An icon of the Australian coast, the Great Barrier Reef is home to some of the most beautiful sights in the world. With over 340,000 square kilometres to explore, the reef is simply a must see for anyone visiting Australia.
As the world’s largest coral reef system, the World Heritage Listed area is home to 980 individual islands and 1625 species of fish – that’s 10% of all species on the planet! Manta rays, humpback whales, turtles and much more can be found all along the reef.
What to Do
There are countless ways to enjoy the reef. The area features some of the best scuba diving locations, where you can get up close and personal with its diverse marine life. Swimming not your thing? See the reef from the air and take in its incomparable beauty with a scenic flight.
The Great Barrier Reef is also a great place to get involved with the efforts of local conservationists and learn about the environmental challenges facing the region. For educational activities that also have a low impact on the environment, there are many opportunities available. Visit the Museum of Underwater Art, an experimental underwater exhibit that provides both a unique experience and the chance to learn about reef conservation along the coast.
Guided tours are a fun and informative way to get right into the best parts of the coast while learning about the region’s rich history. See sea turtles hatch at the Mon Repos Conservation Park, take a tour with the Daintree Walkabout Cultural Adventures or coastal night-time walk to have your go at traditional Aboriginal mud crab spear fishing with Kuku Yalanji Cultural Habitat Tours.
How to Get Here
The Great Barrier Reef stretches all along Queensland’s coast. There are numerous starting points and ways to get to the Barrier Reef and its islands. Here are some of our favourites.
Cairns has an international airport which makes it a great first stop for travellers from overseas. Close to the peak of the state, Cairns is quite a drive from the capital city of Brisbane so your best is to fly in, whether you’re coming from interstate or internationally.
Port Douglas is a little tricker to get to as it doesn’t have its own airport. The spot is only an hour drive from Cairns, however, and well worth the trip as it’s known to be one of the coast’s most beautiful spots.
The Whitsundays are a collection of over 90 islands just off the northeast coast of Queensland. A popular tourist destination, the islands are known to be home to some of the world’s best beaches and the whitest sand you can find. It’s easy to fly into the airport on Hamilton Island to begin your reef exploration.
Townsville airport takes domestic flights from across the rest of the country and is a little over a 6-hour drive from Cairns. As it’s more of a built-up city, you’ll easily be able to find somewhere to stay in town and make day trips along the coast.
When to Go
Queensland has a tropical climate, and the weather is pretty great all year around. If you want to avoid the crowds, we’d recommend heading up to the reef during the summer period (November to March) – as long as you don’t mind a little rainfall. Throughout the year temperatures rarely fall below 18 degrees Celsius and average in the early 30s during the warmer months.