With a reputation as Australia’s aquatic playground, it’s fair to say you’ll find countless activities to enjoy on, above, or under the water in the Whitsundays. However, you might be surprised to learn that there’s plenty of things to do in Airlie Beach that won’t cost the world – or even a cent.
In other good news, the team at NRMA Airlie Beach Holiday Park are always on hand to suggest activities and book tours to make the most of your time. Set in the vibrant heart of the Whitsunday Coast and the closest holiday park to Airlie Beach town centre, it’s a real tropical oasis and great base for exploring the region. You’ll find the park conveniently located just a 2-minute drive from town and Abell Point Marina, next to the Whitsunday Shopping Centre and opposite Cannonvale Beach. The family-friendly park offers a range of accommodation options, from camp sites and cabins to bungalows and Bali villas, so there’s something for every budget. There’s even pet-friendly camping available, so the whole family’s welcome.
To get you excited for your tropical getaway, here are some of our favourite things to do in Airlie Beach and surrounds.
1. Stroll the Bicentennial Walkway
Right across the road from NRMA Airlie Beach Holiday Park you’ll find the Bicentennial Walkway. Starting at Cannonvale Beach and heading into Airlie Beach, this is a fantastic, level 20-minute walk – and a great way to take in the coastline on a well-maintained boardwalk. You’ll pass through coastal vegetation, Abell Point Marina, and the Airlie Beach foreshore before reaching the heart of town.
2. Explore Cannonvale Beach and botanic gardens
For plenty of free activities, head to Cannonvale Beach Foreshore Reserve, where there are walkways, mangroves, multiple playground areas, a skate park, basketball court, public exercise equipment, off lead dog beach, free public BBQs, covered picnic huts, and even a public boat ramp. The beach itself is generally quite calm and safe, with a netted swimming area and popular café opposite.
3. Hit up the Airlie Beach markets
What better way to spend a leisurely Saturday morning in the tropics than casually perusing some seaside markets? Every Saturday from 7am to 1pm along the Airlie Beach foreshore, local stallholders showcase their fresh local produce, homemade treasures and clothing, unique jewellery and more. Grab a coffee, some food and some gifts and take in the community spirit and beautiful coastal scenery. There is free parking, but it fills up fast so get in early or head in on foot.
4. Plunge into the Cedar Creek Falls swimming hole
Looking for some crystal-clear water to take a dip in? Cedar Creek Falls is a local favourite, reached by a short walking track and surrounded by towering cedar trees and rocks. To reach the falls, take a scenic drive through verdant cane fields about 30km from Airlie Beach. The cascading falls themselves are a sight to behold, and you can enjoy a refreshing tropical swim in the swimming hole, both of which really come alive in the wet season or following a downpour.
5. Take a drive to Cape Gloucester
If you’re keen for a day trip, head up to Cape Gloucester, just a 50-minute drive north of Airlie Beach. Here you can take in stunning views of the coral sea and visit the two resorts on the cape. Or, check out Hydeaway Bay and the series of secluded beaches and coves along the Esplanade, including Froggies Beach. There you can while away the day swimming, relaxing, fishing, and feeling pretty good about life.
6. Enjoy lunch by the water at Dingo Beach Hotel
If you feel peckish on the way to Cape Gloucester, stop in at the friendly Dingo Beach Hotel for a classic pub lunch lunch overlooking the water. Then, after waiting the requisite 30-minutes, why not hire a kayak for a paddle on crystal clear azure waters? Keep an eye out for marine life, including dolphins, turtles, manta rays and migrating whales.
7. Try your hand at fishing
The Whitsundays is a renowned fisherman or woman’s paradise. There are plenty of spots to throw in a line yourself, or you can choose from a wide range of fishing charters and tours, all of which are bookable through the NRMA Airlie Beach Holiday Park’s dedicated booking office. Popular outings include half-day tours of the inner reef, full-day tours of the outer reef, and longer sporting charters, chasing prize fish like Spanish mackerel, barracuda and tuna. If luck is on your side, you can expect to bag some coral trout, snapper, golden and giant trevally, mackerel, and sweet lip. At the end of the day, there are several local restaurants that can cook up your fish for you, so you can kick back and relax.
