Author – Ayla Wilde
Date Published 14/01/2020
Whitsundays Cruise and Adventure Tours
Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays are home to the best cruises and adventure tours in Australia
For a once sleepy little sailing town, nestled in far north Queensland as the entrance to the beautiful Whitsunday Islands, Airlie Beach has now become a bustling hub for a variety of Whitsunday cruise and adventure tours. There are trips that showcase the area to meet every need and demand, whether that be an adventurous day speed boat that captures the main highlights, a free adventure to a cascading waterfall, a jet ski tour around the closer islands, Whitsundays Freediving Tour or an overnight sailing adventure that allows you to truly experience all the Whitsundays has to offer, without the rush of a day trip. So whether you’re after a family-friendly holiday, a place to meet likeminded adventurous souls, or a romantic holiday; the Whitsundays has it all.
Let’s say you want to come to Airlie Beach to experience what this little boating town in Australia is renowned for; sailing. Allow yourself a few extra days in the holiday itinerary and book yourself onto a liveaboard, all inclusive (bar alcohol), sailing adventure around the Whitsundays and step aboard an ex-racing maxi sailing yacht to get the true Whitsunday adventure cruising experience. If you’re keen on seeing what it’s really about, the crew will even get you involved with hoisting and trimming the sails, and teach you all you want to know about sailing a yacht. When these beauties were in their prime racing days they were crewed with up to 20 people, so I’m sure the 3 crew would be grateful for your help!
Prosail Whitsundays sailing experts
Which Whitsundays Cruise Or Tour Is Right For You?
There are a couple of options for everybody so let’s take a look at the best Whitsunday Cruises and Adventure Tours.
• CONDOR: this beauty is the biggest of the fleet at 79ft long with 19 individual beds in an open plan dorm-style, to sleep like-minded souls like yourselves. She sails around the Whitsundays for 4 days and 3 nights to various snorkelling bays, a full day for both ends of the number two beach in the entire world, Whitehaven, and a bushwalk or two up the island’s summits. She even holds one of the rare surveys to take you to the outer great barrier reef if the weather permits. This is something not many operators offer, so if you’re keen on diving the depths of the crystal clear waters of the GBR and submersing yourself into a magical underwater wonderland, then look no further than this tour – it’s incredible.
• BROOMSTICK: only slightly smaller than Condor at 76ft, ‘Broomy’ also has 19 individual beds and runs a very similar trip (snorkelling, Whitehaven, bushwalks), and also with the possibility of the outer reef but on different departure days so you’re sure to find something that fits your itinerary. With 22m of deck space there is plenty of time to hang out with your new pals, and of course, learn all the tricks of sailing. There’s even an optional extra of a resort stopover so let us know if you’re interested in that. To have a look at Broomstick in all her glory, click here.
• HAMMER: if you don’t have time for a full four-day adventure then Hammer might be the boat for you. She’s the smallest of the 3 (but only by 6ft), sleeping a maximum of 23 people, but also the ‘homiest’ interior of the trio. Three full days and 2 nights mean you still get all the key highlights of the Whitsunday Islands tour (snorkelling, Whitehaven, bushwalks), but without the option of going to the outer reef. Perfect if you’re not as keen on snorkelling, or you don’t have enough time to stay for four days, but still with plenty of space to chill out on the deck and relax, or knock a few beverages back at night. Click here to see more about Hammer.
No matter which Whitsundays Cruise you end up going for, they all offer incredible adventure sailing experiences and you will be sure to have an unforgettable Whitsunday highlights experience. It just depends on what works for your departure dates and what you want to be the focus of your trip. If you have a crew of you together why not enquire about privately chartering out one of the boats just for you guys? That means you will have the flexibility of tailoring the trip around your specific interests, and you can even choose your own length of charter.
What Else Is On Offer?
Now I’ve already touched on snorkelling the GBR and going to Whitehaven Beach, however, there are way more Whitsunday cruising and adventures than just these. Having lived there for 2.5 years and being a big fan of showcasing just how amazing the area is (plus being an adventure and outdoors junky at the same time) has made me explore the surrounding areas of what the Whitsunday region has to offer.
