Australia.com does not support the internet browser you are using. Please upgrade to a more recent browser so that you can explore the destinations and experiences that await you as you plan your Australian holiday.
You can swim, snorkel, dive and sail the World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef, a living masterpiece so big it can been seen from outer space.
You can swim, snorkel, dive and sail the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef, a living masterpiece so big it can be seen from outer space.
It stretches more than 2,000 kilometres along the Queensland coast, from the mainland towns of Port Douglas to Bundaberg. Hop between the pristine, palm-fringed islands on top, then explore the rainbow-coloured coral islands and marine life below.
Five ways to explore the Great Barrier Reef:
1. From the top, island hop
Party in Airlie Beach, hit the water sports on Hamilton, honeymoon on luxurious Hayman or just chill out on the soft, white sand of Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island. For accommodation, you’ll find everything from five-star resorts to the back-to-nature simplicity of tents in natural settings. You can go castaway on many of Great Barrier Reef’s lush island national parks. There’s Green and Fitzroy islands near Cairns, and Dunk, Bedarra,Hinchinbrook and Orpheus islands further south. Head to Hayman, Heron and Lizard Islands for superior resorts and diving.
Great Barrier Reef, QLD
Explore Vlasoff Cay with a 360° video
Visit the Great Barrier Reef and experience the highlights, including Airlie, Whitehaven and Mission Beaches aswell as the breathtaking nature and wildlife. See it all with this 360° video.
Check out the technicolour coral and marine life through a glass-bottomed boat from coastal hubs such as Cairns, Port Douglas, Townsville,Bundaberg, Rockhampton, Mackay, Mission Beach and Airlie Beach. Or experience the reef’s smooth seas, deep drop offs, underwater tunnels and caves with a dive school or day trip operator. Snorkel or dive the edge of the continental shelf at Agincourt Reef from Cairns, explore the SS Yongala shipwreck from Townsville and Magnetic Island and the Llewellyn shipwreck from Mackay. See sea stars, crabs corals, molluscs at Fitzroy, Capricorn and Bunker Reefs near Gladstone. Or kick through vivid coral canyons and past marine turtles near Lady Elliot and Lady Musgrave Islands. In the Whitsundays, the warm clear water and psychedelic coral reefs are just a day trip from your Airlie Beach or island resort.
3. With wind in your sail
Set sail from Port Douglas for Low Isles, a secluded island jewel discovered by Captain Cook in 1770. Or charter a boat from Hamilton Island or Airlie Beach and coast through the turquoise water of the Whitsundays. Anchor overnight at picturesque moorings such as Whitehaven Beach, Cid Harbour and Butterfly Bay and visit the reefs of Black, Langford and Bird Island along the way. Stop for resort relaxation on Daydream, Hamilton or Long Islands. You can also take a bareboat from Cairns or Airlie Beach to the outer Greater Barrier Reef. Learn to sail with fully qualified staff or take on a skipper until you feel confident enough to take the wheel. You can also charter vessels from Maxi Racers to catamarans, complete with a trained crew. Or meet new people on a fully crewed overnight charter.
Daintree National Park, QLD
4. Smelling rainforest air
Trek, camp and commune with nature in the region’s national parks, which stretch from Cape York to the lush Whitsunday islands. Cruise down the Daintree River and visit Mossman Gorge in the Daintree Rainforest. Spot nocturnal wildlife and swoon at Bloomfield Falls when you reach Cape Tribulation, where the forest plunges literally to the reef. Bushwalk through gorges and subtropical and tropical rainforests in Eungella National Park, set in the mist-shrouded mountains west of Mackay. Picnic under swamp mahoganies and red gums and take in scenic lookout and rich bird and wildlife. In the Whitsunday National Park, you can walk from Tongue Bay on Whitsunday Island for great views. Or see precious rock art by the Ngaro people at Nara Inlet, Hook Island. Camp, wake to birdsong, swim on deserted beaches and smell fragrant rainforest air on Hook, Long, Cid, North and South Molle Islands to name a few.
5. With your adrenalin pumping
Soar over the Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef on a scenic helicopter flight to Green Island. Spectacular Heart Reef is located on Hardy Reef in the Whitsundays and is best experienced from a seaplane or helicopter. Combine a snorkelling day trip to the reef from Cairns with a hot air balloon ride over the Atherton Tablelands. Take a luxury catamaran from Cairns and Port Douglas to the outer Great Barrier Reef. Or drift between Cairns and Townsville on a luxury three-day cruise. Stay on Airlie Beach or at a resort on Hamilton or Daydream Island and try your hand at parasailing, boating, bushwalking, sea-kayaking, fishing, snorkelling and more.
More Holiday Ideas
See what else there is near here to inspire your holiday planning.
Leap from Cairns into the World Heritage wonders of the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest. Relax in the resorts of Port Douglas and Mission Beach or on Lizard Island. Take the old railway to Kuranda, or follow the Great Tropical Drive to white water rivers and the Atherton Tablelands. Head north to Cape Tribulation or take the Savannah Way for an outback journey.
The 2,300-kilometre Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef system in the world. Home to diverse marine life of the most vivid colours, experiencing the Reef is a life-changing adventure, whether you do it in luxury or on a budget. See the Reef by scuba, snorkel, glass-bottom boat, jet ski, semi-submersible, sail boat, from the air or even skydive to completely immerse yourself in this wonder of the world.
10 days sailing
It's hard to beat the romance of sailing through the Whitsundays - 74 idyllic, mostly uninhabited islands tucked inside the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Think clear moonlit nights, spectacular sunsets, secluded beaches and pure air. You can sail, swim, snorkel and dive at sheltered anchorages such as Blue Pearl, Butterfly and Hook Island Bays. Soak up the resort atmosphere of Hamilton Island, bushwalk through national park on South Molle and relax in Hayman Island's five star luxury. Visit Whitsunday Island and walk the pure white, silica sands of Whitehaven Beach.
The coastal village of Airlie Beach is a vibrant town filled with palm-fringed beaches, waterfront parks and alfresco dining restaurants. You are sure to instantly warm to its bohemian charm and carefree and relaxed attitude. Airlie Beach is also the gateway to the Whitsundays, the 74 pristine islands in the north of Queensland's Great Barrier Reef where you can visit luxurious island resorts and sip cocktails by the pool, bask in the sun or relax in a spa. Queensland's warm, tropical climate means that winters at Airlie Beach are very mild and perfect for enjoying water activities all year round.