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Things To Do For Cruise Ship Guests In Airlie Beach

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Talia Jones
Updated Thu 08 Feb 2024

A man and a woman lying on lounge chairs on the beach

Airlie Beach is a dreamy travel destination, located in Queensland's Whitsundays. The town is home to the world-famous Great Barrier Reef and over 70 palm tree filled islands so it's no wonder people from across the world are eager to explore the region. Airlie Beach is also a hotspot for cruise ships to visit as its the heart of the Whitsundays. It's where you visit to tick off bucket list items! From soaring over the famous Heart Reef, stepping foot on the renowned Whitehaven Beach's silica sands or cruising through the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, you'll be in absolute heaven! 

So go ahead and check out the top things to do in Airlie Beach for cruise ship visitors below. Our local travel gurus have ensured that each activity is achievable in the short time you have on shore in Airlie Beach! 


Charter a boat and explore the Whitsundays

A group of people jumping off the back of a boat

The ultimate way to experience the Whitsundays is by chartering a boat! Out at sea is where all the magic lies, from the dazzling islands and tropical beaches to the fringing coral reefs full of colourful marine life. If you only have a half day or a full day to spare in Airlie Beach, book a private charter for you and your friends or family. You'll get a high-quality vessel that suits your needs, an experienced local crew, and the opportunity to design your own itinerary. 

Most private charters fit around 8-12 guests, and this can sometimes be a more cost-effective option than each person in your group individually booking a tour. Private charters are also super flexible, so you can work around your cruise ship schedule. From luxury yachts, to sunset sails, to powerboatssailboats, and more, ensure you make the most of your time in the Whitsundays with a private charter!

Contact us or live chat with us to organise your perfect private charter today! 

Can I visit Whitehaven Beach in a day?

It is possible to visit Whitehaven Beach in a day, however most day tours depart early in the morning so keep that in mind before booking a tour. If you do book a day tour, make sure your cruise ship is arriving on time so that you don't miss out. It can sometimes take up to 2 hours to reach Whitehaven, so that's already 4 hours spent travelling there and back. Your best bet would be to book a private charter as explained above, where you have a flexible itinerary to ensure you don't miss your cruise departure time! 

Consider these private charter boats for a fun few hours in the Whitsundays!


Jetski around the Whitsunday Islands

A girl on a jetski with the whitewash behind her

Get your thrill on and zoom around the glorious Whitsunday Islands on a guided Jetski tour. There are different options available to suit your time constraints, whether you have a full day to spare or only half!

GSL Marine's Jetski Safari only takes 60 minutes and will see you zipping through the islands, getting a run down on the area by the insightful guides. A double whammy which will see you having the absolute time of your life is Air Whitsunday's Fly & Jetski tour. Not only do you score one hour of jet skiing, you'll also have an hour in the air on a scenic flight! Talk about bucket list experiences!

If you have plenty of room for activities, the Ultimate Island Trek tour might be just the thing for you! With three hours of Jetski adventuring, you'll anchor up on a resort island for an hour where you can enjoy a poolside pizza and be back in time to board your cruise ship!


Experience the reef from a Glass Bottom Boat

A girl on a glass bottom boat pointing at the water

Pioneer Adventures Glass Bottom Boat tour is an exciting way to see the lively marine life in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park! The tour only goes for 70 minutes which is ample time to see the underwater world and get back to your cruise ship on time. The glass bottom boat is the superb choice for those wanting to stay dry and warm or aren't confident swimmers. The guides hold a wealth of knowledge and will be able to tell you about the different types of fish, coral and will be able to identify any mysterious creatures you might spot. They'll also provide entertaining commentary, leaving you laughing and learning. If you're planning on stopping in Airlie Beach on your cruise ship journey, be sure to book in advance!


Take a wild ride on a Jet Boat

People in a jetboat with red life jackets on with hands in the air

If you don't have much time to spare on shore, a speedy 30 minute jet boat experience might be just the thing for you. The Pioneer Jet Whitsundays tour is guaranteed to fuel your inner adrenaline junkie. Zoom through the turquoise blue Whitsunday waters as you take wild 360 degree turns, drifts and donuts that'll get the heart rate up! Keep an eye out for green sea turtles, dolphins and whales (if it's whale season!) Not only do you get the thrill of your life, you'll gain informative and insightful knowledge about the Whitsundays from the highly energetic tour guides. Hold on tight for this one! 


See the Great Barrier Reef from above

The Great Barrier Reef from the sky

The Great Barrier Reef is far bigger than you could imagine! So, seeing the reef from above is the ultimate way to really get an idea of how ginormous it is. With an array of scenic flights and helicopter tours to choose from, you'll be sure to make the most out of your little time in the Whitsundays! The flight times range between 30 minutes to one hour meaning they won't take up your entire day.

