Do you need a car in the Whitsundays?

Updated Mon 29 Aug 2022

Person looking out at the bustling Airlie Beach CBD, Whitsundays

Nestled along Queensland’s vibrant East Coast is the Whitsundays, home to bustling mainland towns and a collection of 74 tropical islands. A flourishing playground filled with natural delights, the Whitsundays attracts a mixed bag of travellers each year from adventure-seeking backpackers to holidaymakers eager to unwind under the sunshine.

For those planning their dreamy Whitsunday escapes, you may be curious whether or not you need a car in the region! As the area sprawls across multiple mainland towns and island spaces, the answer is dependent on whether you plan to base yourself within Airlie Beach or embark on a northeast road trip.

Our team of experience-loving, local travel experts are here to help. Let’s explore the best ways to get around Airlie Beach, the islands, and the northeast mainland!

Do you need a car in Airlie Beach?

Airlie Beach CBD

Put simply, if your accommodation is located within the Airlie Beach CBD you won’t need access to a car. Relatively flat and offering stunning scenic walkways, everything a visitor needs during their stay is located within the Airlie Beach CBD. From an abundance of restaurants and bars, a large shopping centre, numerous retail and personal care boutiques, and multiple marinas with an extensive range of daily boat tours, Airlie Beach has everything you want and need.

Whilst the CBD is flat, the surrounding area is quite hilly with many resorts and hotels located far above sea level, granting incredible Coral Sea views. If you’re not overly eager to walk into town, Airlie Beach offers a reliable taxi and bus service. In addition, the majority of large Airlie Beach venues offer complimentary shuttle buses to and from your accommodation.

Airlie Beach Taxi Service

As Airlie Beach is a reasonably small town, taxis are an affordable and accessible way to get around town if you aren’t going too far. As Uber doesn’t yet operate in the Whitsunday region, we recommend you download the Mackay/Whitsunday Taxi App to easily book your transport and track how far away they are.

Airlie Beach Bus Service

The public transportation choice for many in Airlie Beach is the bus service, which runs between Proserpine and Shute Harbour daily. Whitsunday Transit services generally until 10:30 pm. View their route and timetables here.

Two people sitting in a Spaceships hire van, on the road between Airlie Beach and Cairns

We’ve discussed the transport options for those planning to be based in Airlie Beach, but what about those eager to fill their Whitsunday itineraries with off-the-beaten-track adventures and small-town charm? 

If day trips to Cedar Creek Falls and Proserpine, or a long weekend up the coast in Bowen is on your mind, then you will need a car in the Whitsundays. Located just a short road trip from Airlie Beach is an abundance of secluded natural havens that make the perfect destination on rainy days or when you’re seeking a freshwater retreat! To explore the best adventure-filled Whitsundays sites, read our Whitsunday Adventure Awaits Bucket List.

For those planning to hire a car during their time in the Whitsundays, be sure to live chat with our friendly team for the best car rental advice and deals.

Do you need a car in the Whitsunday Islands?

Couple walking hand in hand on Hamilton Island, shuttle bus in the background

No, you don’t need a car in the Whitsunday Islands as a majority of islands are uninhabited and the resort islands offer convenient shuttle services, in addition to being very walking friendly.

In saying this, to explore the tropical island archipelago of the Whitsundays you will have to travel by boat, or ferry if you’re visiting the lush palm-fringed shorelines of Hamilton or Daydream Island

We recommend exploring the range of fun-packed day tours and blissful overnight sailing tours to find your ultimate tour filled with island-hopping adventures, time on Whitehaven Beach, and snorkelling amongst the Great Barrier Reef. Additionally, the majority of day and overnight tours departing from Airlie Beach also offer complimentary transfers to the marina.

For those planning on visiting Hamilton Island or Daydream Island from Airlie Beach, we recommend the CW: Island Hopper Pass which offers you the flexibility to experience the resort islands your way in a day - and for a cost-effective price!

We can't wait for you to explore our incredible Whitsundays backyard!

Live chat with a team member or call us on +61 7 4914 2425 for expert local advice and deals!

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