Great Barrier Reef Guide
The largest coral reef system on Earth (it’s visible from space), Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is one of the world’s most coveted travel destinations. Stretched along more than 2,300 kilometres of northern Queensland coastline, the reef is made up of around 3,000 individual reef systems and coral cays along with 900 islands. This World Heritage-listed tropical paradise offers sun-drenched beaches, luxury island resorts and some of the best snorkelling and scuba diving you’ll find anywhere in the world. If clear blue waters, abundant tropical marine life and day after day of glorious sunshine is your idea of a dream holiday, the Great Barrier Reef will not disappoint.
Dive it, swim it, snorkel it, whatever you do – just get into the water. It doesn’t matter if you’re a qualified scuba diver or an absolute beginner, the Great Barrier Reef offers a huge range of amazing locations to dive or to learn.
Prefer to stay on top of the water? With hundreds of islands to choose from, island hopping is always on the agenda. The Whitsundays – a string of 74 picture-postcard islands – are perhaps the region’s best known. These idyllic islands, which include Hamilton, Daydream, Hayman, South Molle and Lindeman, offer excellent restaurants, stunning sailing expeditions and adventurous activities including skydiving. Check out mountainous Hayman Island for luxurious relaxation, hand-feed stingrays at the living reef on Daydream Island, or watch turtles hatch between November and March on tiny Heron Island.
For beach lazing head to the most iconic of Great Barrier Reef beaches – Whitehaven. No trip to this part of the world would be complete without exploring its 7 stunning kilometres of turquoise water and pure white sand. Composed of 98 percent silica, the magical white sand of Whitehaven Beach doesn’t retain heat so it’s always a comfortable temperature to walk on barefoot. Now that’s magic.
Being a world-class holiday destination, all major cities, coastal towns and islands of the Great Barrier Reef cater for the varied palate of hungry tourists. On the mainland you’ll find a great selection of casual alfresco restaurants serving modern Australian and international cuisine.
Naturally, fresh local fish in this region is second to none, so be sure to enjoy a seafood feast while you’re on the reef. For nightlife, Flinders Street East is Townsville’s hotspot for clubs, while Port Douglas boasts some excellent choices for a sophisticated cocktail by the harbour.
If you’re pressed for time, Cairns and Townsville offer great bases for reef tours and activities. The up-market resort towns of Port Douglas and Airlie Beach boast excellent accommodation options and offer great access to the islands. For island luxury, nowhere does it better than the Whitsundays. There are 7 major island resorts to choose from, with Hamilton, Daydream and Long Island providing good value family-friendly accommodation packages, while Hayman Island offers an idyllic refuge for opulent island living.
On the mainland, the night market in Cairns is a popular tourist attraction and a great place to pick up handmade crafts and souvenirs, while Cairns Central Shopping Centre offers high street stores. For a more local feel, the Saturday markets on Airlie Beach foreshore provide a great opportunity to pick up local produce or unique curios. Swing by any of the local fish markets in the area for super fresh seafood.
Great Barrier Reef like a Local
Although the Great Barrier Reef is an idyllic tourist destination, the area is also home to a thriving population of locals. Stunning scenery on the mainland means there’s never a shortage of walks and coastal drives to enjoy. Set your course for Mission Beach, which sits halfway between Townsville and Cairns. Set against an exquisite backdrop of lush rainforest, this authentic Aussie beachside town is a great spot to grab a coffee and kick back with the locals.