The perfect 2-day itinerary in Airlie Beach | including what to do

Airlie Beach Itinerary

Airlie beach is one of my favourite getaways within Australia! I love travelling to this quaint and quiet town to de-stress from city life about once a year. The last time I travelled there was for my birthday and I stayed for 6 days and loved every minute of it. I thought It would be fun to create an itinerary so that you know where to go, what to see and what’s worth your time!

So, I have written this 2-day Airlie Beach itinerary to give you some guidance! Because this town and its surroundings are worth checking out!

ABOUT AIRLIE BEACH

Airlie Beach is a touristy town located in Queensland, Australia. Its main tourist attraction is its proximity to the Whitsundays as well as the Great Barrier Reef. The town itself has lots of amazing restaurants, clothing shops, and souvenir shops. Because you are unable to swim in the ocean (due to the presence of jellyfish) it offers a large free swimming pool with plenty of shade.  The town itself is not popping, but it is perfect if you want to go on a quiet and de-stressing getaway.

BEST TIME TO VISIT + AIRLIE BEACH WEATHER

For this itinerary, I assume that you haven’t been to Airlie Beach before and want to explore its surroundings, first of all, the best time of the year to visit Airlie does come down to personal preference, as September to October is peak season – skies are clear, the winds are light and the sun is shining. November – December is generally the quiet season before the rush of holiday goers + the weather is delicious and hot and January to March is the rainy season, so if you are wanting to do the trip on a budget then this would be the best time to go, as prices drop due to the weather change.

THE CHEAPEST WAY TP GET FROM PROSERPINE AIRPORT TO AIRLIE BEACH

The cheapest way to get from the Airport to Airlie Beach is to drive which costs about $6 – $9 and takes 34 minutes. If you can’t drive or have a car to your disposal, then I advise getting an airport transfer. From the airport itself, you can buy a ticket for a $34 return. Very simple and great service. No need to hop in an expensive taxi, as this service is fast and a whole lot cheaper.  Airport transfers can be booked online or can be organized upon arrival.

GETTING AROUND IN AIRLIE BEACH

Airlie Beach is a bit hilly, but there are some beautiful scenic walks along the shoreline. The times I have stayed in Airlie, I always walked everywhere. I, therefore, opted for a hotel that is located close to town.

The public transportation of choice for many is the bus service, which runs from Proserpine to Shute Harbour. Whitsunday Transit offers services generally until about 10:30 pm. You can view their route and timetable here. 

DAY 1 | WHITHSUNDAYS CRUISE + WHITEHAVEN BEACH + CHILL AT THE LAGOON

DAY 1: 7.15 AM – HOP ON CRUISE 

There are a couple of half-day tours that you can take to explore the Whitsunday and Whitehaven beach.  I have opted to go with Cruise Whitsundays, As I trust this company and know whey have great boats and service.

It departs from Port of Airlie at 7.15 am and drops you back off at 1.45 pm.

You will get to see some of Australia’s most unique and incredible scenery! Crystal blue waters, wildlife (eg. dolphins, etc) and Whitehaven beach!

DAY 1 | 1.45 PM – HEAD TO FAT FROG BEACH CAFE FOR A LATE LUNCH 

This amazing, funky cafe is set on Cannovale beach and offers everything from friendly service to seafood tacos, delicious salads, and an all-day breakfast option. I ordered the french toast which came pretty close to what I imagine heaven tastes like, bonus: the views are amazing!

DAY 1 | 15.00 PM – CHILL AT THE LAGOON 

Easy to find, free entry, fun in the sun and protection from stingers while swimming? Yes, yes and yes! Well, that’s the Airlie Beach Lagoon! Situated in the centre of Airlie beach, this lagoon has become quite the focal point for Airlie as it is so big and the view offers quite the treat as well. I spent a few hours here in the afternoon cooling off and loved every bloody minute.

DAY 1 | 18.00 PM – HAVE DINNER AT COOKS! 

Cooks bar and Grill – one word SENSATIONAL!

The atmosphere is incredible but the food oh holly molly! You can’t really visit Airlie Beach and not come here for a meal, I ordered the salmon and prawn pappardelle (without prawns because eeek) which of course contained all locally sourced seafood and vegetables and was so dang tasty, I shocked myself at how fast I ate it haha!

