Travel Guide

The locals' guide to Whitsundays, Queensland

By Juliette & Lucy · March 2023 · 10 min read

The Whitsundays is a must-visit destination for those stopping by the north of Oz. Known for its stunning landscape of bright white sand, glistening turquoise waters and vibrant marine life. It’s loved by locals but welcoming to tourists who visit, with various ways to explore the land. Whether you want to snorkel, fly above, dive, sail, or explore by foot - there’s a way for you to experience The Whitsundays.

Brought to you by Experience Oz and @aswetravel_au, traveller veterans who spent the past few years lapping it round Australia. When they finally had their second child, they chose to settle down in no other than, Airlie Beach.

Planning a visit? Experience Oz have got you covered as we share the insights from your very own local, Lucy and her family.

Read on for the locals’ perfect day and the best ways to explore The Whitsundays.

After years of traveling, why did you decide to call Airlie Beach home?

Lucy (@aswetravel_au): "Setting off for our travels around Australia it was always with the intention of finding somewhere new to call home. Along the way, there were so many towns that caught our attention, seeing us scroll real estate listings but none quite captured our hearts like The Whitsundays.

It’s the kind of magic you feel the moment you arrive, coming over the hill and laying eyes on the brilliant blue water for the first time. It’s walking through the palm tree-lined centre of town, being greeted by happy, relaxed faces. It’s the way there is something to keep everyone entertained, from strolling through the markets, listening to a live band, lazing by the lagoon or dining out at one of the many restaurants.

Finding a community that felt like home while still offering adventure was important, and The Whitsundays delivered on both fronts.

Airlie Beach was the perfect fit for us – a small town with access to everything we needed and plenty of exciting activities nearby. With family scattered across the country, easy travel was essential. Thankfully, the Whitsunday Coast Airport provided daily flights to major cities like Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne, making it easy to stay connected.

With the Whitsunday Islands, Great Barrier Reef and National Parks surrounding Airlie Beach we knew it was filled with endless opportunities to keep our sense of adventure alive. Whether it was boating, swimming, fishing, snorkelling, relaxing on the beach, exploring, 4WDing, or camping, there was always something exciting to do."

These are the best ways to explore in Whitsundays

Boat & Reef Tours

This is the most common way to experience Whitsundays is through boat & reef tours. There are various tour types to choose from snorkelling, land, boat or a mix of the 3!

Lucy (@aswetravel_au): "We recently headed out as a family with Ocean Rafting on their Northern Exposure tour and it was truly one for the memory bank. From the moment we boarded the boat, we felt welcomed by the friendly crew who made sure we were all set for a day of adventure.

As we left the marina, there was nothing but excitement. The rain may have been pouring down. We were none the wiser under the shelter of the boat. As we turned toward the Islands, the sun started to poke through and a beautiful rainbow trailed the boat - the first sign of an amazing day to come! After a smooth and comfortable ride, in pretty rough seas we arrived at our first stop, Mantaray Bay. Snorkelling in the clear waters, seeing the stunning colours of the different corals and feeding the fish by hand were the highlights of this stop.

After snorkelling we were dropped on a coral-covered beach and made the easy stroll to take in the indescribable views of Hill Inlet. We couldn’t believe our eyes, the kids spotted rays swimming in the clear water below while the Ocean Rafting team gave an awesome history to what makes this place, just so special!

After snorkelling, we enjoyed a delicious lunch on Champagne Beach and while we watched the kids splash in the shallows, we had to pinch ourselves that this was the place we worked so hard to call ‘our backyard’.

It is truly impossible for us to flaw our day, even with an almost 2 year old The Northern Exposure tour with Ocean Rafting is perfect for families looking for a fun and memorable adventure in the beautiful Whitsundays.

Scenic flights

The Whitsundays may be stunning on foot, but it’s taken to another level (literally) from bird’s eye view. Home to over 70 tropical islands, you’ll fly across iconic points like Whitehaven Beach, Hill Inlet and Heart Reef.

It’s a beautiful sight to the eyes and you’ll have amazing camera opportunities with this photogenic destination. Also, if you have only a short time in The Whitsundays, this might be the best option. The convenience of sky exploration will allow maximise exploration in shorter timeframes.


If you’re after a comfortable and cruisy way to explore the island, opt in for the scenic day cruises around the Whitsunday islands. You’ll be taken around the famous sites likes Whitehaven Beach and Hill Inlet Lookout, all from air-conditioned comfort. Especially, if you’ve got restless little ones or prioritise comfort travel.

Plus most day cruise tours, will offer gourmet lunch and snacks, so won’t have to worry about what to pack. Just bring your excitement!

Reefsleep Cruise

Want a bucket-list experience? How about a glamping experience in the Great Barrier Reef?

The Reefsleep is such a unique way to experience Tropical Queensland, with a scenic cruise through the Whitsundays, access to an underwater observatory, gourmet meals, various activities, semi-sub rides and a glamping experience on the reef.

It’s an unforgettable experience under the stars and above the reef.

Any local insider tips?

Lucy (@aswetravel_au): "Airlie Beach is the perfect destination for your next holiday. With warm weather, all year round and activities - it’s easy to find ways to fill your days or simply sit back and relax.

An ideal day as a local, would look a little something like this:

If you are an early bird, rise before the sun and tackle HoneyEater trail or if you prefer a later start enjoy a stroll along the beautiful boardwalk which connects town to Cannonvale Beach, spot fish, turtles and if you are lucky enough, dugong along the way! Enjoy a delicious coffee and treat at Berry and Maple. Before jumping in the car and driving to check out Cedar Creek Falls, detouring via Conway where you may just have the chance to spot a Saltwater Croc cruising the Proserpine River. Wash away your morning adventure with a swim Airlie Beach lagoon and relax under the shade of the palm trees. An early dinner is always a winner and there is no better spot to go than Sorrentos at 3pm for their 2-for-1 pizza deal. If there is anything left in the tank, head to one of the many venues in town to enjoy an ice cold drink with the sound of live music in the background."

Experience Whitsundays

Experience Oz

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