10 Best FREE Things to do in Airlie Beach

Things to do in Airlie Beach

The backpacker mecca of Airlie Beach is the main hop-on point for the famous Whitsunday sailing tours that seem to be on everyone’s list.

It’s also a renowned party spot, with a permanent holiday feel where the good times never stop rolling.

But there’s also a lot more to Airlie Beach as I discovered recently when we stopped there as part of our great budget 4wd around Australia.

With hundred dollar sailing trips being way out of our budget and our all night party days being way back in the past, it was good to see a different side to this growing coastal resort.

So, with budget in mind and with healthy, happy travel at the heart of what we do, here are the 10 best free things to do in Airlie Beach that we loved.


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10. Cane Toad Racing

Magnums

Taking place every Thursday night (toad population allowing of course) the cane toad racing held at Magnums is a must-see, if only as a cultural insight.

This slightly weird Queensland tradition is as old as the hills and basically a good excuse for everyone to go down the pub, sink a few cold ones and put on a few bets.

It’s amazing how it still draws the crowds in and the atmosphere is definitely amusing if nothing else!

9. Stroll to Cannonvale

The wonderful suburb of Cannonvale is just next to Airlie Beach and is where many of the locals in the area actually live.

Stretched out along the coast, you can take the fabulous 3.6 km Bicentennial Walkway from Airlie to Cannonvale passing Shingley Beach and Abell Point Marina on your way.

In addition to the great views and sea air, the walkway also boasts an outdoor gym series and some lovely botanic gardens.

Once in Cannonvale, enjoy the low key atmosphere and mingle with locals at the fabulous Fat Frog Beach Café. The boy and I enjoyed a great breakfast here so it comes recommended!

Airlie Beach Accommodation
If you’re looking for somewhere cheap to stay in Airlie Beach (not always easy!) I strongly recommend Nomads Airlie Beach. These guys are one of the only places to offer camping in the heart of town, making them the best bargain by far!
Otherwise, Whitsunday on the Beach with their free wifi and self-contained ensuites with kitchenettes make the perfect Airlie Beach treat!

8. Visit the Airlie Beach Markets

Held every Saturday morning, this small local market is the beating heart of this community and nearly everyone tips up to say hello!

Enjoy a lively atmosphere accompanied by stalls selling locals crafts, fruit, vegetables, flowers and gifts.

Held right on the Airlie Beach Esplanade, it’s hard to miss this bubbling hub of weekly activity.

7. Relax at the Lagoon

Lagoon

Everyone’s favourite, the Airlie Beach Lagoon is the backpacker epicentre during the day before the bars get going.

Join the crew by spreading out your towel on the manmade beach and enjoy the wonderful croc-free swimming facilities as you gaze out over the ocean and the beautiful Whitsunday Islands beyond.

There’s lifeguards on duty every day at the Lagoon and during the summer months, when dangerous stingrays are a real issue in these parts, the lagoon is a welcome blessing.

6. Hike in Conway National Park

Conway views

Just 26km from Airlie along the Shute Harbour Road, Conway National Park is a shiny gem in the Whitsunday area.

With a number of different walks, this is a great way to experience the diverse range of vegetation in the area and to realise the forest here can be just as beautiful as the beaches.

Take the track into Swamp Bay if you’re interested in some secluded bush camping for the night, or turn off at the sign to Mount Rooper to enjoy spectacular views of the Molle islands as you ascend through the rainforest.

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5. Discover Hydeaway Beach

Hydeaway

If you’re looking to get away from the crowds then Hydeaway Bay, which certainly lives up its name, is the place to head!

A short drive from Airlie Beach, this gorgeous stretch of sand is accompanied by a tiny township, but you’re still likely to have the place to yourself.

Snorkel in the crystal waters or just relax and enjoy the peace and quiet.

With no shops or traffic this is the place to truly unwind.

Stay at the wonderful Hydeaway Bay Caravan Park for a night if you can’t tear yourself away.

 4. Take the Airlie Creek Track

Palm Trees Airlie

Starting from the back of the Airlie township, this gorgeous path is only short, but leads to some striking views of the Whitsunday Islands as you past gorgeous fig trees and stumble upon some super natural rock pools.

From the Airlie Creek Track you can also pick up some other trails including the Honeyeater walk – an 8km amble that boasts some wicked rainforest experiences.

3. BBQ on the Foreshore

After the heat of the day has passed, there’s nothing better than getting outside during the evening at Airlie Beach and enjoying the wonderful temperatures and climate.

Dining al-fresco is one of the best ways to do this and for those on a budget, the free BBQs along the Airlie foreshore are the perfect solution.

Enjoy the picnic tables and some good tucker as you look back on a day in what many people call paradise.

2. Swim at Cedar Creek Falls

Half way between Airlie Beach and Proserpine on Saltwater Creek Road, this gorgeous set of waterfalls is well worth the short detour.

With water running almost all year road, this is the place to spot some great wildlife and enjoy a picnic in nature.

Hike to the top of falls for some stellar views, before returning to the bottom for a swim and to cool off.

We saw tons of turtles while we were here, as well as some great goannas and beautiful butterflies, so this really is a great destination for the wildlife seekers among you.

1. Snap Dingo Beach

Dingo Beach Boat

And coming in at number one is the formidable Dingo Beach.

Just 45km from Airlie, this place feels like a world away with its peaceful, quiet local ambience.

As one of my top off-the-beaten track places to visit in Queensland, this one-street, one-horse town boasts a pub where you can enjoy a cold drink and, well that’s about it.

However, you don’t need much more as Dingo Beach is like paradise.

Now, I’ve seen some good beaches in my time, but even I was speechless when we turned the corner and saw the beauty of Dingo Beach spread out before us.

The stunning weather helped a lot, but regardless this place is a must on anybody’s Whitsunday itinerary.

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So that’s it folks, my list of the 10 best free things to do in Airlie Beach.

Have you been to this classic Aussie spot?

What was your favourite things to do there?

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About the Author

About the Author:

Creator of Big World Small Pockets, Stephanie Parker is a budget travel addict! Originally from Jersey in the Channel Islands, Stephanie backpacks the world collecting tips, advice and stories, to share with a smile

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There Are 6 Brilliant Comments

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  1. Jenny says:

    This is great! A long long time ago when I was much younger I worked in Airlie for 3 months, partying the whole time. I didn’t do much of this at all! Wish I had. One day I’d like to go back and see Australia the way I travel now. (ie: not hungover!)

    • Steph says:

      Ha ha, that’s great Jenny. Yes, I think a lot of travellers memories of Airlie are a bit hazy, but glad to share in this article there’s more to this growing coastal destination than booze! For me too, the hangover-travel relationship is in the past!

    • While Backpacking Australia it is very easy to fall into the routine of spending every night drinking goon. I wish I had spent substantially less time in some of the cities and substantially more time surrounded by the countries natural beauty.

  2. Jon says:

    A new place on my travel list ! Thanks for the info .

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