Our website uses cookies.

Sign up on TourScanner

Create an account to save tours, things to do and travel guides to your wishlist.
I agree to sign up to the newsletter and receive occasional emails from TourScanner
By creating an account you agree to our terms and conditions and privacy policy.
I agree to sign up to the newsletter and receive occasional emails from TourScanner

Whitsunday Islands: Day Trips and Tours from Airlie Beach

Airlie Beach, located in the Queensland, Australia is not only a gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, but also the perfect launching point for a day trip to the Whitsunday Islands.

Day trips to the Whitsunday Islands from Airlie Beach offer everything from quiet relaxation to action-packed adventure.

Whether you want to spend the day on or under the water, explore the islands or simply enjoy a sightseeing tour from the air, there is sure to be an excursion that appeals to you.

Here's all you need to know about the Whitsunday Islands, one of the most exciting destinations for day trips from Airlie Beach.

How to get to Whitsunday Islands from Airlie Beach?

The main point of access to the Whitsunday Islands is Airlie Beach. The town is located 630 kilometers south of Cairns and can be reached by road or air travel. The Whitsunday Coast Airport is 25 kilometers inland at Proserpine.

All water-based transport to the islands from the mainland depart from Airlie Beach.

From Airlie Beach to Whitsunday Islands by ferry

Hamilton Island is the most populous of the Whitsunday Islands and is the docking point for most ferries. The passenger-only ferry crossing takes approximately 1 hour. If you have a car, you will need to park it at the long-stay parking area in Airlie Beach.

Guided tours to Whitsunday Islands from Airlie Beach

Guided day tours to the Whitsunday Islands are the perfect way to explore the islands. Depending on the time you have available you can decide to join a day trip or opt for a multi-day tour from Airlie Beach.

Sailing adventures, snorkeling and diving excursions, and a combination of water and land based activities are just some of the outdoor activities you can choose from when booking a day trip.

Whitsunday Islands from Airlie Beach by helicopter or light aircraft

If you want an aerial view of the islands or if time is a consideration, then a helicopter flight or scenic flight of the Whitsunday Islands from Airlie Beach is an excellent alternative.

Helicopter trips usually include a landing on Hamilton Island for some beach time, while scenic flights showcase the Whitsundays and the magnificent Great Barrier Reef before returning to Airlie Beach.

What is the typical itinerary of a day tour to Whitsunday Islands from Airlie Beach?

Whether you are participating in a boat based trip or spending some time exploring the Whitsunday Islands, you can expect a morning departure for your day tour from Airlie Beach.

From the Coral Sea Marina, your guide will escort you to your boat for the journey to the Whitsunday Islands. Depending on your tour type, you may stop at one or islands to enjoy the views, relax on the beach, or explore the islands on foot.

On a sailing or snorkeling adventure, you can also expect to enjoy a short land-based sightseeing tour, learning more about the nature on the Whitsunday Islands and the local history.

Full-day boat based tours usually include a delicious lunch and you will return to Airlie Beach in the late afternoon.

What kinds of tours are available to go to Whitsunday Islands?

As a destination themselves, and given their proximity to the Great Barrier Reef, the Whitsunday Islands are popular for local and international travelers. Several types of day-trips and multi-day tours are available from Airlie Beach.

Day trip to Whitsunday Islands from Airlie Beach

Board your sailing boat or catamaran for your full-day Whitsunday Islands trip. On a boat tour, you will sail past pristine natural areas, anchor close to secluded beaches, and spend some time snorkeling in a marine rich underwater environment.

If your day tour includes time exploring any of the islands, you will be accompanied by a knowledgeable local guide. Waterfalls, rainforests, tropical birds and plants are some of the highlights of these tours.

On Hamilton Island, you can also opt to enjoy a full-day tour that includes a boat cruise on the Proserpine River where you will keep your eyes peeled for estuarine (salt water) crocodiles and visit the unique island wetlands.

