From the back of a jet ski, to the seat of a mountain bike or aboard a catamaran, there are countless ways to explore Airlie Beach
Airlie Beach has long carried something of a reputation as a backpacker haunt, often relegated to the status of a gateway. But this coastal town has a fair bit more to offer than just a bed for the night, a handful of lively bars and transport onwards. Take your pick from this round-up of gentle or high-octane activities.
Airlie Beach Lagoon
The name ‘Airlie Beach’ is perhaps a bit misleading. Really there’s only one beach (Boathaven) in town, and even that’s man-made. But if you’re craving some time in the water, all is not lost: enter Airlie Beach Lagoon.
Surrounded by landscaped, palm-tree-dotted grassy shores, and featuring a sandy beach area at one end, you could easily while away a warm summer’s day at this scenic saltwater lagoon, finishing up with a beach barbie using one of the municipal barbecues scattered around the place. It’s free to visit, and those travelling with littlies can safely paddle in the children’s pool. The foreshore is also home to a super slick state-of-the-art playground, which opened in 2019, and lies just a few minutes’ walk from the lagoon.
Fill your lungs with salty sea air, take in the beautiful shoreline views, and work up an appetite with a stroll along the Bicentennial Walkway. Roughly four kilometres long, this walk from Airlie Beach Lagoon to Cannonvale Beach takes around 45 minutes to complete. Reward yourself with a velvety flat white or a decadent sit-down breakfast when you arrive at Cannonvale Beach: Fat Frog Beach Cafe is a local favourite that looks squarely onto the waterfront.
If there were ever a scenic spot to select for a skydiving drop zone then Airlie Beach, and the wider Great Barrier Reef, might just be it. Soar up to 15,000-feet above the Whitsunday Region before jumping out of a tiny plane and freefalling at more than 220 kilometres an hour before floating down over the clouds and drinking in the panorama of crumpled green hinterland, pure white shores, and aquamarine waters as the breeze ripples past your face.
Looking for a serene end to a jam-packed day and a different perspective of Airlie Beach? Step aboard on one of Sundowner Cruises’ purpose-built catamarans and enjoy a relaxing sunset cruise, complete with a glass of sparkling and a few nibbles. The company also offers two-hour afternoon cruises twice weekly.
Jet ski tours
If frolicking around on the water in a tropical paradise constitutes your dream day, then book in for a jet ski tour. Promising adrenaline and scenic vistas in equal measure, Whitsunday Jetski Tours offer three different sea safaris that last from 90 minutes up to four hours. You might spy sea turtles, dugongs, seabirds and humpback whales while scooting around in the World Heritage-listed marine park that is the Great Barrier Reef.
There are, truly, countless other ways to take to the waters of the Great Barrier Reef from Airlie Beach. So if jet-skiing doesn’t appeal then visit the Tourism Whitsundays website, which lists all of the different snorkelling, diving, and sailing trips that leave from the coastal town. You can even admire the marine park from the skies, with a scenic flight over Heart Reef and Whitehaven Beach.
Conway National Park
A sprawling tract of lowland tropical rainforest that’s home to hoop pines, mangroves, and paperbark and pandanus woodlands, Conway National Park is the perfect spot for practicing a bit of shinrin-yoku (forest bathing). Enjoy one of the park’s numerous walks, such as the steep 7.5-kilometre-long ascent to the Honeyeater Lookout, which affords sweeping views over the coastline; take to two wheels and hurtle around on dirt ribbons below the forest canopy on one of Conway National Park’s mountain biking trails; or jump on a segway and take a motorised tour of this verdant pocket.
Cedar Creek Falls
Less than a 30-minute drive from Airlie Beach, these falls cascade over a rock face before landing into a sizable milky green waterhole, enveloped by trees, that’s perfect for a cooling dip in the heat of summer. If possible, time your visit to coincide with recent rainfall, so that the falls are in full flow and the pool at its base is full. Best of all, there’s no crocs to worry about and it’s located just a short walk from the car park.