Are you looking for the best day trips from Airlie Beach, Queensland? We are here to help!
Airlie Beach is the main town near the Whitsunday Islands and it’s the perfect base for people who want to discover the islands as well as the hinterland.
With so many amazing attractions located just a day’s drive (or boat ride) away, travellers can explore some of the best places Queensland has to offer!
From nature adventures to island hopping, there is something for everyone when looking for a day out from Airlie Beach.
While there are many things to do in town, taking day trips from Airlie Beach is important because it will allow you to see different things and truly discover what this part of Australia has to offer.
It’s also a good way to save money since accommodation in Airlie Beach is much cheaper than on the islands.
So, are you ready to discover the best day trips from Airlie Beach? Let’s get started!
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get a commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links, at no extra cost for you!
Whitehaven Beach is one of the most popular day trips from Airlie Beach and for good reason – it’s one of the most beautiful beaches in the world!
The sparkling white sand and clear blue waters are an Instagrammer’s dream, and it’s no surprise that this beach is a favourite among travellers.
It was voted best beach in the world several times (including in 2021!).
Whitehaven Beach is located on Whitsunday Island, in the heart of the national park.
The beach is about 2 kilometres long. The sand is 98% quartz which means it’s very white, soft and even shiny!
But the most beautiful part (as well as the most famous) isn’t exactly the beach itself but Hill Inlet. From there, you can see the water spiralling inland creating beautiful swirls with the sand. It’s stunning.
To get to Whitehaven Beach, you’ll need to take a day cruise from Airlie Beach.
These cruises depart in the morning and return in the afternoon, so you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy this incredible beach.
There aren’t any ferries that go to Whitehaven Beach so booking your tour is your only option. Here are the best ones:
- Thunder Cat day tour. You will be on a catamaran and will get to do the bush walk to Hill Inlet, relax on the beach and stop at Hook Island for some snorkelling. Lunch and morning snacks are included.
- Ocean Rafting tour. This is another popular tour from Airlie Beach. In terms of itinerary, it’s basically the same as Thunder Cat. The main difference is the type of vessel. Ocean Rafting is a speed boat so it’s up to you to choose whether you prefer a catamaran or a speed boat. They are both amazing tours so you won’t be disappointed either way.
- Helicopter + Cruise combo. If you’d like to discover Hill Inlet from higher up, you can opt for a combo cruise and helicopter ride. You will be going to the beach by boat, relaxing there for a bit, eating lunch and then discovering Hill Inlet from the helicopter. It’s a more expensive option but definitely worth it too!
If you’re looking for a day filled with relaxation and stunning natural scenery, then Whitehaven Beach is the perfect day trip from Airlie Beach.
READ MORE: How to get to Whitehaven Beach and 10+ Best Whitehaven Beach tours from Airlie Beach for travellers in 2023
Great Barrier Reef
Who says Whitsunday Coast says Great Barrier Reef! It would be impossible to visit Airlie without taking a day trip to the reef!
This World Heritage Site is located off the coast of Queensland and is made up of over 2,900 reefs and 900 islands. While it stretches all the way up to the top, the part near Airlie Beach is particularly interesting.
It’s home to an abundance of marine life, making it a popular spot for snorkelling and scuba diving.
But the reason why a lot of people choose to visit the Great Barrier Reef in Airlie Beach and not in Cairns for example, is that you can find a true gem here: the heart reef!
The heart reef is a heart-shaped coral barrier and one of the most famous landmarks in Australia!
As you may imagine, the Great Barrier Reef is protected so you will need to book a tour in order to visit. The local operators go to specific places and make sure that everything is done while respecting the environment.
Here are some options for you:
- Scuba diving day tour from Airlie Beach. This includes a cruise, snorkelling and (as an option) a dive at the Great Barrier Reef.
- Scenic flight from Airlie Beach. While diving at the reef is an experience of a lifetime, flying over it is also well worth your time. From the sky, you truly realise how big the GBR is and that’s the only way you can really see the heart reef!
- Helicopter tour. You can also opt for a helicopter flight with a landing on Whitehaven beach after.
While Reefworld is technically a part of the Great Barrier Reef, it was worth mentioning it separately.
The Reefworld is a floating pontoon located in the heart of the reef. It was supported by the Queensland Government’s Growing Tourism Infrastructure Fund and it offers a chance to visitors to discover the Great Barrier Reef up close while still being respectful of the ecosystem.
From the pontoon, you can do different things including snorkelling or scuba diving. If you don’t wish to go in the water, you can also get to see what is going on underwater since the pontoon is semi-submersible.
If you walk downstairs, you can see the coral behind the windows. It’s so cool!
It’s a great place to visit for adults but also for kids as they can also swim with Nemo and his friends.
In addition to that, Reefworld has a restaurant, bar and even some rooms! You can also stay overnight if you want to!
