all throughout Cannonvale, it’s the perfect location for those who love a good wander and to really get a feel for what everyday life is like.

READ MORE: Add more adventure to your Australia holiday with these 10 activities.

17) Visit Whitehaven Beach

Rated the #1 beach in the south pacific more than once, Whitehaven Beach should not be missed when looking for things to do in Airlie Beach.

Accessible by boat, plane or helicopter, this 7km stretch of beach is like none other.

Your first views will have you thinking you’re stepping into a postcard. The stunning white sand of one of the world’s most unspoilt beaches is just the beginning.

The turquoise waters are calm and inviting and so clear.

As it is located off the Great Barrier Reef, you’ll have amazing opportunities to snorkel and get an up-close and personal with the sea creatures who call this place home. 

Not only is the sand as white as snow, but it’s also as soft as the coziest thing you’ve ever felt, so soft that as you walk along the beach you’ll hear it squeak underneath your feet.

 At the northern end of the beach is Hill Inlet, accessible by a short bushwalk and well worth the small hike.

The view from the top is one of the best vantage points in the Whitsundays with the most spectacular views of the beach.

It’s highly recommended that you book a cruise that will take you out to here, as it is the best way to see this natural splendour.

View of Whitehaven Beach from Hill Inlet
View of Whitehaven Beach from Hill Inlet

18) Venture out to Hydeaway Bay

A top day trip option besides the Whitsundays from Airlie beach is Hydeaway Bay.

If you’re the kind of traveller who loves an off the beaten track adventure then this destination is definitely for you.

About 50km from Airlie Beach, follow Gregory-Cannon Valley Road to Dingo Beach Road and watch for the Hydeaway Bay turn off.

The beach has 5 public access points and there is a good chance you could spend the day here and not see another person.

It’s the perfect place to bring a blanket, pack the cooler and head out for an afternoon on the beach, no matter the weather.

Throw a frisbee around or go looking for washed up seashells and the odd jellyfish or two.

You’ll feel like you’ve stepped foot in a different place especially if you’re visiting Airlie during the Christmas holidays as it can get quite crowded.

Hydeaway Bay will be the perfect escape.

19) Learn to Sail

Chances are if you’re visiting Airlie Beach you’ll be taking part in a sailing trip or boating adventure out to the Whitsundays.

But what if you wanted to try your hand at sailing yourself?

This is definitely a unique and fun option for those who like a bit of a challenge.

If you’re looking for cheap/free things to do in Airlie Beach check out The Whitsunday Sailing Club.

Every Wednesday from 3 pm – 7 pm they offer twilight yacht racing.

For the price of your curiosity and your willingness to learn something new, you can become a deckhand for the evening and learn the ropes from the pros.

All you need to do is sign up by 2 pm on the day at the Sailing club and you’ll be off to the races in no time.

20) Stroll to Shute Harbour

One of the most easy-going Airlie Beach activities would definitely be heading out in the evening and strolling to Shute Harbour.

Approximately 10km from Airlie Beach is a sheltered port for vessels and the ferry dock for boats going to and from the Whitsunday Islands.

This small residential area is full of lovely holiday homes and actually runs by Conway National Park too.

The walk is a great thing to do after the hot sun of the day has dipped, post-dinner/pre-drinks and just wander your way along the path from Airlie Beach.

Or make for the Shute Harbour Jetty in the morning and do a little fishing if you fancy.

And even if you’re not an avid fisherman this spot makes for a favourite for photographers especially at sunset.

Shute Harbour
Sunset at Shute Harbour

Arlie Beach Travel Guide

Now that you have an idea of all of the great things to do in Arlie Beach, we want to make sure you know where to stay and what to eat while you’re there!

The best way to get around is to rent a car and explore on your own! We recommend Rental Cars, which has the largest range of cars for the best value on the market.

Best Accommodation – Where to stay in Airlie Beach

After a day out exploring all of the Airlie Beach attractions you can find, you’ll need a great place to rest up. The town may be small but the accommodation options are huge.

The Best Hostel in Airlie Beach – Magnums

Within a stone’s throw from the beach and the lagoon, you won’t spend an arm and a leg to stay at this hostel.

Magnum’s is the place to be with lovely dorms and private rooms plus a great onsite bar & great discounts on tours too!

The Best Mid-Range Hotel in Airlie Beach – Coral Sea Resort

After a day of Airlie Beach activities, the Coral Sea Resort is the perfect place to come back and relax.

Gorgeous rooms that carry the ocean vibes through and through, a poolside restaurant, a charming cafe and even spa facilities this hotel is perfect for everyone.

The Best Luxury Hotel in Airlie Beach – Peninsula Airlie Beach

With its prime waterfront location, Peninsula Airlie Beach not only has the most luxurious views but has accommodation options ranging from 1 bedroom apartments to spectacular penthouse suites.

Close to Abell Point Marina, this is a great spot to spend the night after a day on the water.

Best Restaurants in Airlie Beach

Seafood freshly caught every day, views of the ocean and the perfect patio set up every time.

The food and drink scene in Airlie beach is something not to be missed no matter your tastes.

Budget – Beagles Pizza

What’s better than a pizza picnic on the beach? Pizza that doesn’t break the bank of course!

With lots of daily deals and dishes besides pizza makes Beagles Pizza a great spot to grab a bite to eat on a budget or have delivered if you’re too exhausted after a day of adventuring.

Mid-Range – The Deck Restaurant & Bar

With a menu offering seafood, vegetarian dishes and delicious healthy options, The Deck Restaurant & Bar is the perfect place to catch a view and try something completely delicious like their fresh Buddha Bowls.

Luxury – Fish D’Vine

The oldest and most iconic restaurant in town, Fish D’Vine is a must-visit spot for that perfect seafood creation.

From traditional fish & chips to the locally sourced and amazing mud crab, there’s something for everyone, not to mention the rum bar on site too adds a great option for those looking for a nightcap.

DISCLAIMER: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links, which means if you book accommodation, tours or buy a product, we will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. These commissions help us keep creating more free travel content to help people plan their holidays and adventures. We only recommend the best accommodations, tours and products, and regularly review these. Thanks for your support, kind friend!

About the author

Laura Oxley

Hi, I'm Laura Oxley of She Who Wanders, a Canadian content creator who is the resident Canada travel expert at NOMADasaurus, along with tonnes of incredible experience with exploring Australia. My travel experiences have taken me to the volcanoes of Central America, the waterfalls of Hawaii, the castles of England, the beaches of Australia and Middle Earth to name a few. In addition to writing for NOMADasaurus, my work can be found published on Contiki, Women Who Explore, Penguin & Pia and Buzzfeed.

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