8. Sail around the 74 Whitsunday Islands
While there are plenty of multi-day sailing tours in the Whitsundays, there are also plenty of day options as well. You’ll often stop off for a beach picnic, do some snorkelling, spot wildlife, check out one of many stunning resorts and more. There are also tours that allow you to lend a hand on the boat and learn the ropes, so to speak. With so much to see and do, different tours usually specialise in a few different spots and activities, so be sure to shop around to find one that ticks all your boxes. The friendly team at NRMA Airlie Beach Holiday Park can help you narrow it down and book for you through the park’s dedicated booking office.
If you’re short on time, or the laid-back tropical pace of life isn’t really your bag, there are plenty of adrenaline pumping tours and activities to take in the islands and fringing coral reefs, express style. From fast speedboat tours visiting the Whitsunday Islands and Whitehaven Beach to jet ski tours ranging from 1-hour to a full-day, there’s something for all itineraries and attention spans. Or, if you find yourself in Airlie Beach with a spare hour up your sleeve, you could always climb aboard the jet boat ride that whizzes around Pioneer Bay, right in front of the beach itself.
10. Spend the day resort hopping
Want to live the resort lifestyle without the price tag? You’re in luck, because plenty of cruise operators in the Whitsundays offer island hopper passes, so you can spend the day catching boats between islands like Daydream Island and Hamilton Island, exploring and relaxing at one before cruising onto the next. Even better, some passes include the use of resort pools in the ticket price.
11. Splurge on a spectacular scenic flight
To really get a sense of the scale and vast natural beauty of the Whitsunday Islands, the only way is up. There are plenty of operators offering scenic flights, and reputable tours can be booked through our dedicated in-park booking office. Soar over the Great Barrier Reef, emerald waters, remote islands, and the world-famous heart shaped reef. Whether it’s a helicopter, fixed wing aircraft or sea plane, this is one experience you’ll never forget.
12. Scuba diving for a cause
The Great Barrier Reef is home to a third of the world’s coral species and over 1,500 species of fish. And, as we all know, it’s under threat. So, if you’re keen to see this natural wonder up close and personal underwater, choose an ethical tour operator who can demonstrate their investment in sustainable tourism to support the protection of the reef. There are countless tours offering full-day dives, sailing, Hardy Reef pontoon, helicopter drops and more. Ask at the NRMA Airlie Beach Holiday Park tour office for an option to suit you.
13. Have a lazy day at Airlie Beach Lagoon
If you’re after a day of relaxation but still keen to immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere of Airlie Beach, head down to the public lagoon. Situated right in town and overlooking the islands, this man-made lagoon is perfect for swimming, sunbaking, and lazing on the surrounding grassy knolls. There’s even a sandy beach area at one end for the kiddies to frolic and public BBQs to cook up a storm. The best part? It’s all free.
14. Take a walk in Conway National Park
We’re all guilty of slacking off on diet and exercise while on holiday, it’s our right. But if you feel like getting your heart rate up and working off that fresh seafood and mojitos, there are several national parks to explore in the area. NRMA Airlie Beach Holiday Park is at the northern tip of Conway National Park, on Birri-Gubba Country. The park offers plenty of scenic walks, including the Honeyeater Lookout Trail, a moderate uphill 7.5km round trip track taking about 45 minutes to reach the summit. It’s a slog, but the views from Honeyeater lookout are well worth it.
15. Enjoy food with a view at the Whitsunday Sailing Club
Ask any friendly Airlie Beach local where you can get a fair-priced meal with a view, and they’ll likely point you in the direction of the Whitsunday Sailing Club. Claiming to have one of the best views in town, see for yourself from the bistro’s large all-weather balcony. Open 7 days, the menu includes a variety of favourites like parmigiana, stir fries and paella, and they use regional produce wherever possible. With great views, food, prices, cold beer, and good company, what more could you ask?