Most gateways to the Great Barrier Reef can come with a higher price tag than other towns in Queensland. With this in mind, it’s always great to find all the cheap things to do in Airlie Beach and help balance the budget.
Airlie Beach is a town for adventurous spirits, outdoor lovers, and people who love the water. More specifically, it’s for thrill seekers or people who want to enjoy nature from a different perspective. With this in mind, you know it’s just perfect for everyone who wants to explore.
So, let’s not wait any longer and start planning your budget-conscious activities below.
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Cheap things to do around Airlie Beach
What we have mentioned below will space out the day trips to the coral reef and beaches you’ll visit in the Whitsundays. These include waterfalls and swimming holes, sampling local products, or checking out some of the places close to Airlie Beach. There are so many fantastic things to do in this beautiful part of Australia, so don’t expect to be sitting around too much.
Airlie Beach Lagoon
When the temperature starts to rise, and the sun is high in the sky, the Airlie Beach Lagoon is where you want to be. It’s completely free, lifeguarded, public access, and offers everything you need to cool off in the waters or laze around on the surrounding grounds.
With plenty of space to stretch out, you can read a book, practice some yoga, or simply watch as the kids splash and frolic in the shallows. And the best part? You’ll be treated to panoramic views of the Bay while you take advantage of the free barbecue facilities, shaded picnic areas, bathrooms, and changing rooms.
Not only that but it’s conveniently located in the centre of town, so getting there from anywhere around Airlie will be easy. Along with a designated paid parking facility and neighbouring cafes and restaurants to accommodate the visitors.
Swim at Cedar Creek Falls – Airlie Beach
You can visit Cedar Creek Falls at any time of year, but it’s a lot more impressive around the summer season or after heavy rainfall. With its cascading waters and serene freshwater swimming hole, this hidden gem is one of the best cheap things to do in Airlie Beach.
It’s just a short 20-minute drive from the town centre and provides the perfect escape between the busy day trips tours. Although the swimming hole isn’t deep, it’s still a popular spot to sit and soak in the awe-inspiring beauty of this captivating waterfall.
Take it that one step further and climb the short (but steep) track to the top of the falls. You’ll find some extra rock pools to sit in and watch as the water crashes over the falls. However, this area is only for some people, and you should be extra careful when walking around.
Browse the Markets
Market stalls are popular all over Australia, and many towns, including Airlie Beach, will have them. As you meander through the weekly market, you’ll discover an array of unique shopping experiences. This includes locally made arts and crafts, finding the perfect trinket to take back home, or treating yourself to a hand-carved sculpture.
And if you’re a foodie, you can indulge in some interesting locally sourced supplies or freshly grown fruit and vegetables. But the best part? You won’t break the bank with the great deals you find. So, with so much to check out, you’ll find yourself returning every week to soak in the ambience and explore all the treasures the market has to offer.
Do we have any Hiking fans out there who are up for a challenge? The Honeyeater lookout starts about a 15-minute walk from town and involves a return hike of 7.5 kilometres. Some go for the exercise, and others want the panoramic views of Airlie Beach from the Lookout. Either way, it’s nothing short of magical and well worth checking out.
You’ll need closed-in shoes for this area of the Conway National Park, and the track can be muddy after rain. It’s incredibly steep for the first half of the way up but becomes easier after that and on the way down. Overall, it will take roughly 3 hours to return, and it allows you to get in touch with your adventurous spirit.
Find a beach made from Coral
Truthfully, not everyone will be up to the Honeyeater hike, and if it doesn’t sound optimal for you, there are other options. The Coral Beach Trail is situated near Shute Harbour and leads you to a stunning beach completely covered in coral. It’s only 1.1 kilometres and will take about 20 minutes one way to get there.
Take your time and stroll through the scenic surroundings until you finally reach the beach. Once you’ve arrived, you can either wade in the refreshing ocean (out of stinger season) or simply relax on the beach with a towel.
Want a better view? Then, head up to the short Beak lookout trail and get ready to be blown away by the stunning panoramic views of the Whitsunday Islands. This track caters to most fitness levels, so even if you’re not the most avid hiker, you’ll still be able to make the trek and enjoy the unique natural beauty that is exclusive to the region.
Take a more chilled approach and stroll along the Bicentennial Walkway from Cannonvale Beach to the Airlie Beach Foreshore. Locals will use this for their daily exercise, or visitors walk along, seeing the high points of the coastline.
Not only will you be able to enjoy the stunning surroundings, but also pass by Marinas, Cafes, and smaller beaches. It’s easy to navigate, well-maintained, and ideal for any time of the day. Know that every step provides a refreshing sense of calm that only the fresh sea air and warm sun can provide.
Cape Hillsborough Kangaroos
Whether you’re an overseas visitor or a local trying to find Australian animals in the wild, the Cape Hillsborough Kangaroo experience might be of interest to you. While they can be elusive in some areas, they are pretty much guaranteed to visit the beach here every morning at sunrise.
There’s nothing quite like seeing furry creatures in their natural habitat, and the beachfront is the perfect backdrop for such an encounter. Imagine wandering around with these fantastic animals and watching them graze and jump around. It’s something that words can’t fully describe, and you have to see it for yourself.