If you are interested in booking a day tour to Reefworld, check this one out. It starts in Airlie Beach and includes a cruise as well as the afternoon on the pontoon.
Hamilton Island is the most famous island in the Whitsundays as well as a popular day trip destination from Airlie Beach.
It’s only a short ferry ride away and it’s home to some of the most iconic Australian beaches such as Catseye Island.
In addition to that, Hamilton Island is also a great spot for shopping, dining and golfing.
As soon as you get to the island, you will start relaxing and take in these ‘holiday’ vibes.
There aren’t any cars on Hamilton Island so you will be exploring on foot or with a buggy.
You can easily get to Hamilton Island with the ferry. Island hoppers tickets can be bought here and you simply need to board the boat from Airlie Beach.
Once you get to Hamilton Island, make sure to check out Catseye Beach, the marina and go up to One Tree Hill. The views from there are amazing!
Alternatively, you can opt for a day tour that includes both Whitehaven Beach and Hamilton Island. This is a good option if you are more in a rush.
READ MORE: 12 Best Things to do in Hamilton Island
Daydream Island is another good option when it comes to island day trips from Airlie Beach.
It’s known for its luxury resort and beautiful surroundings.
It’s a great place to go if you want to relax and get away from it all.
There are no day tours to Daydream Island so you will need to take a ferry or plane.
Daydream Island resort offers day visitor passes which means that instead of booking a stay, you can simply take the ferry to Daydream Island and then spend the day at the resort.
You will have access to all the facilities such as the spa, golf course, the pool, bars and restaurants.
You can also go for a swim, snorkel or dive.
You can also book a day trip to Daydream Island which includes a stop at Whitehaven Beach as well.
READ MORE: 11 Best Things to do in Daydream Island
Cedar Creek Falls
Cedar Creek Falls is located in Conway National Park, near the small town of Palm Cove.
It’s a great destination for a day trip from Airlie Beach if you are looking for some nature and hiking opportunities.
The falls are located about 30 minutes drive from Airlie Beach and can be easily reached by car.
Once you get there, there is a 1.5 kilometres walk return to go (and get back) to the falls. It’s an easy walk so nothing to be scared about.
Cedar Creek Falls are famous for the wildlife you can find in the rock pools. It’s a great spot for swimming and you are more than likely to see turtles!
It’s also a good picnic spot.
If you don’t have a car, you can book a day tour from Airlie Beach which includes transportation to the falls and the afternoon at the Palm Cove resort where you can relax.
Conway National Park
Conway National park is located just south of Airlie Beach and can be easily reached by car.
One of the most famous places in the park is Cedar Creek Falls (as mentioned above) but there are also many other things you can do for a day.
In terms of hiking opportunities, you will find tracks for all levels of hikers, from beginners to experts.
Please note that most of the trails are shared-trails which means they can be used by walkers as well as cyclists.
The best ones are Coastal Fringe Circuit, Hayward Way and Swamp Bay.
You will also find the Whitsunday Great Walk which is one of the best hiking paths in the area.
There are also plenty of places to go for a swim and relax in nature.
If you don’t have a car, you can book a segway tour from Airlie Beach. It lasts 3.5 hours during which you will glide along the Whitsunday Great walk, discover the local wildlife and enjoy a relaxing time in the rainforest.
Proserpine is a small town located about 20 minutes drive from Airlie Beach.
This is where you will find the airport so chances are that you have already been there but there is much more to see!
There are a few things you can do in Proserpine, such as visiting the local historical museum, walking around the town or going to the Proserpine Water Park (a great option for families).
Proserpine is known for its production of sugar cane. It’s a typical Queensland town and you will enjoy the rural atmosphere.
Proserpine River is also home to a many barramundis making it an excellent place to go fishing.
As previously mentioned, Proserpine is home to the airport near Airlie Beach. While you are in the area, you may want to consider booking a scenic flight (1 hour) or even a skydive.
These are two of the best things to do from Proserpine so it’s well worth considering them!
Private Charter Day Trip
The Whitsundays are one of the best places in the world when it comes to sailing since you can hire a boat without a license.
This is called bareboating. Basically, you can hire a boat without the crew and therefore you will be the skipper.
Obviously, you will be given an induction before you start so you know how things work but after that, you’ll be as free a bird!
If you are looking for a day out on the water, then booking a private charter will be an excellent thing to do. You can opt for the bareboating option but if you don’t feel confident enough, you can also ask to have a crew onboard.
This is a great way to spend the day with friends or family and enjoy everything the Whitsundays have to offer.
You will be able to visit some of the most beautiful locations in the area and, more importantly, at your own pace.
It’s the perfect opportunity to make your own itinerary, visit some hidden gems and stay away from the crowds.
Chartering a boat in the Whitsundays is also not always as expensive as it seems. For a family for example, it often works out the same (if not cheaper) as booking a tour.
