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Best way to Whitsundays from Cairns

United Kingdom
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98 posts
33 reviews
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Best way to Whitsundays from Cairns

Bus or plane are the options or I suppose driving. Are the prices similar? And how long is it by bus?

Brisbane, Australia
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2,280 posts
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1. Re: Best way to Whitsundays from Cairns


11 hours




12 hours




1.5 hours

$199 (to Hamilton Island)



7.5 hours (to Airlie Beach)

It's a nice drive/train ride if you have the time, but if not, fly direct into Hamilton Island.

Brisbane, Australia
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2. Re: Best way to Whitsundays from Cairns

Hi Clair and Dave,

gk has given you great information. I read your itinerary in a previous post and see that you plan to do a 3 day cruise and 3 nights stay on an island here in the Whitsundays.

If you plan to stay on one of the islands before the cruise I would recommend flying (if it's not too expensive for you). The airfare from Cairns to Hamilton Island can be $199 if you are lucky. It depends on what dates you are looking at. Check qantas.com.au if you have your date set. It can be as much as $400 pp one way some days.

If you plan to do the cruise first (I assume it will depart from Airlie Beach)? then it might be worth while to rent a car if you are not too tired from all the previous travelling. Some rental car companies allows drop offs in Airlie Beach (one way), but I don't know any prices on that sorry. It is a nice drive most of the way. I don't think you will save that much time by flying in to Hamilton Island and then taking the ferry across to the mainland straight away. Count in check in time in Cairns, ferry to mainland (30 mins direct, or 1hr that also stops at Daydream Island on the way) 20 mins transfer to Airlie Beach etc.

I have friends who have taken the bus, but they said it took forever because of all the stops.

I hope this helps a little. By the looks of it you will see a lot of places on the east coast of Australia. I'm sure you will have a great time.

Enjoy your trip!!

3. Re: Best way to Whitsundays from Cairns

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