Airlie Beach is known as the gateway to the Whitsundays. It’s a holiday maker heaven with loads of free things to do around town.
Before you launch into sailing around the Whitsunday Islands, don’t miss giving Airlie Beach some time.
We’ve compiled a list of our top 10 free things to do in Airlie Beach. If you want to learn more about tours and things you can pay to do in Airlie Beach, check out our Eat, Play and Stay post on Airlie.
The best free things to do in Airlie Beach
Relax at Boathaven Beach
A feature of the reasonably new Port of Airlie Marina, Boathaven Beach is a pristine man-made beach on a small peninsula known as The Beacons.
“New Beach” as the locals call it, was designed using 60,000 cubic metres of soft white sand, creating the perfect spot to swim and sunbathe while enjoying views of the Coral Sea and Whitsunday Islands.
The beach remains sandy in all tides, offering perfect year-round swimming conditions. It also has a grassed parkland area – ideal for picnicking.
Get involved with Eco Barge
Airlie Beach’s Eco Barge is an environmental non-for-profit established to protect the aquatic environment of the Whitsundays Region.
Among other initiatives, this group of eco worriers organise volunteer expeditions to visit island beaches debris from the trade winds. This program has removed over 179,000 kilograms of marine debris from the Whitsunday region.
You can join one of the clean-up groups to get a free boat ride around the Islands and meet like-minded people and feel good about doing something meaningful while on vacation.
Soak up Cedar Creek Falls
Cedar Creek Falls is a 45-minutes from Airlie Beach. A short, easy walk from the car park will take you to an inland tropical oasis.
The falls are best seen when they’re flowing during the summer wet season; however, you can still swim at the base year-round.
Enveloped by a natural amphitheatre and surrounded by diverse rainforests, you might spot interesting birds and the odd tortoise who pokes its head up.
Several bushwalking tracks are up and around the falls, so you can find a secluded spot and enjoy a relaxing afternoon.
Indulge at the Saturday Community Market
You can enjoy a morning of shopping, food and music every Saturday at The Lions Airlie Beach Community Markets.
Located on the foreshore of Airlie Beach, near the sailing club, the markets offer a great atmosphere and connection with the local community. We recommend making the markets your breakfast restaurant of choice if you’re in town on a Saturday.
Also (Covid depending), the Lions Club conducts Cruise Ship Markets at the Airlie Beach foreshore each time there is a cruise ship in town. If you see a big ship coming into the port, you know the market will be on that day.
Take the kids’ playground hopping
If you’re travelling with kids, you won’t be short of places to take them to burn off steam around Airlie Beach. You rarely get to a town with so many playground options.
Along the Esplanade, you will find three playgrounds within short walking distance. Recently a huge modern jungle climbing playground has been installed up near the sailing club. It’s impressive, to say the least!
There is a fourth fantastic playground and flying fox in Jubilee Pocket, just a short 2-minute drive from the town of Airlie.
Relax at the Airlie Beach Lagoon
A holiday in Airlie Beach is not complete without spending a lazy hour, day or three by the lagoon. With excellent views over the Coral Sea, its prime location close to the main street and cafes makes the Lagoon an ideal place to chill and soak up the tropical sun.
Airlie Beach Lagoon creates a safe swimming environment all year round. It’s a huge area patrolled by lifeguards and surrounded by grass and trees; some sections have sandy beaches.
If you have kids, there are parts of the pool suited to a range of swimming abilities, including a shaded toddler’s wading pool and beach.
Take a Drive to Cape Gloucester
If you want to take a scenic drive and get a feel for the landscapes surrounding Airlie, complete with mountains and sugar cane flats, take a 50 km drive out to Cape Gloucester.
Drive through Hydeway Bay and stick to the coast. You’ll come up over a ridge where you start to see the most stunning coastal scenery. Drive to the end of the road towards Cape Gloucester, and take your pick of private sandy beaches with palm trees. It’s possible to swim and fish off the beach, and of course, it’s hard to beat strolling along the shore, exploring this pocket of paradise all to yourself.
There are a couple of resort restaurants to choose from, with Montes being a local favourite. Or you can simply take a picnic or start up a BBQ at Dingo Beach on your return trip.
Hike to Honeyeater Lookout
The Honeyeater Lookout is a small section of the Conway Circuit trail. A fantastic 7.5 km round trip will take you through a rolling tree-covered trail to a gorgeous lookout over the Coral Sea marina and Cannonvale coast.
This hike is mostly uphill, so a level of fitness is required. Please ensure you take plenty of water and insect repellent and take care in extreme heat and if it’s been raining.
Honeyeater Lookout can be accessed from the town of Airlie. Walk from the Airlie Beach shops behind the supermarket to the Kara Crescent trailhead. From Kara Crescent, follow the Conway circuit for 2.3km, then turn right toward the Honeyeater lookout.
Take a day trip to Shute Harbour
A 10-minute drive through the Conway Ranges National Park will take you to Shute Harbour, the closest mainland port to the islands.
Being at Shute is the best way to feel you’re on a Whitsundays Island without having to hire a boat. The waters are teeming with marine life, and the harbour is enclosed by hills covered in a lush forest.
First, stop at Lions Lookout, where you can drive up and take in the views over the harbour.
If you want to experience a tropical beach all to yourself, take a 30-minute walk to Coral Beach and enjoy the crystal-clear waters and outlook over the islands.
Fishing is a popular activity within the harbour and off the public jetty, with Shute earning a reputation as one of the best fishing spots on the Whitsundays mainland.
Stroll The Bicentennial Walkway
The Bicentennial Walkway is a flat 6-kilometre path which takes you from Jubilee Pocket to Cannonvale. The trail winds through parklands, past the lagoon and turns into a boardwalk which passes the Coral Sea Marina and literally hugs the coast. It’s stunning.
The Bicentennial walk is not just a walk; it’s a way to experience and enjoy different aspects of the area. You will stroll past several cafes, restaurants and bars along the way and also have the chance to spot turtles and marine life in the waters below.
If you want to see some impressive private yachts, you can walk around the Coral Sea Marina at about the halfway point. There is also a botanical gardens path as you head into Cannonvale.
If you are looking for more things to do in Airlie Beach while visiting the Whitsundays feel free to chat with our staff, who all live locally and will have loads of great tips.
Join us in the Whitsundays and enjoy the freedom to explore