9 Travel Hacks for Doing the Whitsundays Right | Shoestring Budget for the Time-Poor Backpacker

Shoestring budget

Visiting the Whitsundays is on every budget-conscious traveller’s bucket list, but with so many options it can be hard to figure out the best way to experience this aquatic paradise without breaking the bank. If you’re on a shoestring budget or have time constraints, we’ve got the best travel tips and hacks for maximising your time in the Whitsundays!


1 Getting Here

There are many ways you can choose from to get to the Whitsundays, but your time constraints and budget will determine the best way. For visitors who are on a working holiday visa with jobs in a city or on a farm, you might be taking short holidays around your schedule and returning to work. For others on road trips in campervans, you may have more time up your sleeve, but want to use your time wisely to shave some cost off your trip. Sharing a campervan with friends will undoubtedly save you all money in the long run, but if you’re travelling solo you can also stick to your budget by taking a train or bus to the region instead of flying. Read more about all the different options for getting to the Whitsundays here

Example Tip:

Set up flight alerts, as there are frequently 48-hour sales for flights to the Whitsunday Coast Airport (PPP) from all major cities, some costing as little as $80 pp one way. Check for peak seasons like Christmas or school holidays before booking, as tour costs will also be at their max during these busy times. 


2 Packing For Your Trip

Whether you are coming to the Whitsundays for a brief holiday from your job or planning to travel through will make a difference in what you need to bring. Generally its warm tropical weather year-round, but winter months can still bring a chill. If you’re travelling through, you will have all of your belongings with you, but all overnight boat tours do not allow luggage on the boat, so you will only be permitted a small carry on sized bag and want to choose it’s contents wisely. If coming for a short visit you can purchase things like sunscreen and alcohol in town once arriving in the Whitsundays, saving you some packing space. You can read more about essential packing to the Whitsundays here

Example Tip:

If coming for a short stay and not continuing to travel through, pack light with a few ensemble choices you can rotate into several different outfits. Purchasing last minute toiletries at Woolworths in town instead of the chemist or marina will also shave some coin off your spending. 


3 Accommodation 

If you are driving here in a campervan, there are several campervan parks and hostels that offer camping in town to choose from. Base/Nomads are the closest facilities, located in the main street of Airlie Beach, a quick walk to Coral Sea Marina. If you are arriving by bus or train, then Magnums hostel, Nomads, or Air BnBs are a great way to save on your accommodation budget. Shared dorms are a great way to ensure privacy while not compromising on cost if there are a few of you. You can check out affordable accommodation options here

Example Tip:

Packaging your accommodation with your overnight charter boat tour can save you some extra money, especially depending on the season. Ask us how! 

Car parking

4 Parking and Bag Storage

Parking is tricky in Airlie Beach, and while there are plenty of places to park for free, you may not want to leave your car overnight, especially if you are leaving valuables in your luggage while on an overnight boat tour. Hire car or campervan parking overnight costs are affordable and charge per night, whereas parking for a couple of days at the marina may start to add up. As only small bags are permitted on overnight charters, you may be leaving behind luggage with electronics, passports, etc. so there are paid storage facilities available in town for a small fee if you don’t want to lock them in your car or you aren’t driving. Read more about where to park your campervan in Airlie Beach here, or secured luggage storage here

Example Tip:

Nomads offer overnight parking in a secure lot for a small fee giving you peace of mind vs. leaving your car on the street somewhere for a few days. Find out if your accommodation or charter boat company offer complimentary baggage storage.


5 Sharing the Costs

It goes without saying that sharing the cost of fuel, campervan and car hire, as well as planning group meals can save you all some extra dough! Even if you aren’t travelling with friends, once you arrive in town you are likely to meet some like-minded travellers, even before you head out on your overnight tour - Sometimes even at check-in the day before, so keep an open mind and ear and you may find some other passengers to start to mingle with! 

Example Tip:

Making an effort to rub elbows at your hostel's pub and restaurant can go a long way, and they often have meal deals to make it worth your while. Ask around who is planning on going out on a boat tour and you're likely to make some connections before your tour even departs! 

Atlantic Clipper

6 Choosing a Charter Boat Tour

With over 50 vessels on charter in the Whitsundays, it can seem like a daunting task to choose the right one for your desired experience and budget. Consider peak seasons, and whether or not you will need to pre-book before arriving in the Whitsundays, or if you want to risk arriving and waiting for standby rates. While this can certainly be cost-effective, as boat’s that don’t fill up will heavily discount last minute bookings a day or two before departure usually, it is not recommended if you are flying here and on a schedule. Dorm-style sleeping will shave the cost vs. private cabins, and your food is taken care of for a few days, so factor this in when selecting a boat. Read more about how to choose the perfect overnight charter here

Example Tip:

Get more bang for your buck with boats that include a multitude of complimentary activities, like Atlantic Clipper with a giant slide, on deck spa, and stand up paddleboards, or Apollo Maxi yacht for a free onboard dive!

Airlie Beach Lagoon

7 Sandwich Your Boat Tour with a Multitude of Free Activities 

Once you’ve picked your on the water tour, there is plenty to do on the mainland around your trip! If you’re driving, places like Cedar Creek Falls, Hydeaway Bay and Bowen are a great day out. There is a multitude of hikes through the surrounding national forest to stunning lookouts you can take advantage of, and of course, there is always room for some beach or pool time! Read more about free things to do in Airlie Beach here

Example Tip:

Grab some supplies from Woolworth’s and head to the Airlie Beach Lagoon for a cheap sunset barbeque after a day of sunbaking and swimming. 

Whale watching

8 Visit During Whale Season 

The annual humpback whale migration is a spectacle to behold, and if you book an overnight charter during the winter months when whales are everywhere, you can get more bang for your buck with the chance to see these incredible creatures in the wild! This is also our quiet season, so generally, you will have more boat tour options at a more affordable cost. Read more about our whale season here

Example Tip:

Whales tend to be very inquisitive creatures, especially the calves, and will often swim right up to the boat with Mum in tow for a closer look! Sailing vessels fare better with encounters, and the longer you’re on the water, the more chances you’ll have to encounter them. August is the peak month when you’ll be hard-pressed not to see one!

Fraser Island

9 Package with Us to Save

Whether you are travelling around the East Coast of Australia for a short time or a long time, there is no question that booking several destinations and experiences at once will save you the most money in the long run! Our team of travel experts can tailor your holidays to the Whitsundays, Fraser Island, and Cairns for a truly once in a lifetime holiday-No matter what your time constraints or budget. Ask us today for some local recommendations on the best way to see these exhilarating parts of the country or check out our packages here

Example Tip:

We recommend our 15 Day Budget Brisbane to Cairns Tour, which includes bus transfers in between destinations, or for more flexibility for travelling and budget check out our East Coast Build Your Own Package option!

Ready to visit the Whitsundays on a shoestring budget? Chat to our team LIVE online by clicking on the chat button, or call us on +61 74914 2425!

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