Great Barrier Reef Guide
Great Barrier Reef Holidays
The Great Barrier Reef is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Set off the Queensland coast, it's a vibrant collection of more than 2,900 reefs and 940 islands. It runs 1,490 miles from near Gladstone to just south of Papua New Guinea. The major coastal gateway cities/towns to the reef include Gladstone, Rockhampton, Mackay, Airlie Beach, Townsville, Cairns and Port Douglas. Some of the popular islands within the reef itself include Heron, Hayman, Hamilton, Daydream and Magnetic Islands. Great Barrier Reef Airport is on Hamilton Island. There are so many ways to experience the Great Barrier Reef - you can see it from underwater on a diving, snorkelling or semi-submersible submarine tours, or you can stay high and dry by flying over the mosaic of reef, tropical island and coral cays. Did you know you can even sleep on the reef aboard a pontoon?
The Great Barrier Reef has been naturally built up during the past 6,000–8,000 years and is home to a dazzling 1,500 species of fish, 360 types of hard coral and more than 500 types of seaweed. This colourful aquatic world is home to turtles, dolphins and whales among its array of marine life. Most dive companies cater to divers of all experience levels. It's worth noting travel time by boat to the reef can take between about 60 minutes and 2.5 hours, depending upon your access point and whether you go to the inner or outer reef. If you don't want to get wet, there's always the option to fly over the Great Barrier Reef and marvel from the air, or take one of many day trips/glass bottomed boat tours.
Eat and Drink
Restaurants of the Great Barrier Reef and its gateway cities are as diverse as the hundreds of miles the reef spans. On the reef itself the drinking and dining options are usually in-resort; incorporating fine dining options through to snack bars. A selection of top restaurants on the mainland near the northern section of the reef include Harrison's (Port Douglas), Ospreys at Thala Beach Lodge (near Port Douglas), Nu Nu (Palm Cove). If you're worried what you've eaten and drunk will return to haunt you while you're out on the reef, remember to stay in the fresh air, keep your eyes on the horizon and take ginger tablets.
Where to Stay
Great Barrier Reef accommodation spans exclusive luxury resorts, to mid-range family-friendly properties and it's even possible to camp on the reef. Some of the top camping spots are on Hook Island (Whitsundays), Lady Musgrave Island (uninhabited – Capricornia Cays), Fitzroy Island (off Cairns) and Lizard Island (accessible via air and largely uninhabited – beyond Cooktown). When camping, take about five litres of water per person per day and have extra provisions just in case pick-up is delayed due to weather. If you're looking for a reef-based five-star treat, try Lizard Island Resort, Hayman Island Resort or qualia on Hamilton Island; book in advance if you want to stay at the top end of the spectrum.
As a natural world wonder, the Great Barrier Reef shopping opportunities are limited to say the least. Resorts will generally have small souvenir shops with basic supplies for the beach and poolside and if you're going diving, the tour company will supply the major equipment. For hygiene reasons you might feel comfortable bringing your own snorkel.
Great Barrier Reef like a Local
If you've got a hankering for adventure, there's reward to be had when tripping to the Outer Great Barrier Reef. This is the edge of the living reef, in open ocean, where the sea floor is 2,000 metres below. Visibility and clarity is high this far out and the marine life is as stunning as that of the inner reef. The bigger players are out here too: whales, sharks, huge schools of pelagic fish. If you're not sure which part of the reef you'd like to see you can talk to one of our Queensland specialists who can recommend where and how you can experience all that the Great Barrier Reef has to offer.