15 Tips For A Wonderful Whitsundays Family Vacation

You may consider this remote, dreamy Australian heaven a lover’s paradise, but the Whitsundays was also made for families. My kids have lovingly labeled it our “Whitsundays Family Vacation”. The vacation they will never forget.

It was special for a few reasons.

One, it was the first time the kids and I had been away since our nomadic travels ended in 2016. We had taken several trips to Perth, but that is more like a second home to us than a holiday. So, it was exciting to be back on the road with them.

Second, it was the first time we had holidayed with my partner. Introducing the kids to someone new is always nerve-racking, but my kids seemed pretty excited to have Ahmet along. I was completely open and transparent with them, giving them a choice in the situation and they were all for having a fourth person join us on our Whitsundays family vacation.

Lastly, it was the first official Explore With Erin fam trip. So, I give many many thanks to Whitsundays Tourism for the invitation to keep our travel dreams alive.

So, off we went. And here are our best 15 tips to make the most out of your Whitsundays family vacation.

Whitsundays family vacation - snorkel kids

1. Fly straight to Prosperine

Melbourne has direct flights to Prosperine, which is approximately a 15-minute drive to Airlie Beach. Airlie Beach is the town where most tourists head to. It’s where all the boat cruises leave from, where the majority of the resorts are, and the good shopping.

The airport in Prosperine is tiny. Consider eating before you arrive for your flight back home. There is one café and we found the line to be quite long. We skipped it for a meal on the plane… Which in hindsight was probably not the best idea. What do you call this Jetstar? $9 sandwich!

Whitsundays family vacation. - Jetstar sandwich

The flight from Melbourne to Prosperine is 3 hours non-stop. We paid about $400 return, but you can check flights on my favourite aggregator, Skyscanner below.

Whitsundays family vacation - plane views

2. Don’t overpack

The Whitsundays are so laid back. I wish all I’d brought was swimmers and a coverup. You don’t need to pay for luggage. 7 kilogram carry on is more than enough.

Do consider packing a towel, because most boat tours have you snorkeling and do not provide towels. You may use your hotel ones, but some hotels do not let towels leave the premises… Plus everyone has the same type and it can get confusing.

It was chilly on some of the cruises, so bring a wind jacket for those wet afternoons home on a speedboat. But generally, we were in shorts and t-shirts or dresses every hour of the day. If we weren’t in swimsuits.

Lastly, do remember your sneakers. There are some great hikes around the place that will have you swapping out your beach thongs for laces.

3. Slip, slop, slap

An Australian jingle every child knows. Slip on a shirt, slop on some sunscreen, and slap on a hat.

During your packing do not forget your sunscreen. As you can see below, the Australian sun is unforgiving. I didn’t think we would need the Aloe Vera, I wish I had brought it.

Can you believe I bought a brand-new hat for the Whitsundays and forgot it? Don’t forget your hat!

Whitsundays family vacation - Do not disturb

4. Time your visit

Our visit was during winter in Australia. Temperatures ranged from 26C each day to a low of 17C at night. Water temperature was around 20C. CHILLY.  But far better than the cold, foggy mornings we were having in Melbourne.

Winter is considered the high season in the Whitsundays. , because everyone is escaping from the cold bottom of Australia.

If you are visiting from overseas make sure you check each state school holidays, as they differ and you don’t want to be stuck vying for a spot on a busy white sand beach.

5. Choosing your method to get around

We hired a car from the Hertz stand at Prosperine for a few days, returning it in Airlie Beach. I always find hiring a car a great way to cart family around. Plus, it gives you the freedom to explore and discover places off the tourist map.

If you don’t wish to hire a car, taxi cabs are in abundance and you can also get a shuttle. The Whitsundays Transit shuttle from Airlie Beach to the airport was quick and very comfortable.

Whitsundays family vacation - shuttle

The taxi cab number is 13 10 08. Or you can download an app.

6. Choosing a place to stay

There is a place for all budgets and all vacation preferences. Travelocity has more than 150 properties in Airlie Beach and you can check the prices here.

We stayed at three different places which should help your decision making. You can read an in-depth review here.

Sky View Units in Bowen

This motel is literally on the beach. It’s quiet, very laid back and you’ll love this place if you are on a budget and wanting to avoid the tourist crowds. Our family room consisted of 2 bedrooms, lounge, dining, and a full kitchen. Check latest prices here. 

Whitsundays family vacation - Sky View Apartments

Big4 Adventure Whitsunday Resort

This is a Whitsundays family vacation paradise. My kids never wanted to leave. Set more in your mid-range accommodation this resort has plenty of budget options too. Park your caravan or rent a cabin. Our cabin was a giant 3 bedroom, 2 bathrooms opposite the brand-new waterpark. Plus, full kitchen, dining and living room. 

Mirage Whitsundays

For those looking to really enjoy sunsets in a luxury setting, the spectacular Mirage Whitsundays is the pick for your Whitsundays family vacation. 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, full kitchen, dining and living. A delicious buffet breakfast is included for all guests with made to order eggs. Yum. Click here for the latest prices. 

