Bushwalks in Airlie Beach
Conway National Park protects the state’s largest area of tropical rainforest outside of Tropical North Queensland. Park vegetation also includes mangroves, open forest, paperbark woodland, hoop pines and lowland rainforest—similar to the Whitsunday islands, which were once part of the mainland. Today, the park’s steep, rocky cliffs overlook the islands, and the beautiful Whitsunday Passage.
Adjoining the park to the west, in the rugged Conway Range, is the Conway State Forest. Once selectively logged for rainforest timber, it now protects lowland tropical rainforest and rugged peaks with panoramic views. Its rainforest has persisted through climate fluctuations over thousands of years, providing a refuge for wildlife. Conway Conservation Park covers a small area north of Shute Harbour. In total, the national park, conservation park and state forest cover over 33 000 ha of land.
With short walks to quiet beaches and uphill hikes to island views, Conway National Park and State forest caters to a range of interests and itineraries. Before you go, please check track conditions with QPWS Airlie Beach. Tracks may be closed during seasonal flooding and park management activities.
Walks are numbered on the map for your reference.
1. Coastal Fringe Circuit
1.2 km. Grade: easy. Access: Conway picnic area
Starting at Conway picnic area, this track passes through lowland rainforest and crosses a small tidal creek. Take a self-guide brochure from leaflet boxes at either end of the track. (Please return the brochure when finished.)
2. Hayward Gully
1.6km. Grade: easy. Access: Conway picnic area
This track branches off the Coastal Fringe Circuit to continue through lowland forest to Hayward Gully, with its lowland rainforest and rocky gullies.
3. Swamp Bay
2.1km. Grade: moderate. Access: Mt Rooper carpark
Starting from the car park, this track passes the foot of Mt Rooper to arrive at Swamp Bay, where a coral-strewn beach offers views of the Molle islands. Return on the same track. Signs along this track and Mt Rooper track describe Indigenous use of local plants.
4. Mt Rooper
Mount Rooper offers views via four walking options. The turn-off is 200 metres along the Swamp Bay track. All distances are from this car park.
Conway Outlook 800 m. Grade: moderate. Access: Mt Rooper carpark
This first section of the Mt Rooper Circuit climbs up through mixed forests for a view over Shute Harbour to the Conway Range. Either return from this outlook or walk on.
Mt Rooper Lookout 2.3 km. Grade: moderate Access: Mt Rooper carpark
Continue on from Conway Outlook. The shallow, stony clay soils support brush box, grasstrees, wattles and other woodland vegetation. Soak up the panoramic vista of the Whitsunday Passage and islands at the summit.
Mt Rooper Circuit 5.4 km. Grade: moderate Access: Mt Rooper carpark
Continue from the lookout passing views to Daydream and North Molle islands, descend through mixed forest to meet the Swamp Bay track. Turn left and return to the car park to complete the circuit.
Mt Rooper Circuit and Swamp Bay 7.2 km. Grade: moderate Access: Mt Rooper carpark
Take in both the circuit and Swamp Bay tracks for a comfortable one-day walk. Enjoy a picnic at Swamp Bay.
5. Coral Beach
1.1km. Grade: moderate. Access: Coral Beach carpark
This track starts and finishes at Coral Beach car park. A brochure describing Indigenous use of the coastal environment is available from the leaflet box at the start. (Please return the brochure when finished.) Enjoy views across Whitsunday Passage from Coral Beach.
6. The Beak
620m. Grade: moderate. Access: Coral Beach carpark
620 m from Coral Beach. Grade: moderate After reaching Coral Beach continue on to The Beak. Walk east along Coral Beach and watch for the lookout symbol.
7. Kingfisher Circuit (part of the Great Whitsunday Walk)
2km. Grade: moderate. Access: Forestry Road carpark
Pick up a self-guide brochure at the start of this walk to learn about forest wildlife, including the fascinating buff-breasted paradise-kingfisher. From the car park, walkers will wind down into a moist rainforest valley, then ascend to an old logging road. Turn right to return to the car park or left for the Wompoo Walk. (Please return the brochure when finished.)
