How to do the Whitsunday Coast on a budget

Think a Whitsundays getaway is out of your budget? Think again. With so much natural beauty, it’s easy to have a top-notch trip without breaking the bank.

Aerial view of Airlie Beach Lagoon, Whitsunday Coast. Image credit: Tourism and Events Queensland
  • Jetstar
  • June 2021

If you’re heading to the Whitsunday Coast, you can have a five-star tropical island holiday without the five-star price tag. Switch out the resorts and the high-end dining for secret beaches and seaside breakfasts, and live it up!

Find your secret beach

While Whitehaven Beach might have taken out the crown for the world’s best beach, the Whitsundays are an absolute feast of sandy delights. Ditch the big hitters in favour of discovering the more secluded, untouched ones. The views from Boathaven Beach will have you settling in for a memorable sunset after a day floating in the waters. Rose Bay, just along from Horseshoe Bay in Bowen is another quiet beauty. Alternatively, go exploring Cedar Creek Falls and find your own private swimming hole.

Person on SUP at secluded beach at Bowen, Whitsunday Coast. Image credit: Tourism and Events Queensland
Find a secluded beach on Bowen and enjoy that exclusive feeling!

Barbecue at Airlie Beach Lagoon

The Whitsundays is the land of fresh, luscious, tropical food. So why not get some fresh fish (if you haven’t gone fishing and caught some yourself) and head to the free barbecues at Airlie Beach Lagoon? This landscaped park and pool is free for everyone to use and it’s a delightful central feature of Airlie Beach. The lagoon is surrounded by grassy knolls to lounge and relax on, and there’s a sandy, shallow beach at one end that’s ideal for kids.

Children play in the man-made lagoon at Airlie Beach, Whitsunday Coast, Queensland. Image credit: Martin Valigursky/
Airlie Beach Lagoon blends tropical vibes with family-friendly fun. Image credit: Martin Valigursky/

Hike the Conway Circuit

Of course, the Whitsundays is all about the beaches, but there are rainforests too. Talk about nature’s bounty! You’ll find Conway National Park on the hills of Airlie Beach; a coastal park with hiking and mountain-biking tracks that lead you to some incredible panoramic views. You’ll also find some secluded beaches hidden within. There are trails to suit all fitness levels, but for serious hikers, there’s the epic, three-day Conway Circuit.

A view of boats on blue water and the hills of Conway National Park in the background, Whitsunday Coast, Queensland.
The panoramas keep coming as you walk the Conway Circuit

Go snorkelling in Bowen

If a snorkelling adventure on the Great Barrier Reef is out of your budget, head to Bowen. Not only does it have the Big Mango, it’s also a prime snorkelling spot. Head for the beautiful, secluded Horseshoe Bay, grab your snorkel and dive down to explore the stunning reefs not far off shore. With the water so bright and sparkling, you can swim around the colourful coral gardens accompanied by hyper-coloured tropical fish.

People swimming in the shallows at a Bowen beach, Whitsunday Coast. Image credit: Tourism and Events Queensland
Enjoy sensational snorkelling in Bowen. Image credit: Tourism and Events Queensland

Breakfast at Lions Airlie Beach Community Market

Every Saturday morning, the Airlie Beach foreshore transforms into a gorgeous community seaside market. There’s fresh produce (hello, picnic lunch), entertainment, locally made souvenirs, arts, crafts, food trucks and stalls and the all-important coffee. Grab a gift or grab a snack for a seaside breakfast to enjoy under the shade of the palm trees. Fun fact: when there’s a cruise ship in town, they run Cruise Ship Markets!

People strolling along the outdoor Airlie Beach market with the beach and palm trees in the background, Whitsunday Coast, Queensland. Image credit: Olga Kashubin/
Stroll the laidback seaside market for a great start to the weekend. Image credit: Olga Kashubin/