Sitting on the north-east coast of Queensland, the town of Airlie Beach is a haven for holidaymakers, international visitors and sailing enthusiasts. Airlie is famous for being the gateway to the Whitsunday Islands and the heart of the Great Barrier Reef.
With a seemingly endless number of things to do, particularly with kids, you won’t want to skip spending time in this inviting town. If you are looking for a family friendly vacation closer to home this year, Airlie Beach is a great holiday destination.
Airlie Beach offers resort town vibes, clear blue waters, sunshine and endless opportunities to relax, while still finding adventurous things to do. There’s no shortage of fun things to do in Airlie Beach. Everyone will find something they enjoy.
In this post, we’ve listed the best Airlie Beach activities we recommend to our friends when they visit us here. Every suggestion is totally kid friendly, and we’ve shared a few local tips so you can make the most of your holiday in the Whitsundays.
Get the kids involved with planning your next holiday – Read How to Involve your Kids in Travel Planning
Top 10 Family Friendly Things to do in Airlie Beach
1. LAZE BY THE AIRLIE BEACH LAGOON
Located in the centre of town, and hugging the coast with stunning views out over the Coral Sea, you will find a massive free lagoon to swim in and relax by. Beautifully landscaped with palm trees, soft grass and a variety of beaches, many people spend their entire holiday at the resort like lagoon! There are sections of the pool suited for all ages, and the close proximity to cafes and shops makes the lagoon an excellent place for families who might need to suddenly feed a hungry toddler.
Local Tip: The toddler pool is right next to a great playground which is also excellent for little ones. Bring a shovel for some sandcastle making under the shade sails near the pool.
2. GO FISHING AT SHUTE HARBOUR
Shute Harbour is a stunning 10-minute drive from Airlie Beach through the Conaway Rangers National Park. Shute isn’t a town, but if you want to find tranquillity, beauty and feel as if you are amongst the Whitsundays Islands, it’s worth a visit. The Shute Harbour jetty is a fishing hot spot, and there is a high chance your kids will catch something off the pier.
Local Tip: Take a short walk to Coral Beach where you will find a secluded cove made of white coral and a lovely view out to the islands. Not many tourists go here, you may have it to yourself.
3. STROLL ALONG THE BICENTENNIAL BOARDWALK
The Bicentennial walk is a flat 4km, pram friendly path which stretched from Airlie lagoon to Cannonvale. The walk is mostly waterfront with views of the Coral Sea and the islands. Sections of the boardwalk go over the water hugging the cliffs with plenty of spots to pull over for a photo. You’ll meander past the Coral Sea Marina which is excellent for luxury yacht spotting and also past local cafes and bars if you want to stop for something refreshing. It’s bike-friendly and scooter friendly, and the kids will have plenty of changes in scenery to keep them entertained.
Local Tip: There is a little rocky beach off the boardwalk just past the Coral Sea Resort. It’s a great safe spot for beach-combing with shade to sit under while having a picnic.
4. ENJOY DELICIOUS FOOD AT THE AIRLIE BEACH MARKET
Every Saturday the Lions Airlie Beach community markets are up near the sailing club. Stalls sell locally made crafts, fresh produce and there are all sorts of food vendors to grab a coffee or brunch. Our kids LOVE the frozen Bowen mango ice cream or “nice cream” as we call it.
Local Tip: There is a massive new adventure playground right near the market. You won’t miss it! Let the kids burn off some steam here while you enjoy a coffee from the market.
5. TAKE A RAINFOREST WALK TO CEDAR CREEK FALLS
The Cedar Creek Falls are about halfway between Airlie Beach and Proserpine on Saltwater Creek Road. From the car park, it’s a short, easy walk through lush forest and butterflies until you reach a swimming hole at the base of the falls. It’s possible to take a track up beside the falls if you’re feeling adventurous. Explore on your own or take a guided rainforest tour. Note that the falls don’t flow all year around, so it’s best to see them in their full glory during the wet season. It is, however, possible to swim in the large pool all year.
Local Tip: Go early in the morning or later in the day to avoid busy day crowds. Keep an eye out for some shy freshwater turtles who sometimes pop their heads up.
