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The Whitsundays 10 Best Day Trip with Kids [+ Special Tips]

The Whitsundays is Australia’s aquatic wonderland – tropical islands and beaches, brilliant blue water and endless ‘WOW’ views

Blue Pearl Bay in the Whitsunday Islands
Blue Pearl Bay in the Whitsunday Islands

Airlie Beach on the Whitsunday Coast is the epicentre, full of happy locals sharing their love of this beautiful region.  While there’s plenty to enjoy in Airlie Beach itself, you’re spoilt for choice with loads of day trips. 

Here are the top ten adventure trips to take with your kids in the Whitsundays:

1. Enjoy a Great Barrier Reef Adventure from Whitsundays

Credit Cruise Whitsundays
Credit Cruise Whitsundays

The Whitsundays reef is teeming with healthy corals and fish. Cruise to the outer reef and choose how to experience it – from the dry underwater observatory of a semi-submersible, swim and snorkel (a guided snorkel safari is an insightful optional extra), or scuba dive (minimum age 12).  All ships will have ample floatation devices and kids’ snorkelling gear. The crew will make this adventure extra special, with plentiful facts and a helping hand.

Best for: children of all ages.

Book your Snorkel and Sail Day Trip in Whitsundays here!

2. Experience a thrilling ride around the spectacular Whitsunday Islands on board of the Thundercat

Get the adrenaline pumping on ultra-fast, but super stable ‘Thundercat’ as it blasts over to Whitehaven Beach. A safe, speedy and comfortable ride, this wave piercer is great for anyone concerned about seasickness – because it’s a stable ride, which gets you to your destination faster. Adventurous families will love this tour which includes two beaches, two snorkels and the easy bushwalk to Hill Inlet lookout.

Best for: 4+ years

Enjoy a Thundercat Whitsundays Day Tour – Book it now!

3. Visit the world famous Whitehaven

Whitehaven beach is one of Australias best beaches. Picture Shutterstock
Whitehaven beach is one of Australia’s best beaches. Picture: Shutterstock

Voted the world’s best beach several times, Whitehaven is 7km of sparkling white sand.  The northern end of the beach is home to Hill Inlet lookout and the famous swirling sands.  The southern end is perfect for long walks and finding a quiet spot to soak up the sun and the views.

You can’t walk from one end of the beach to the other, so to explore it all take Cruise Whitsundays ‘Ultimate Whitehaven Beach, Hill Inlet and lookout tour’ – a full day seeing the whole beach, plus snorkelling. 

Best for: school aged kids and teenagers. (There’s also a young family-friendly, half day option to Whitehaven’s southern end).

4. Enjoy a Whitsundays Sailing Adventure with your kids

The Whitsundays is a sailors’ paradise, so let your hair down and embrace your inner-pirate.  The Derwent Hunter is a classic tall ship which sails to the fringing coral reef and beach locations.  Learn traditional sailing methods, help hoist the sails or steer the ship.  The crew love getting kids involved and will reward them with Eco-Pirate tattoos and certificates.

Best for: 4+ years

5. Take part in a Whitsunday crocodile safari: see crocodiles in their native environment!

A surprising side to the Whitsundays, this is two experiences in one – a calm river cruise spotting crocodiles on the mud banks of the Proserpine River, followed by a tractor-drawn wagon wetland tour.  Lunch is ‘bush tucker’ including billy tea and damper served at the campsite by the river.  The expert commentary, coupled with hands on participation makes it an educational experience too. 

Best for: children of all ages

6. Enjoy a family fun day at Hamilton Island

Girl exploring the colourful underwater world of magnificent corals, colourful fish and marine life of the Whitsundays. Credit: Cruise Whitsundays
Girl exploring the colourful underwater world of magnificent corals, colourful fish and marine life of the Whitsundays. Credit: Cruise Whitsundays

The largest island resort, Hamilton Island is packed with activities. The best way to see it in a day is the ‘Family Fun Day’ package, starting with a scenic cruise through the islands on a large, comfortable vessel.  Visit the Wildlife Park where you can hold a Koala and see Aussie wildlife, spend an hour at the nine pin ‘Kegel’ bowling alley and devour fish and chips for lunch (it’s lovely to picnic on the grass overlooking the marina) – all included.

