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10 best day trips with kids in The Whitsundays

Long time Airlie Beach resident and mum of two, Danielle Krista shares her Top 10 best day trips in the Whitsundays for kids

Whitsundays Heart Reef Queensland
Whitsundays Heart Reef, Queensland

The Whitsundays is Australia’s aquatic wonderland – tropical islands and beaches, brilliant blue water and endless ‘WOW’ views. Airlie Beach on the Whitsunday Coast is the epicentre, full of happy locals sharing their love for this beautiful region. While there’s plenty to enjoy in Airlie Beach itself, you’re spoilt for choice with loads of day trips to explore this magnificent region. Next, the best 10-day-trip ideas with kids in The Whitsundays:

1. Have an unforgettable Great Barrier Reef adventure

Explore the beauty of the Great Barrier Reef. Credit Cruise Whitsundays
Explore the beauty of the Great Barrier Reef. 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). There are ample flotation devices and kids’ snorkelling gear, and the crew makes it extra special, with plentiful facts and a helping hand. 

Visit: cruisewhitsundays.com.au

Best for: children of all ages.

2. Enjoy a unique Tall Ship sailing adventures on board of the Derwent Hunter

Classic tallship sailing aboard the Derwent Hunter CREDIT Tourism Whitsundays
Classic tallship sailing aboard the Derwent Hunter. Credit: Tourism Whitsundays

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

Visit: tallshipadventures.com.au

Best for: 4+ years

3. Thrills and Chills with Red Cat Adventures!

Thundercat takes you on a thrilling ride. Credit: Red Cat Adventures
Thundercat takes you on a thrilling ride. Credit: Red Cat Adventures

Get the adrenalin 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, and gets you to your destination faster. Adventurous families will love this tour that includes two beaches, two snorkels and the easy bushwalk to Hill Inlet lookout. 

Visit: redcatadventures.com.au

Best for: 4+ years

4. Visit the Hamilton Island with your kids

The largest island resort, Hamilton Island is packed with activities. The best way to see it in one day is on 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 other 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. 

Visit: cruisewhitsundays.com.au

Best for: children of all ages

5. Have a fun family day at the world famous Whitehaven Beach

Family time on Whitehaven Beach. Credit: Tourism and Events Queensland
Family time on Whitehaven Beach. Credit: Tourism and Events Queensland

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. 

Visit: cruisewhitsundays.com.au

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

6. Enjoy and unforgettable Whitsunday Crocodile Safari experience

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. 

Visit: crocodilesafari.com.au

Best for: children of all ages

7. Rockstar

If you want to splurge, then the ‘Panorama Tour’ it is. 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. 

Visit: airwhitsunday.com.au

Best for: children of all ages

8. Bowen

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

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. 

Visit: tourismbowen.com.au

9. Hidden away

Hydeaway 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.

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 illustrates the history of 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’ does a great babycino.

Fact File

Getting there:

  • Fly in to Whitsunday Coast Airport (in Proserpine), and transfer to Airlie Beach (approximately 40 minutes).
  • The ‘Spirit of Queensland’ travels the coast five times a week, stopping at Proserpine Railway Station with connections to Airlie Beach.

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.

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