8. Wompoo Walk (part of the Great Whitsunday Walk)
3.5km. Grade: moderate. Access: Forestry Road carpark
Follow an old logging road, the start of the Whitsunday Great Walk, for 2.4 km and then turn left to reach a calm creek lined with Alexandra palms. Listen for wompoo fruit-doves calling from the canopy. This walk closes when creeks flood, so check conditions with QPWS Airlie Beach before going.
9. Great Whitsunday Walk
30km. Grade: difficult. Access: Forestry Road carpark
The Whitsunday Great Walk traverses Conway State Forest and Conway National Park. It is suitable only for fit, well-prepared walkers—long, steep sections are challenging and it can take up to three days to complete. Four bush camps are located along the walk, with the closest a day’s hike from the Forestry Road car park. See map on page 16 for more information. You must have a camping permit to camp along the walk. The Whitsunday Great Walk is closed annually for the summer wet season from 1 February to 31 March. Closures may be extended.
Important things to know: • There are four water tanks along the walk; fill water containers at every opportunity. Remember to treat all tank water before use. • Drink plenty of water to keep hydrated, especially when walking up steep slopes in humid conditions. • Fires are prohibited—bring a fuel stove for cooking. • Carry all your rubbish out with you
Day 1: Forestry Road car park to Repulse Creek camp 8.3 km. 3.5–4.5 hours Reach Repulse Creek camp Before reaching the camp, note the diversion to Repulse Creek, an ideal place to relax after setting up. At the Repulse Creek camp sign, choose one of the well hidden rainforest camps or continue 100 m along the track to the old logging clearing for a sunnier camp site. Push on to a bush camp? If wishing to walk further than Repulse Creek camp sites, there are bush camps (without facilities) 1.8 km (45 mins) and 3 km (1 hr) ahead. Remember to fill your water bottle here and check there will be sufficient light to continue.
Day 2: Repulse Creek camp to Bloodwood camp 11.5 km. 5–6 hours Stroll through drier forest Enjoy the gentle walk through drier forest, dominated by lemon myrtle trees with their beautifully scented leaves and flowers. Notice the first bush camp just before the creek crossing—once a logging dump. Reach your camp for the night Follow the ridge up to Bloodwood camp to enjoy views beyond Jubilee Pocket and camp among old bloodwoods. Continue 200 m past the camp to collect tank water.
Day 3: Bloodwood camp to Airlie Beach 8.5 km. 3.5–4.5 hours Wind along the ridge Follow the coastal ridge around towards Airlie Beach through lower vegetation tangled with vines. This forest survives on rocky soils, despite the harsh dry season and occasional tropical cyclones. Each time the track dips from the crest into the deep, moister soils of the sheltered slopes, feel the forest cool as giant milky pines shade the track. Extend your walk and discover a different view After descending through some taller forest punctuated with giant strangler figs, turn left at the Honeyeater track junction to extend the last day’s walk. This diversion will take about 1.5 hours and offers views beyond Cannonvale to the Dryander Range and the Whitsunday islands. Step out at Kara Crescent The further you descend, the louder the sounds of civilisation become. Step out from the forest into Kara Crescent and reflect on this rewarding three-day escape.
10. Honeyeater Lookout
8km. Grade: difficult. Access: Kara Crescent, Airlie Beach
This walk is a favourite amongst locals, but isn't for the faint-hearted. Allow for 3-4 hours return to the top of Kara crescent above Airlie Beach. At the fork in the path around half-way up turn right to go up to Honeyeater lookout for the most spectacular view across the Whitsunday Islands, it will truly take your breath away. A very rewarding view, pictured below.
To download a printable more extensive guide to bushwalking in the Whitsundays including the islands, click here.