Best for: children of all ages

Book your Hamilton Island family adventure and full-day cruise today!

7. Explore Hideaway Bay with the kids

Hideaway Bay is a beachside haven perfect for a ‘long lunch’ (45 minutes from Airlie Beach).  The red dirt road contrasts spectacularly with the blue water and lush greens of Gloucester Island as you come over ‘o my god hill’.  Five more bumpy minutes and you arrive at Montes, an old beach resort with great pub food.  You’ll spend much longer here than planned, which is fine as there’s a great ground level trampoline and plenty of shells for the kids to collect.

8. Have a fantastic family day in Bowen

Bowen (45 minutes from Airlie Beach) is home to several palm-lined, sandy beaches fringing protected bays.  There’s a small, free water park (suits 2-14 years) at Front Beach, with BBQ facilities in the shady park overlooking the ocean.  Or ‘Food Freaks’ at the Yacht Club is a great spot for lunch, with a large, fenced yard for kids to run around while parents enjoy a refreshing ale.

9. Enjoy a scenic flight over the Great Barrier Reef

Great Barrier Reef view from a plane. Credit: Tourism and Events Queensland
Great Barrier Reef view from a plane. Credit: Tourism and Events Queensland

If you want to splurge, then the ‘Panorama Tour’ it is.  Talk about rockstar – board your seaplane and depart on the adventure of a lifetime.  The tour includes two water landings – one at Whitehaven Beach for a picnic; and one at the reef for snorkelling.  Seeing the islands, beaches and reef from above is absolutely breathtaking, and worth every cent of this indulgence. 

Best for: children of all ages

Enjoy a Whitehaven Beach Seaplane Experience from Airlie Beach – Book now!

10. Step back in time at Collinsville

For a family that likes a bit of history, Collinsville has plenty (two hours’ drive from Airlie Beach).  Follow the mural trail and arrive at the charming town centre.  The Coalface Museum is a historical insight to the mining industry (best suited to kids aged 7 years and older), there’s fishing at the Weir just out of town, or simply play at Lion’s Park and cool off in the town pool. New café ‘Busti Latte’ do a great babycino.

Getting there

Fly into Whitsunday Coast Airport (in Proserpine), then transfer to Airlie Beach (approximately 40 minutes).

When to go

The Whitsundays enjoys a tropical climate year round, but the best time to go is winter.  The days are mild and sunny, and with many choosing cold climate locations to holiday in winter, availability of accommodation and tours is good.

Out & About With Kids Tips

What you should know:

  • The Whitsundays is a marine-based destination. Almost every activity involves a boat or a beach – that’s why you’re visiting right?  Just remember the basics – soft soled, closed-in shoes for kids on boats (or barefoot), seasick tablets if you think they’ll need them, and a pre-boarding family chat about boat safety.

  • The North Queensland sun – another major attraction of a Whitsundays holiday – can be very harsh, so make sure you reapply sunscreen regularly and carry adequate water to keep kids hydrated.

  • Most day trips are long, big days – early starts and late returns. Make sure you pack lots of snacks to keep energy levels high. While on the water keep the kids busy spotting marine life, enjoying the wind in their hair or tracking the islands on a map.

  • Marine stingers are an everyday part of life in the tropics, and full body lycra Stinger Suits are provided as standard on most day trips. Look on the bright side of these somewhat unattractive swimsuits – they’re excellent sun protection and make for amusing family photos.

  • Most tours take under 4’s for free – though you will usually need to bring your own food for them.

Credit Tourism and Events Queensland
Kids having fun at Airlie Beach Lagoon. Credit: Tourism and Events Queensland

Free things to do in Airlie Beach

  • Airlie Beach Lagoon

  • Bicentennial Boardwalk – runs oceanside from Cannonvale Beach to Airlie Beach (suitable for bikes, skateboards, scooters, dogs, prams, etc)

  • Cannonvale Botanic Gardens (besides Cannonvale Beach) – playgrounds, walkways, skate bowl, basketball court, public exercise equipment

  • Beachside markets (Airlie Beach foreshore every Saturday or if a Cruise Ship is visiting)


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Plantation Island MREC May24

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