DAY 2 |  GREAT BARRIER REEF

You can not leave Airlie Beach without a visit to the Great Barrier Reef! The reef of the coast is incredible!

It is about a 2-hour trip from Airlie to the reef and takes you along the Whitsundays. As you can imagine, the trip goes by very quickly and before you know it you dock at the platoon for a fun day of snorkelling with the fish.

I went on a cruise with Cruise Whitsundays, which is a large company, so it has its own platoon at Hardy Reef.

Hardy Reef at the Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Hardy Reef is home to some spectacular fish life with Trevally, Coral Trout, Snapper and a host of smaller marine life. As well as and a two-meter-long Giant Queensland Groper that usually congregates for a free feed.  If you are lucky you are able to spot a turtle or two at this reef as well!

Great Barrier Reef, Australia Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Honestly, the snorkelling at Hardy Reef is incredible! As soon as you jump f the platoon there is a massive drop below you. Kick twice with your flippers and you reach the reef. From there incredibly beautiful corals, reef sharks and barracudas and so much more can be spotted.

On the platoon itself they have a sundeck, stinger suits, and snorkelling sets, so no need to bring any of that. This cruise also offers a glass boat, which will take you along the reef.

You leave early in the morning and come back late in the evening, so your day is gone after this. But it is an incredible day trip and definitely worth it!

Check out my full guide on my day trip to the Great Barrier reef from Airlie Beach for an incomprehensive guide.

ADDITIONAL THINGS TO DO IN AIRLIE BEACH  W

SEA KAYAKING 

This is a great way to explore some of the tropical islands and fringing reefs in your own time without any schedule. You can enjoy the beautiful turquoise waters or stop off for some swimming and snorkelling. 
If you’re lucky enough to be In Airlie Beach between July and September you might even spot a humpback whale up close!

FLYING HIGH

If you don’t have time to do a full sailing trip then it’s worth considering a scenic flight over the islands. You can choose between a 25-minute or an hour-long flight and the planes are small enough to guarantee everyone a window seat (YES!!), so everybody on board will be able to see the famously known Whitehaven Beach, Hill Inlet and on the longer tours Heart Reef.

 GET YOUR TAN ON 

Marine stingers may be present in the waters of tropical Queensland all year round with Qld’s consistent hot weather, however, the higher risk season is from October through to May. During this period jellyfish are prevalent in the waters around the mainland and the islands so it is therefore advised that you take care when swimming in the ocean(or for you daredevils be warned haha). The town, therefore, has a love free pool called the “Airlie Beach lagoon”.  It is a nice little spot to relax and cool down on a hot day.

Where to Stay in Airlie Beach 

Both times I have visited Airlie bach I stayed at the Blue Horizon Resort. Underneath a review of the hotel.

CHECK-IN 

Reception Area at Blue Horizon, Airlie Beach

I arrived at the hotel just after 1 pm. Normally check-in time is from 2 pm, but because it is the low season I was able to check-in without any additional cost. I did request a room on a higher floor for an additional $25,- fee. I suggest you do pay that fee, as it is worth it. 

The lady who checked me in was lovely and did a standard check-in. She asked where I came from, how my flight was etc.

I was given some paperwork and was explained where my room was, where to find the pool and other facilities.

A standard check-in but I was given everything that I needed.

THE ROOM

The rooms at the hotel are very spacious and are the reason why I came back a second time.

I booked a 1-bedroom apartment with kitchenette and ocean views. It has a large living room with dining table with sliding doors opening up to a reasonably large balcony. The bathroom comes with a large tub and shower.

The apartment has airconditioning as well as ceiling fans, one in the living room and one in the bedroom.  You also get a washer and dryer, which is very handy. Unfortunately, my dryer didn’t work and I found that out on the last day when I wanted to do some washing. But, it is handy to have and I am sure if I would have gone to the reception they would have helped me. But I couldn’t be bothered and just put my clothes out to dry. It was a sunny day and it was dry in no time.

NEGATIVES

This is the second time that I have stayed at this hotel. Both times the room cleanliness is not the best and it also has some maintenance issues. The tap in the sink is loose, the dryer doesn’t work and the toilet barely flushes.