Whitsundays family vacation - Mirage

7. Dine out and dine in

There are so many incredible restaurants in the Whitsundays you are going to want to eat out every meal. If that’s your Whitsundays family vacation dream than check out our Where to eat in the Whitsundays post here.

Whitsundays family vacation - fish and chips

If after a very long day you would rather eat in then head to the local supermarkets, Coles or Woolworths, grab your groceries and prepare those family rooms in your kitchen.

Another great alternative is to order catering like this dinner and breakfast waiting in our fridge when we arrived at Big4. Such a great service.

Whitsundays family vacation - catering

8. Pace yourself

You may want to see the Great Barrier Reef and Whitehaven so badly you excitedly book days and days of water tours. Pace yourself. Days on the water can be long and exhausting without even realising it.

Whitsundays family vacation - snorkel

You have so much fun swimming and spending time in the sun, you barely realise how much energy you have spent until it’s 10 pm and you are falling asleep watching a movie on the couch. Ahem, us every single night lol.

Definitely book that Ocean Rafting trip to Whitehaven beach. And don’t forget Cruise Whitsundays to the Great Barrier Reef, but leave a day in between to enjoy your resort or sit on a beach or shop just so you can recover before hitting all the glorious, hypnotic ocean once more.

Check Whitehaven Beach tour prices here. 

Check Great Barrier Reef tour prices here.

Whitsundays family vacation - Ocean Rafting

9. Days Off: Prosperine

Speaking of days off there are so many places nearby you can enjoy. Prosperine is a small, quirky town with some hidden gems. Hit up local stores like Colour Me Crazy for a unique souvenir to take home.

Or drive out 20 minutes past sugar cane fields to Prosperine Lake for a picnic with a view. Don’t hesitate to pull over for a few photos in the fields. Just don’t venture in too far. Australia has snakes!

Whitsundays family vacation - Prosperine sugar canes

10. Days Off: Bowen

Approximately an hour’s drive north is Bowen. A town steeped in history right on the water’s edge. In fact, it’s the oldest town in North Queensland, first established in 1861. Its beaches are some of the best in the world and you’ll want to take in a sunset on any one of them.

Whitsundays family vacation - Bowen

Horseshoe Bay has an excellent hike for views across the water. And the pier is a wonderful walk to spot turtles, rays, and dolphins.

Whitsundays family vacation - Bowen views

11. Eat Mango

While you are out touring other sites on the mainland make sure you plan a stop at The Big Mango. You’ll also find some delicious, yummy, mango sorbet on site.

Whitsundays family vacation - mango

12. Visit the free pool in Airlie Beach

If you’re stopping n Airlie Beach for a spot of tourist shopping after your days on the water. Then don’t fear you can still get wet. Airlie Beach has a free public pool. It’s clean and a popular spot to lay around and catch some rays.

13. Head to Paradise

The Whitsundays is made up of 74 islands. But two of my favourites below are an absolute must:

Whitehaven Beach

If the swirling white sands don’t captivate you sifting through the bluest waters, then the white sand beach will entice you to never leave. Take a hike to the top for the best views and then spend hours just enjoying the water, the sand, the selfies.

Whitsundays family vacation - whitehaven

Daydream Island

It’s been closed for two years but is getting ready to reopen, all renovated from the awful hurricane that ripped through. This island is only 1im long and features just one resort. But you won’t get bored. Outdoor cinema, a living reef, water sports. I can’t wait to hit up Daydream Island when it opens later this year.

14. Leave time to rest

With so many amazing Whitsundays family vacation options you may leave the Whitsundays more tired than when you arrived. So, build in time to rest. Enjoy an afternoon at your resort letting the kids play by the pool, watching the sunset, sipping a cocktail or beer.

Whitsundays family vacation - pool time

15. Watch a sunset or 3

You won’t want to miss a sunset in the Whitsundays. Bright oranges, pale pinks, all shimmering across the spectacular blue ocean. The perfect way to complete your Whitsundays family vacation.

Whitsundays family vacation - sunset



Pin 15 tips for a wonderful Whitsundays family vacation - your need to know guide before you go!   Pin 15 tips for a wonderful Whitsundays family vacation - your need to know guide before you go!


Travelocity has over 240 properties in the Whitsundays including hotels, apartments, and hostels. You get free cancellation on most rooms and the best price guaranteed. Click here to start your vacation! 


Want to take an organised tour to the Great Barrier Reef? Then I recommend these ones through Viator.

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We love RentalCars.com because they have the best car rental prices – Guaranteed. Try it. 


Skyscanner is a comparison website that searches millions of flights. The best part of Skyscanner is it is simply a flight aggregator so in the end, you book directly through the airline.

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Showing 3 comments
  • Lisa

    Thanks Erin! We are thinking about a trip to Australia soon. Of course, I had to check out your recommendations! Thanks for all of your tips here!

    • Erin

      So glad you came. I plan on getting lots more up soon! Anything I can help, just email.

  • Reply

    hey awesome post

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