Helicopter tour to Whitsunday Islands from Airlie Beach

On a helicopter tour from Airlie Beach, your experienced pilot will give you a birds eye view of the Whitsunday Islands, Whitehaven Beach and the iconic Heart Reef before touching down at a remote beach location for a photo opportunity and a moment to relax.

After roughly 2 hours you return to the airport at Proserpine for a transfer back to Airlie Beach.

Multi-Day sailing or cruise tours of Whitsunday Islands from Airlie Beach

From 2-day overnight tours to 6-day family sailing adventures in the Whitsunday Islands, a variety of multi-day boat trips depart regularly from Airlie Beach. A longer trip is ideal for visitors wanting to explore both the islands and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

Sailing and catamaran trip itineraries may be weather or tide dependent, but most tours include a visit to Whitehaven Beach, Hill Inlet Lookout and several prime snorkeling sites in the region.

In the evenings you will be treated to beach sunsets at places like Scrubhen Beach on Hook Island and Chalkie’s Beach on Haslewood Island.

If you are wanting to tailor your itinerary to your needs, or want to spoil yourself, you can also charter a fully crewed and catered sailing yacht for your group.

Whitsunday Islands plus Hook Island day trip from Airlie Beach

A full-day Whitsunday Islands National Park plus Hook Island tour departs by speedboat from Airlie Beach.

This tour includes two snorkeling stops near Hook Island, on the fringe of the reef. On Whitsunday Island there is time for a stroll to the lookout point and a refreshing swim.

After a full day of sightseeing and snorkeling you will return to the drop-off point at the Airlie Beach marina.

Scenic flights of Whitsunday Islands plus Great Barrier Reef from Airlie Beach

See the Whitsunday Island’s most iconic sites from the air with a scenic flight departing from Whitsunday Airport just outside of Airlie Beach.

On this tour, you are guaranteed a window seat and the best views of Airlie Beach, the Whitsunday Island Archipelago and the nearby Great Barrier Reef.

If you want to experience the islands further, you can combine a flight with a boat trip to visit Whitsunday Island.

How much does a tour to Whitsunday Islands from Airlie Beach cost?

Day trips to Whitsunday Islands from Airlie Beach cost from US$120 per person.

Expect to pay around US$300 per person for a Helicopter tour to Whitsunday Islands from Airlie Beach.

Multi-day small-group sailing or cruise tours of Whitsunday Islands from Airlie Beach start from US$220 per person for a 2-day tour to US$600 for a 4-day tour. A 3-day private sailing charter will cost US$4400 for your group of up to 10 people.

A small-group Whitsunday Islands plus Hook Island day trip from Airlie Beach starts at US$120 per person.

Scenic flights of Whitsunday Islands plus Great Barrier Reef from Airlie Beach start at US$170 per person. If you want to add snorkeling and a visit to Whitsunday Island to your tour, the cost will be US$290 per person.

What will you see and do on a Whitsunday Islands day trip from Airlie Beach?

Three of the top attractions on a tour to the Whitsunday Islands are:

Whitehaven Beach

The world’s top eco-friendly beach is a pristine white sand beach surrounded by turquoise waters and is protected by the Whitsunday Islands National Park.

Heart Reef

A unique heart-shaped coral formation on the fringe of the Great Barrier Reef visible by helicopter or light airplane.

Hill Inlet Lookout

Located on the northern end of Whitehaven Beach, the lookout point offers uninterrupted views of the beach and tidal patterns in the turquoise waters. In July it is a great spot for sighting migrating humpback whales.

When is the best time to visit Whitsunday Islands?

In the spring months of September and October, the Whitsunday Islands typically offer clear days and light winds. Mid-winter is ideal if you’re hoping to see whales and avoid the crowds in December and January when it is the summer school holidays.

Travel tips

  • Plan your trip carefully as travelling distances in Australia can be significant.
  • Pack sunscreen and hats for visits throughout the year.
  • Take a spare change of clothes.
  • Carry water and a windbreaker if you’re planning on hiking.