Airlie Beach to Cairns self-drive with Whitsundays tour

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    Spend time on tropical Airlie Beach in Queensland | Travel Nation
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    Discover the underwater paradise of the Great Barrier Reef | Travel Nation

    Snorkel through the incredible Great Barrier Reef

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    Walk through the tropical Daintree Rainforest | Travel Nation

    Exploring the Daintree Rainforest walkway

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    Dig your heels in the soft silica sand of Whitehaven Beach

    Dig your heels in the soft silica sand of Whitehaven Beach | Photo credit: Tourism & Events Queensland

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    Snorkel the Great Barrier Reef in more detail with a full day’s exploration at Dunk Island

    Snorkel the Great Barrier Reef in more detail with a full day’s exploration at Dunk Island | Photo credit: Tourism & Events Queensland

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    Relax on the sands of Mission Beach, Australia | Travel Nation

    Relax on the sands of Mission Beach, Australia

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    For extra excitement, try booking a seaplane over to Whitehaven Beach | Travel Nation

    For extra excitement, try booking a seaplane over to Whitehaven Beach

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    Take the Kuranda scenic railway through the rainforest | Travel Nation

    Take the Kuranda scenic railway through the rainforest

Trip ideas

Duration(in days): 8

From: Airlie Beach

To: Cairns



Exc. International flights (per person, based on 2 sharing)

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See more ideas for: Australia

    Take an 8-day self-drive through the highlights of Northern Queensland and join a Whitsundays tour of the islands. Encounter the pure white sands of Airlie Beach, take in panoramic views from a coastal lookout point and sail out into the Whitsunday Islands. Snorkel on the Great Barrier Reef in seclusion at Mission Beach before exploring the ancient, verdant rainforest that carpets the landscape beside Palm Cove

    Beginning in Airlie Beach, take your time exploring this lovely seaside town before embarking on a sailing trip to the Whitsunday Islands. Visit the mesmerizingly beautiful Whitehaven Beach where sands swirl enchantingly in the water. Then head north to Mission Beach to snorkel over the Great Barrier Reef, where you’ll find fewer crowds to distract. Finally, end your journey in Palm Cove, where the ancient rainforest meets tropical palm-fringed beaches.

    This itinerary can be tailored to suit your requirements please contact one of our consultants to start planning your dream trip.


    • Dig your heels in the soft silica sand of Whitehaven Beach
    • Enjoy the nightlife of Airlie Beach’s bohemian bars
    • Snorkel the quieter part of the Great Barrier Reef from Mission Beach
    • Roam through the lush greenery of the world’s oldest rainforest from Palm Cove


    Itinerary in brief:

    • 3 nights Airlie Beach
    • 2 night Mission Beach
    • 2 nights Palm Cove


    Day 1: Arrive Airlie Beach

    On arrival into Proserpine Airport, collect your hire car and make the 30-minute drive to Airlie Beach. The rest of the day is yours to explore this small seaside town.

    Day 2: Airlie Beach

    Today we’ve included a full day catamaran Whitsundays tour to the notably beautiful Whitehaven Beach with its striking, azure waters and fine white silica sands. Enjoy a leisurely cruise along the full length of the beach, before taking a guided walk to a lookout point. Depending on sea conditions, you could also cross to Esk Island to a small reef area to snorkel, or simply laze on the beach and cool off in the pristine waters.

    Day 3: Airlie Beach

    Today is your last full day in Airlie Beach so make sure you make the most of this lively little town. Shute Harbour Road is dotted with alfresco cafes, restaurants and bars that are laidback by day and bustling with life by night. The Airlie Beach Lagoon is a really popular spot for a safe swim, or to find a shady spot to read books. For the more daring, jet skiing and crocodile safaris are amongst some of the tours you can book while in town!

    Day 4: Airlie Beach to Mission Beach

    It’s a long drive up to Mission Beach today (around 6 hours) so make time for a pit stop in Townsville for lunch to break up your journey.

    After you check in, you have the remainder of the day at leisure. The small town of Mission Beach is also a hotspot for adrenaline junkies with skydiving, rafting and scuba diving on offer.

    Day 5: Mission Beach

    We’ve included another day tour today, so you can snorkel the Great Barrier Reef in more detail with a full day’s exploration at Dunk Island. All equipment will be provided so just turn up and enjoy the marine life up close!

    By embarking on this tour away from the hustle and bustle of the popular gateways towns of Cairns and Airlie Beach you’ll enjoy a more personal and secluded experience to maximise your enjoyment of this region.

    Day 6: Mission Beach to Palm Cove

    2 hours drive up the coast you’ll find yourself in Northern Queensland’s tropical Palm Cove, named for the palm trees that fringe the beach. Quieter and more relaxed in vibe than its surrounding towns, you’ll enjoy a slower pace here sauntering around the boutique shops, galleries, spas and restaurants.

    Day 7: Palm Cove

    We've included a tour to snorkel on the Great Barrier Reef. This unique tour will take you out to the reef to swim amongst the colourful coral and shimmering fish where you'll be joined by both marine biologists and Indigenous Cultural Guides to learn about the Aboriginal culture and Dreamtime stories about the creation of the Great Barrier Reef. It's the perfect way to experience this wonder of the world whilst also learning about native Australian history and storytelling.

    Day 8: Departure

    Check out of your hotel and head to Cairns airport to drop off your car hire before your onward flight.


    In northern Queensland, there are benefits to visits at any time of year. December to February signifies the ‘wet season’, which means wet and humid conditions, however, this also translates to very little wind and so excellent visibility in the water. The humidity drops in April onwards, which is considered the start of the ‘dry season’, so it can be a cooler temperature but a little windier. October and November are peak dive months.

    Are you looking for more Australia ideas?

    We’re experts in planning tailor-made holidays, so whether you’re looking for a luxury Australia holiday, ideas for a road trip, a Great Barrier Reef holiday or multi-stop flights to Australia with stopovers – let us help you with the planning. Our experts can tailor-make precisely the trip you’re looking for - this itinerary is purely a suggestion, so please contact us with your dates and requests, and we’ll put together a bespoke quotation for you.

    What's included
    • 7 nights’ accommodation
    • Avis Rental Car- Intermediate car- Inclusive insurance
    • Continental breakfast in Mission Beach
    • Whitehaven Beach Adventure & Hill Inlet Cruise
    • Full Day Reef Exploration Cruise Dunk Island
    Not included
    • International flights
    • Any meals not mentioned
    • Personal expenses
    • Tips, insurance & gratuities