Both Ocean Rafting's Scenic Flight to Heart Reef tour and Air Whitsunday's Scenic Flight to Heart Reef are ones for the memory bank! Each flight lasts for one hour where you'll soar through the skies with a guaranteed window seat. You'll check out the different islands before making your way to the Great Barrier Reef and circling the world-famous Heart Reef. 

To really tick off bucket list items, why not go all out and book a helicopter tour? Travel to the Great Barrier Reef in style with on Air Whitsunday's Great Barrier Reef Scenic Helicopter flight. Spend an hour absorbing the dreamy views of the islands electric blue waters of the Whitsundays. You'll receive exclusive commentary about the world beneath you too! 


Wander through the Airlie Beach Markets

People walking through market stalls

Get a taste of what Airlie Beach has to offer at the local markets. Whenever a cruise ship arrives in town, the Lions Club set up 'Cruise Ship Markets' for the day specifically for cruise ship visitors (cue the VIP treatment). There, you'll find a range of market stalls selling all sorts of unique and delicious goodies including clothing, jewellery, sweet treats, coffee, candles, artworks and more! The markets are the perfect place for you to buy a souvenir to remember your short but sweet time in the glorious Whitsundays. 


Skydive over the Whitsundays

A skydiver landing on the grass with the parachute behind

If you're an adrenaline junkie and jet skiing or jet boating isn't enough, skydiving over the Whitsundays will be sure to hit the spot. Launch yourself (with an instructor of course) out of the plane whether it be from 8,000 feet or a wild 15,000 feet with Skydive Airlie Beach! Not only will you free fall at a whopping 220 kilometres an hour, you will take in some of the most incredible views in the world! All up, the experience should only be an hour or two including the safety briefing, the flight up and the fall down! Be sure to purchase the video or photo package as this will be an experience of a lifetime you won't want to forget!


Get your exercise on and go for a hike

A girl sitting on the top of a mountain holding on to her hat looking at the view of a marina

If you've been dying to step off the boat and dive into nature, then a hike is just the experience for you! Honeyeater is one of the most challenging hikes in the Whitsundays. It's an 8 kilometre round trip involving steep hills, mud (if it's been raining), and dense rainforest. But don't let that put you off! The views are absolutely spectacular. You'll be thanking yourself and your body for the worthwhile challenge! You can walk to the start of the Honeyeater trail from Airlie Beach's main street too which means you can save time on finding a driver. 

If an 8 kilometre hike up a mountain sounds a bit too extreme but you're keen to get your body moving, why not take a walk along the Bicentennial Boardwalk. It's a 6 kilometre (flat) walk which runs from the Airlie Beach Lagoon all the way to Cannonvale Beach. Stop at the Fat Frog Cafe or Bohemian Raw (cafes which both sit across from the water and serve delicious food) along the way to make for an all-round enjoyable experience. 


Wind down on a sunset sail

A couple looking out at the sunset on a yacht

We know that you've been spending days on board your cruise ship so the idea of hopping back on a boat might not appeal... but trust us when we say a sunset sail through the Whitsunday Islands is an activity you don't want to miss. This is your opportunity to update your profile pictures and soak in the breathtaking views of the harbour and surroundings. If your cruise ship doesn't leave until late or it's here overnight, you will most definitely have time for a sunset sail. Most sails return between 6pm to 8pm, allowing ample time to return to your ship. Choose between Camira's Sunset Sail, Sundowner, Tallship Twilight Sail, or Providence. Each tour offers spectacular sunset opportunities so don't forget your camera! 


Visit A Local Waterfall

Cedar Creel Falls

Another epic activity for cruise ship guests in Airlie Beach is visiting Cedar Creek Falls. This stunning waterfall is just a short drive from downtown Airlie Beach, and it offers the perfect escape into nature. Go for a dip, have a picnic, or just admire the rushing water surrounded by lush forest. 

If you don't have your own car in Airlie Beach, there is the perfect local tour company that offers day trips to Cedar Creek Falls. Falls to Paradise departs Airlie Beach at 10:30am and takes you right to the waterfall. Spend a few hours enjoying the serenity, then head to Northerlies Bar and Grill for a delicious lunch and return to Airlie around 3:30pm. 


**Please confirm arrival and departure times with your cruise ship's schedule prior to making any bookings. 

For any questions or to book a tour perfect for cruise ship passengers, chat to our local travel agents via our live chat or call +61 74914 2425 today!

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