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The wonderful gateway to the Whitsunday Islands, Airlie Beach is one of the top backpacker destinations in Australia – a place renowned for its nightlife and sunshine. Most people spend at least a few days in this tropical Queensland paradise, soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying the gorgeous views. So, if you’re heading down or up to Airlie Beach soon, take a look at these top 10 things to do there.

10. Sail the Whitsundays

Almost everyone who arrives in Airlie Beach is here to embark on a sailing tour of the Whitsundays and why not?! There can be few ways to enjoy this paradise-like destination better than by relaxing on deck as you cruise these magnificent waters. Sailing trips range from 1 nights to several and normally include a whole range of activities including diving, snorkelling and drinking! Make sure you pick a boat that’s right for you and your budget.

9. Swim at the Lagoon

The Airlie Beach lagoon is the place to meet other backpackers before the bars open and hanging out here can be a very social affair! Enjoy spotting some new friends across the water as you sunbathe on the manmade beach here or swim in the delightfully stinger-free pool!

8. Take a Trip to Conway

Conway National Park is only a short drive from Airlie Beach, but feels like a world away. If you’re looking to get some quiet, downtime away from the party madness, this can be a good place to head. With tons of walking trails, wildlife to spot and some gorgeous views of the Whitsunday Islands, the rainforest here can be a great contrasting landscape if you’re feeling a bit beached out!

7. Refresh at Cedar Creek Falls

Back towards the town of Proserpine, inland from Airlie Beach, Cedar Creek Falls make for an awesome daytrip. Spot turtles, birds and butterflies as you swim in the refreshing pools at the bottom of the falls or head up to the top for some great views.

6. Grab a Jet Ski

Airlie Beach has got to be one of the most fun destinations to jet ski at in the whole of Australia. With the Whitsunday landscape whizzing past you, it’s hard to believe you can actually cruise these waters so easily and, with no license or experience necessary, the fun is open to everyone! Choose from a 1.5 hr, 2.5 hr or 4.5 hr guided tour and prepare to have the fun of your life.

5. Check out Dingo Beach & Hydeaway Bay

Just north of Airlie Beach, lie the small hamlets of Dingo and Hydeaway Beach. These aren’t places to party, but they are spots well worth checking out if you really want to enjoy the tropical-palm-tree beach dream without visiting the Whitsunday Islands. The scenery here is truly breathtaking and you will feel like you’ve died and gone to heaven! Just remember to take your camera!

4. Camp on Whitehaven

Repeatedly voted one of the best beaches in the world, it’s hard not to be amazed by the reality of Whitehaven Beach no matter how many pictures you’ve looked at! The sand really is the whitest you’ll ever see and the water is like crystal it’s so clear. As such, it’s well worth spending more than a few hours here to really enjoy it. Many people come just for an afternoon, but you can also camp on Whitehaven Beach if you want to soak it all up for that bit longer. Prices start from only $6pppn and can be booked through Queensland National Parks.

3. Cycle to Cannonvale

Hiring a pushbike in Airlie Beach and then meandering your way along the 3km Bicentennial Pathway to Cannonvale makes for a great daytrip if you feeling like you’ve got some energy (or calories!) to burn. This pleasant pathway is nice and flat and will treat you to the sights of Abell Point Marina, Shingley Beach and the Botanic Gardens as you make your way along it. Once in Cannonvale, reward yourself with a coffee and cake at the Fat Frog Café – a local favourite, this place comes highly recommended!

2. Meet Up at the Markets

The Airlie Beach markets, held every Saturday from 8am till noon, are a great place to meet locals, as it feels like the whole community really does come out for this weekly event. Peruse everything from fresh veggies and fruit to local artwork and pick up some great souvenirs and gifts for those at home too.

1. Scream as You Skydive

There can’t be many places more picturesque to jump out of a plane over than Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays! In fact, you’ll probably be so flabbergasted by the scenery, you might even forget to scream! Don’t worry though, your professional tandem skydive partner will take care of all the logistics, so you can just get on with making memories to last you a lifetime instead.

So that’s my list of the top 10 things to do in Airlie Beach. Which made your top spot?

Steph Parker /

Hi there, my name’s Steph and I’m a travel addict! Never one for staying at home and working for too long, I’ve always had to make sure I can travel cheap to fund my nomadic lifestyle. Big World Small Pockets was created to share with you the highs and lows of happy, healthy budget travel – the sort of real, wild, global adventuring that fires up minds and sets hearts racing. I hope you enjoy it!

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