Stay – From the central location of Airlie Beach, it is best to take a liveaboard boat to cruise to the Great Barrier Reef. There you’ll stay floating aboard for one or two nights and all through your trip you can snorkel or go diving. The absolute best part of your trip will be when you hop off at Whitehaven Beach to look at the stunning panorama.
Budget options do not really exist for this kind of accommodation. For a liveaboard from two nights count on at least 350 AUD. (270 USD /245 EUR) If you’d rather have a luxurious liveaboard from three nights, count on 812 AUD. (605 USD / 550 EUR)
If you don’t feel comfortable sleeping in a floating cabin, then staying at an accommodation in Airlie Beach might be your best bet. Another option is to stay at the more expensive Hamilton Island. At Hamilton the cheapest you will find is 190 euro (or 210 dollars) a night.
Airlie Beach is filled with youth hostels, so if you’re travelling on a budget: this is your best bet. Hostels cost between 16 to 27 dollars (15 to 25 euro). To guarantee the cheapest price, just book in advance.
Private studios or bungalows cost about $38 (€35) a night and ressorts or luxurious hotels start at $90 (€80).
All accommodation in and around Airlie beach can be found on this page.
Eat – If you stay on a liveaboard, all food is included. The only thing you need to pay for (not always) are soda’s and alcoholic beverages. In the many hostels all around Airlie Beach, you can cook quite easily yourself. That way you can save money easily. Ingredients for a yummy hostel-made pasta for two persons won’t even cost you 15 AUD. If you want to treat yourself and go out for (cheap) lunch / dinner, then count on 20 AUD a person. ($15 /€13)
Transport – On the whitsunday islands there is no transportation at all. But the islands are fairly small and thus walking is easy. To get to the stunning panoramic view, you need to climb a little. But it is definitely not hard. Airlie Beach and Hamilton Island are not very big either, so basically the only thing you need is airport transfers.
From Prosperpine Airport to Airlie Beach it takes a bit more than 30 minutes. You can book retour transfers here. It costs you about €13 or $15 for a single ride.
Would you like to visit the Hamilton Island and/or the Daydream island? Buy an Island Hopper pas for about €85 (or $95) and you can use it all day to catch the ferries to these luxurious islands.
Prosperpine Airport – If you fly into the Whitsundays, choose for Prosperpine Airport instead of Hamilton Island. From the Hamilton Island it is very expensive to travel on to another place. Next to that, the hotel prices on Hamilton are a lot more expensive. From Prosperpine you only need to take a shuttle bus to the center of Airlie Beach, where you can find the cheapest accommodation around.
Daytrips isn’t always cheaper – A daytrip to and from the whitsunday islands is quite expensive in comparison to some multiple-day liveaboards. Check prices from sailing boats here.
Cook your own food – There’s plenty of hostels and/or budget hotels around the Whitsundays to cook your own food. Make use of it. Food in Australia is quite expensive already, even when you cook yourself. In very close proximity to the hostels of Airlie Beach, there are tons of super markets.
Whitehaven Beach – Listed in the top 10 beaches of the world, you can’t do wrong with visiting this heavenly paradise. The snow white beaches go on in the beautiful and see-through water and the island is almost completely untouched by humans. From Airlie Beach there are plenty of daytours to take. However, I personally liked a multiple day your more. (Check here.)
Reef world – Go snorkelling or diving on this pontoon in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef. Constructed especially for tourists who won’t or can’t afford pricy boats to the open sea. With slides, a submarine and sun chairs everyone finds something to do in Reef World. But the main attraction is of course to snorkel around the Great Barrier Reef…
Hamilton Island – If you plan to stay on this island, you of course don’t need to book a daytrip to this place. But because of the expensive accommodation, most people tend to stay around Airlie Beach. If you like all-in vacations or ressorts, Hamilton Island is a good bet. From Hamilton Island it is only two hours away with the boat to the Barrier Reef and one and a half hour to Whitehaven Beach.
Scuba diving and snorkeling – It isn’t cheap, but how many times in your life will you go and see the Great Barrier Reef? Every year, this magnificent national park reduces in size because of pollution and other causes. Just by snorkelling you can already see beautiful parts of the reef, but diving takes you a lot closer to the colourful corals and fishes.
Wildlife parks – All around the Whitsundays there are wildlife parks. Go and check out the kangaroos and koalas, but definitely go take a look to the ferocious crocodiles from the Outback.
Swim in any waters – All Around Airlie Beach and Hamilton Island dangerous creatures lurk! Crocodiles and the horrible box jellyfish can cause harm if you’re not aware of them. Ask locals for advice if you’re not sure. If you go snorkelling or diving it is recommended to use a diving suit that completely covers you (except your face).
Around Whithaven beach there are some rays and small sharks, but they are quite shy and won’t come very close to humans.
Not using sunscreen – I have black hair, I never burn and people mistake me for someone who lives in the tropics quite often. Still I didn’t risk not to use sunscreen. Lots of people at the hostels looked terribly red and burned. Not really nice to look like a cooked lobster while on vacation, isn’t it?
Land on Hamilton Island – Repeat, repeat, repeat. Flights to Hamilton Island might be cheaper, but the accommodations are definitely more expensive. Also: to get to another place from Hamilton can be a pain…
Too short of a stay – With only four days, I thought my stay at the Whitsundays was way too short. Give yourself more time to visit this wonder of nature. A day doing nothing around this beautiful island isn’t wrong either by the way!