Although, while it is free to visit from Airlie Beach, you will have to wake up exceptionally early and arrive in front of the Caravan Park BEFORE the sun crosses the horizon. Overall, the encounter is well worth the early start and the chance to see the Kangaroos and Wallabies for their morning feed.
Check out the beaches around Airlie Beach
While swimming in the beaches isn’t always ideal in Airlie Beach with stingers and crocodiles, there is certainly no issue with a morning stroll or other activities. Luckily, you can choose between Cannonvale Beach, Shingley Beach, Main Beach, and Boathaven Beach.
Decide if you’re in the mood for fishing or playing with the kids in a nearby playground. Or, additionally, finding a spot for a romantic picnic or a relaxed family fish-n-chip dinner. But if jumping in for a swim is more to your liking, then Boathaven Beach has a stinger net for extra safety.
Hideaway Bay or Dingo Beach
Escape the crowds around Airlie Beach and drive 40 minutes to the nearby Hideaway Bay or Dingo Beach. These are both longer beaches than what you’ll find in Airlie, with allocated stinger nets, parklands, and several access points.
You can explore the rocky outcrops and find small creatures and shells in the rock pool left behind at low tide. Either way, it’s a great family day out, which can finish with a meal at the Hideaway Sports Club or a local cafe across from Dingo Beach.
Watch a band in your local Bar or Pub in Airlie Beach
Airlie Beach is known for its nightlife and is popular for backpackers passing through on their road trips around Australia. However, between Magnums, KC’s Bar and Grill, Paradiso Rooftop Bar, and the Northerlies Beach Bar, you’ll find something day or night to suit your needs.
The vibrant town is renowned for its live music culture, and it’s rare to find a pub without some local or travelling talent performing. And it’s not just bands; the DJs are some of the best you’ll hear, with regular gigs at nightclubs, or you can enjoy relaxing acoustic sets for a Sunday session.
Chill with a drink after a day of exploration and listen to the artists regularly featured in the area.
Selfie with the “Big Mango”
Are you a Mango Lover or just like getting photos with the “Big Things” in Australia? Trust me, it’s a photo op you will want to take advantage of and is conveniently located on major A1 Bruce Highway. The Bowen Tourist Information Centre is a must-visit, and you’ll only need a short amount of time to stop in here.
Browse the centre for souvenirs, clothes, local products, or to purchase some mango samples. I can’t recommend the Mango ice cream enough, but be sure to gobble it down quickly, especially with the hot weather. And, while you’re outside, be sure to snap a selfie or picture with the Giant Mango for your Instagram feed.
Check out the Bowen Beaches
Unlike Airlie Beach, the nearby town of Bowen seems favoured when it comes to beachgoers. This charming town, located just a few hours north of Airlie Beach, boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in the area, including the iconic Horseshoe Bay.
While jellyfish are still present in the summertime, you can still enjoy swimming by wearing a Lyrca stinger suit. If that’s not ideal, then it’s still a great spot for soaking up the sun or letting the kids play in the sand.
Take a pic with the Airlie Beach sign
As your time in Airlie Beach comes to a close, there’s one final task you must complete: to snap a photo in front of one of the iconic Airlie Beach signs. But, you have not one but three different Airlie Beach signs to find around town to get your picture with.
The first of which is along Shute Harbour Road near Abel Point Marina
Second, on the roundabout of Shute Harbour Road and Waterson Way.
The third is facing out to the beach from Airlie Beach Lagoon.
The second sign is the biggest, and you’ll be able to get close to the first and third one. However, any of them will be your perfect “I’m In Airlie Beach” picture for your social media posts.
Not only will you have a tangible memory of your incredible time in The Whitsundays, but you’ll also make your friends back home envious of your adventures. Who knows, maybe your photo will inspire them to plan their own trip to the Heart of the Great Barrier Reef.
Conclusion – Cheap things to do at Airlie Beach
Undoubtedly, this is an excellent destination for all types of travellers, and you’ll never be bored with so many cheap things to do in Airlie Beach. With the Great Barrier Reef and the Whitsunday Islands, you know it’s one of the most beautiful and serene parts of Australia,
Finding budget-conscious adventures without breaking the bank means you can marvel in nature’s wonders without having to worry about your finances. Therefore, if you’re looking for a place full of amazing sights and great memories, come and experience what Airlie Beach has to offer!
Chris Fry is the writer and photographer behind Aquarius Traveller, where she shares her journeys and provides valuable information and inspiration for your destination travels. She lives in Australia and has travelled to 36 countries and in-depth across Australia.
Travel Information for Visiting Airlie Beach
What is the airport for Airlie Beach?
Proserpine Airport (PPP) is the closest airport to Airline Beach. It is also known as Whitsunday Airport and lies 26 km southwest of Airlie Beach. There are direct flights from Sydney Brisbane and Melbourne. You can check out the latest airfare deals here.
Book your airport transfer here:
You can book your car rental from Airline Beach here.
Where to stay in and around Airlie Beach
Top Three Popular Tours for Airlie Beach and Surrounds
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