READ MORE: The ultimate travel guide to charter a boat in the Whitsundays
Eungella National Park
If you are looking for a day out in nature, away from the hustle and bustle of Airlie Beach, then Eungella National Park is the place for you.
This national park is a bit further than the other destinations mentioned in this article since it is about 2 hours drive from Airlie Beach but it’s definitely worth the trip!
The park is home to many different types of animals, such as wallabies, platypuses, and of course kookaburras.
There are also many walking trails for all levels of hikers and you can even go caving!
Eungella National Park is a great place to learn about the local flora and fauna since there are talks organised by the park rangers every day! They also offer other tours and encounters.
If you like swimming and want to discover some beautiful waterfalls in Queensland, then make sure to stop at Aurelien Waterfall and the Wheel of Fire waterfall as well.
While you can easily get there by car, you can also opt for a day tour from Airlie Beach. See prices here.
Hideaway Bay is a secluded beach located about 40 minutes drive from Airlie Beach.
This is definitely one of the most beautiful beaches in Queensland and it’s often less crowded than other places. Some would even consider it as a hidden gem!
The beach is perfect for swimming, sunbathing or just relax in the sand. There are also some great walks to do in the area.
It’s a great place to visit if you want to enjoy a beach day on the continent and are looking for day trips from Airlie Beach by car.
Shute Harbour is a small town located about 20 minutes drive from Airlie Beach.
This place is often used as a base for people who want to explore the Whitsundays by boat.
Since it’s only a short distance away, it makes for a great day trip!
In Shute Harbour, you can find a few restaurants and cafes. It’s a good spot for people who want to eat some seafood while staying in the Whitsundays.
You will also find some walks that will lead you to fantastic lookouts (with views over the islands). This includes The Beak lookout and the Lion’s lookout.
If you are looking for a bit of a unique day out from Airlie Beach, then the crocodile safari on the Proserpine River might be the perfect thing for you!
This day tour will take you to explore the Proserpine River. You will be able to see many saltwater crocodiles and other animals such as birds.
The cruise lasts 2 hours but altogether, it’s a 6-hour long tour since it includes other activities.
You will be with a local guide that will show you some of the native-Australian foods such as the bush tucker (and yes, you will try them too!).
Lunch is also included and it will be a classic Aussie BBQ!
Click here to see the latest prices.
Long Island is another island in the Whitsundays. It’s not as famous as Hamilton, Hayman or Daydream island but it’s still worth a visit if you want to do something different.
This is a great place to visit if you want to get away from the crowds and enjoy some peace and quiet.
There are some walking opportunities and of course, beautiful beaches.
It’s also a great place to go with a jet ski! If you wanted to try some fun water activities while staying in Airlie Beach, then book a jet ski tour to Long Island.
You’ll have so much fun!
Hook Island is a small island located about 55 minutes away from Airlie Beach by boat.
This place is great for snorkelling and diving and is one of the jewels of the Whitsundays.
The island is home to some of the best coral in the area which is why it’s a popular spot for snorkelling.
Butterfly Bay is particularly well known for its coral. It’s a great spot to go snorkelling or scuba diving.
You can get there with a private charter but it’s also important to note that it’s one of the snorkelling spots where you will stop with the Ocean Rafting tour to Whitehaven Beach.
Bowen is a small town located about an hour away from Airlie Beach.
It’s a popular stop on a road trip from Cairns to Brisbane but Bowen is also worth the trip for a day from Airlie.
The main reason to visit is to see the Big Mango! This is one of the most famous man-made landmarks in Australia and if seeing all the Australian big things is on your list, then visiting Bowen is a must-do!
Bowen is also home to fantastic beaches such as Horseshoe Bay, Murray’s Bay or Queen’s Beach.
Walking around town is also very pleasant since there is a lot of street art and you will find great fish and chips shops.
Mackay is located about 2 hours away from Airlie Beach by car.
This place is a great spot for day trips if you want to explore a city in Queensland that is not Brisbane or Cairns.
In Mackay, you can find the Botanic Gardens which have a rainforest and a mangrove walk.
You can also opt for a walk along the Riverside Bluewater trail.
If you want to go swimming, head to the Bluewater lagoon. It’s free and open all year round.
Finally, make sure to explore some of the beautiful beaches in the area such as Eimeo Beach, Harbour Beach, Town beach or Lamberts Beach.
If you want to discover the islands around (they are much less touristy than the Whitsundays which is very pleasant), you can book the Wildcat tour.
It will take you to Keswick Island, Brampton Island, Cockermouth Island, Scawfell Island or St Bee’s Island as well as the Great Barrier Reef.
Now that you know everything about the best day trips from Airlie Beach, it’s time to go and explore!
Whether you want to go swimming, snorkelling or diving, or if you want to explore the rainforest or go on a road trip, there is something for everyone!
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