What to do and see in Airlie Beach
Whitsundays and Whitehaven Beach:
- Brief description: the Whitsundays are a group of 74 islands with white-sand beaches and crystal clear water located between the Queensland Coast and the Great Barrier Reef.
- Whitehaven Beach: you can't go to the Whitsundays without visiting its most famous beach. This white-sand island surrounding by crystalline water is a genuine paradise, although it would be even more edenic if there were less people! Various ferry companies service the island throughout the day and usually include the visit plus a barbecue on the beach. We recommend:
- Wihtsunday Cruise: 210 AU$ per person the most complete experience (from 07.00 to 18.20). It includes the southern side of the beach (perfect for swiming and relaxing), transfer to the norther side to visit the Hill Inlet lookout, snorkel trip and beach BBQ. If you are looking for a more economical alternative, you can choose their half day cruise (99-105 AU$) which leaves you at the beach on your own (07.00 to 13.40 or 11.30 to 18.20). It's a tad touristic but the service and boats are impeccable. Boats leave from Port of Airlie. They offer a shuttle from hotels for 10.30 AU$, although you can walk from the Main Street (20min) or take bus number 1 (5min).
- Whitehaven Xpress: 175 AU$ per person; the service is more informal but also more personable, since there are less people and the owners themselves take you and serve as guides throughout the visit. They only do the long experience including the beach BBQ. They have a free shuttle service from hotels. It is our preferred option.
- Ocean Rafting: 149 AU$ per person; they offer the Northern Exposure and the Southern Lights experiences. The difference is that the first one spends more snorkelling time in the North while the second one spends more beach time in the South. So it depends on your preferences. They are the cheapest of the three, as food is not included. You can bring your own or for 15 AU$ have the buffet. The boats are semi-rigid inflatable vessels, so they're not as comfortable as the others, but they are faster and get to places other bigger vessels don't. So if you don't mind the comfort but you really want to avoid crowds, this is your option. They have a free shuttle service from hotels.
- How to book: you can make a reservation in advance on their website or a day before the trip at any of the tourism offices on the main street in Airlie Beach (prices normally do not vary).
- Length of day trip: all trips begin at 8-9 in the morning and return to port at 5-6 in the afternoon.