6. SWIM IN THE CORAL SEA
There are two beaches we recommend for kids, Boatheaven Beach and Cannonvale. Boathaven Beach is up near the Port of Airlie marina. It’s actually a human-made beach, but you wouldn’t know it. With stunningly clear water and lovely sand, this has to be the best beach for swimming. A less populated swimming spot is Cannonvale Beach, only a 2-minute drive from Airlie.
Local Tip: There are excellent BBQ facilities up at Cannonvale Beach, located between the car park and the beach, it’s a convenient place to have fish and chips or a sunset barbie while the kids play in the sand.
7. VISIT BREDL’S WILD FARM
If you want to take a small road trip to hold a koala or (friendly) snake and to see saltwater crocodiles up close, go to the family-run Bredl’s Farm in Bloomsbury. Tours teach the kids about many different Australian animals, and everyone will love the guided safari truck ride to visit adult crocodiles during feeding time.
Local Tip: On your way to Bloomsbury, stop in at the Whitsunday Gold Coffee Plantations for a coffee made from the farm’s beans, a bite and play.
8. TAKE A DAY TOUR TO WHITEHAVEN BEACH
Frequently voted one of the best beaches in the world, seeing Whitehaven Beach is one of the most popular things to do when visiting Airlie Beach. Located on Whitsunday Island, you’ll need to take a tour to get there (unless you charter a private yacht). For families, we recommend the Ocean Rafting or Red Cat Adventured because they are fast boats which keeps the travel time out to the islands down. When you take a tour to Whitehaven, you’ll also have the chance to take the kid-friendly walk up to the most photographed view in the Whitsundays, Hill Inlet. Some tours also offer snorkelling options.
Local Tip: On the northern end of Whitehaven, you can walk up over some rocks to a stunning private cove known as Bettys Beach. Just let your tour operator know you’re going there.
9. VISIT THE GREAT BARRIER REEF
A visit to the Whitsundays region would not be complete without a trip to the Great Barrier Reef. There are many ways to experience this incredible part of the world, including from a seaplane. But for kids, we think the best way to take them out to the Reef is with Cruise Whitsundays to the Reefworld pontoon. The Reefworld experience offers a full-day on the Great Barrier Reef with snorkelling, underwater viewing from a chamber and a buffet lunch. Kids will be able to swim safely with fish and over coral in a roped swimming section.
Local Tip: Teach the kids about green sea turtles before you take them out to the Reef. A bit of knowledge about how amazing they are will make a likely sighting even more exciting.
10. CHARTER A YACHT
Tick off the bucket list with a private family yacht charter.
Being the gateway to the Whitsundays, it’s possible to hire a private yacht to sail the Whitsundays from Airlie Beach and Shute Harbour. When you charter a yacht around the Whitsundays, you’re able to explore untouched tropical islands, snorkel coral reefs, spend days on pristine beaches, visit resorts like Hamilton Island and take in spectacular views. Add to that being together as a family on a floating private hotel, and you’ve got yourself a bucket list item! Sailing the Whitsundays is a holiday you can take at your own pace and it’s something the whole family will remember forever.
Local Tip: Whales visit the Whitsundays to have their babies from June to September. If you hire a yacht at this time, you will be able to whale watch from your own boat as you sail around the Islands.
The easiest way to reach Airlie Beach is to fly to Proserpine Airport, also known as Whitsunday Coast Airport. The airport receives daily flights from Brisbane, and twice weekly flight from Sydney and Melbourne. Shuttle buses transfer between the airport and Airlie Beach and take about 40 minutes.
Airlie Beach Accomodation for Families
Whether you are looking for caravan park, resort style or self-contained apartment accommodation, Airlie Beach has family friendly accommodation to suit every budget.
Emily & Shane Korosec
We are a family of four who lives in Shute Harbour, a tranquil pocket just 10 minutes from Airlie Beach. The one thing we love more than exploring the Whitsunday Islands is sharing them with our friends. We believe the Whitsunday Islands are one of the best places on earth and that every Australian should enjoy the treasures we have on our doorstep.
Our family-run business is Whitsunday Rent a Yacht
Find us on Instagram @WhitsundayRentaYacht