Don’t get me wrong, snorkelling the GBR and going to Whitehaven are absolute musts – I touch on these in pretty much every article and provide tips and traps on which tours are best for what and who (so if you’re after this then look no further than here). But there are also a variety of beautiful beaches, hikes, waterfalls, wildlife and more, and here’s my top five:
No one’s ever gone on a jet ski and had a bad time, let’s be honest. There’s a reason Whitsunday Jetski Tours have been awarded Australia’s number one tourism experience, and it’s well worth getting a first-hand experience on why. They offer 3 different tours which range from 2.5-5hrs, but I personally recommend the ‘ultimate island trek’ which takes you on a guided tour to Long Island for a wood-fired oven pizza lunch. Whitsunday cruising through the islands in absolute style on the latest model Sea-Doo jetskis will be sure to have you feeling those holiday vibes, but be sure to book in advance as they always sell out.
This one is a wet season activity (Dec- April) as we don’t get enough rain for the falls to flow in other months of the year unless we’ve had a random rain – best bet is to check recently uploaded photos in this location on Instagram to see. But when she’s pumping it’s an absolute blast, and even better is that it’s free so no need to tuck into the money tin.
You’ll need a car so if you don’t have one get in contact with Gypsy Travel to arrange a car for the day, stop in at Big W on your way out of town to invest in some floaties, head north, follow the signs and in 20 minutes you’ll find yourself at a little freshwater oasis with a cascading falls above it. Swim under the falls for a freshwater shower or simply float around taking in the serenity, there’s even a little short hike to the top of the falls on the righthand side once you cross over the creek. If you fancy some adventures there’s another little swimming hole a little further up the creek that most people don’t venture up to, so it’s a good escape if it’s a busy day.
Seeing Hill Inlet and the outer Great Barrier Reef from an aerial view is incredible. I’ve done it twice because I loved it so much. There’s something about seeing the reef and the lagoons from above that is actually awe-inspiring. You’ll also fly over heart reef, which is one of Airlie Beach’s main tourism attractions. Plus, in whale season (July – October) you might even be lucky enough to catch them migrating or even breaching! If you really want to discover the region a Whitsundays Cruise and scenic flight will cover all the bases
Located about 40 mins north of Airlie Beach is a little beachside town called Hydeaway Bay, and another 5 minutes north of that you’ll find yourself at the Eco Resort in Cape Gloucester overlooking the beautiful Gloucester Island. With little bar table huts on the grass by the beach, a pool, palm trees lining the beach, and a great spot to watch the sunset over the ocean, it’s definitely one to include in the itinerary. If you head right along the beach you’ll even find a leaning palm tree that’s sure of an insta-worthy post.
In June/July it’s also a manta ray breeding ground so if you have access to a boat you can try your luck at going for a snorkel with them – it’s incredible.
For all you hikers out there. I recommend doing this hike early in the morning so you beat the heat – especially if you’re visiting in the summer months. Pack your runners, a bottle of water and camera, because the lookout at the top sits at a 378m elevation providing you with panoramic views over Airlie Beach, the beautiful blue of the Coral Sea and the stretch of Whitsunday Islands. It’s around an 8km return hiking trail with a significant amount of uphill and easily the hardest hike in Airlie, so I would allow 3 hours if you’re fitness is not at it’s peak. Don’t let that deter you though, there’s also lots of beautiful wildlife such as goanna’s, cockatoos, kookaburras, butterflies and other flora and fauna to snap on your hike up and back down (it also makes a great excuse to pause and catch your breath).
After you’ve completed your climb and you’ve got your newest picture to post in the family group chat to inspire massive holiday envy, treat yourself to a delicious breakfast from Café One3 on Waterson Way – you’ll have earnt it.
If you’re after a smaller hike try either Airlie Creek or Mount Roper – both are also beautiful and any national park adventures will be sure to cross wildlife (just less of the calorie burn).
Whether you’re coming to Airlie for a few days or a week, there are plenty of restaurants to dine at, pools to lounge by (cocktail in hand of course), hikes to climb, beaches to swim, activities for our thrill-seekers, and adventures for our restless friends out there. If you have the time, allow a couple of days on either side of your GBR and Whitehaven trip for Whitsunday cruise and adventure tours to explore the area a little – you won’t regret it.