THE FACILITIES

Swimming-Pool-at-Blue-Horizion-Airlie-Beach.

The hotel comes with a small but decent swimming pool with lounge chairs. It also has a small children pool and play area. In the basement of the hotel, there is also a basic fitness area with several types of equipment.

Fitness-facilities-at-Blue-Horizon-Airlie-

It does not have a bar/restaurant – poooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! haha

THE SURROUNDINGS

The hotel is located a bit of a walk from the town’s centre and the lagoon. It is about 15 minutes to the shops and the lagoon. I would not want to be in the city centre in Airlie at it is a bit of a backpackers hub, and with that comes noise. I am old, so I don’t like noise tehe, so being out of the centre is fine. Plus I don’t mind a bit of a walk, so not a problem.

If you like to be in the midst of things, then this hotel is not for you. If you like peace and quiet and don’t mind going for a stroll to go to the restaurants then this is perfect for you as well.

OVERALL VALUE

Lodging review of Blue Horizon, airlie beach

MORE THAN 2 DAYS?

If you have more than 2 days in Airlie Beach, you might want to add any of these cruises and destinations into this itinerary to make it longer. Airlie’s surroundings are quite incredible and can be added as well:

  • Hamilton Island: take a boat over to Hamilton Island and spend the day exploring this pretty amazing island. Most of the car-free island is covered in stunning bushland, and the coast is surrounded by colourful coral reefs. You can opt to take one of many tours that offer up-close sightings of koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, and kookaburras. Or opted to go for a hike, walking trails lead up to Passage Peak in the east, with views of the surrounding islands.
  • Whitehaven Beach: It is a pristine, award-winning beach on Whitsunday Islands, the largest of the 74 islands in the Whitsundays. Whitehaven’s sand is made up of 99% silica sands and is the purest in the world
  • Walk to Coral Beach: Walkthrough beautiful coastal forest to a secluded coral beach on a half-day bush walk. Relax on the beach, or continue to a viewpoint for incredible panoramas of the Whitsunday Islands. Stop at Shute Harbor Lookout for spectacular views of the area.
  • Conway National Park: Explore Australia’s stunning ancient tropical rainforest! This park is a coastal park with rainforest-clad hills, secluded beaches and panoramic outlooks over the scenic Whitsunday area! You can either venture over yourself or go on a guided tour.

ADDITIONAL TIPS

Pack some insect repellent – Airlie beach is absolutely amazing! but unfortunately, the area is loaded with nasty mosquitoes that would love nothing more than to suck your blood and leaving you itch’n and scratch’n.
Tropical Beaches Harbor Hidden Dangers – Tranquil and lovely, as all people do you will hear the turquoise waters of Airlie Beach calling you to go in for a swim. HOWEVER! Take note…that Box jellyfish(most dangerous jelly in the world) and Irukandji stingers are dangerous and lurking around between October and May. Do not swim in the ocean(unless you’re a superhero with water changing abilities) instead choose the local free pool or lagoon to cool you down.
So cliche- but slip, slop,slap ! You will regret not taking a hat and applying sunscreen – the Aussie sun is unforgiving, even on cloudy days.
If you are not used to being at sea, make sure to bring some tablets that will help with motion sickness. I always take Travacalm, which helps me tremendously. 
Be careful with your camera and other electronic equipment at Whitehaven beach– because the sand is so fine, it may get inside your equipment and break it. NOOOO!
Showers on abroad boats are very limited. So bring dry shampoo and baby wipes to make yourself feel a bit cleaner unless of course, you like that ocean water feel, you do you dude! 😉

I hope you enjoyed my post on what to do in Airlie beach. If you have any questions feel free to contact me below.

ADDITIONAL AIRLIE BEACH RESOURCES 

PLANNING TO GO TO AUSTRALIA? THEN CHECK OUT SOME MORE TRAVEL TIPS HERE:

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2 Comments

  1. airlie beach accommodation
    December 17, 2019 / 9:37 pm

    useful information and posts

  2. Never been to Australia yet, but your article, the itinerary you wrote and the beautiful photos you posted here, made me move Australia up the bucket list. We can’t wait to visit it as soon as possible.

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