A visit to the Great Barrier Reef will be an unforgettable experience and is included in the majority of Australia travel packages for good reason! Whether you fly over it, cruise on top of it or dive or snorkel at one of its many famed sites, the size and beauty of this natural wonder will stay with you forever.
Modes of Transport
Cairns International Airport has direct flights from all major Australian cities and is the jumping-off point for the northern part of the reef, including charter flights to many of the Islands.
Another option is to fly into Proserpine Airport which is 26kms from Airlie Beach, known as the Gateway to the Whitsundays. There are direct flights from Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney.
The airport at Hamilton Island, known as the Great Barrier Reef Airport, is the launch pad for scenic flights to the reef and magnificent Whitehaven Beach. Catch direct flights to Hamilton Island from Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney.
There are train services that run between Brisbane and Cairns, hugging the scenic coast; these take around 25 hours of travel time and are an experience in themselves. There is the option of disembarking in Proserpine and transferring to Airlie Beach or Hamilton Island.
Depending how much time you have for your Australia vacation, doing a self-drive holiday that covers the east coast of northern Queensland is a fantastic way to explore the lesser known dive sites and quaint coastal towns. Whether you are beginning your journey in Sydney, Brisbane or Cairns, the Great Barrier Reef Drive is one of the best Australian road trip routes that you can do and should definitely be considered if you’ve got enough time to include it. Here are a few tasters for what you can experience: 5 Day Whitsundays Break, 6 Day Rainforest and Reef Adventure Holiday. The best thing about all of our packages is that they can be completely customised to suit! Speak with us about how we can help you plan your ultimate Australia tour package!
When to go
With average temperatures of 27°C, it is warm year-round. Reef visibility is much better in winter (May to October) when the seas are calmer, and days are clear and sunny. This also coincides with the dry season. The hotter but rainier part of the year spans November to May. Click here for more information on when the best time to travel in Australia is.
Some of our favourite experiences
There are many ways to experience this natural wonder. When you envisage the Great Barrier Reef, you no doubt think of diving and snorkelling, but there are so many other unique ways to experience this World Heritage beauty. Entering the dramatic beauty of the Great Barrier Reef is an extraordinary experience. It engages all your senses, lifts your spirit and takes you into another realm.
Day Cruise from Cairns, Port Douglas, Airlie Beach or Hamilton Island.
Explore the different reefs, islands and cays in the Great Barrier Reef. Don your Scuba or snorkeling gear or hop into your kayak for a close encounter with the reef’s most famous marine residents. Choose to dive, snorkel, or stay dry and explore the stunning reef from the comfort of a semi-sub, just one metre below the surface. Watch the fish feeding from a unique underwater viewing platform and underwater observatory. Check out for 14 Day Antipodes Adventure for an unforgettable Australia and New Zealand holiday package including the best of the reef!
Go Deeper with a diving lesson
If there was one place on the planet to learn to scuba dive, the Great Barrier Reef would be it. This world-renowned, 2,300-kilometre stretch of pristine marine paradise is home to some of the world’s rarest fish and the rainbow of colourful scales will captivate you from the moment you are submerged. Depending on the season, you may be able to dive with whales, sharks, turtles, manta rays, and just about every fish species under the sun. This is definitely something that books out, so be sure to pre-book this when planning your itinerary.
The Liveaboard Trip
The ultimate Great Barrier Reef overnight experience departs from Cairns. Spend your days and nights exploring the best outer Great Barrier Reef dive sites aboard your floating accommodation, with snorkel, introductory dive and certified dive options available.
The Paddle out
Glide across the seas and give the arms and abs a workout as you get acquainted with fringing coral reefs and un-inhabited islands in a sea kayak.
The Reef Sleep
When you’re ready to hunker down after your Great Barrier Reef adventure of choice, this might be the most unique spot to rest your head. As the day-trippers depart and the sun starts to descend, a lucky few will experience the reef environment exclusively, whether relaxing on the sundeck with a drink and a three-course meal, stargazing the southern hemisphere sky, marvelling at the glorious sunset and sunrise, or enjoying a private snorkel and glass bottom boat tour. This permanently moored pontoon lies 39 nautical miles from the shore and when you rest your head at night, you will do so under the sparkling night sky, with the sound of the lapping waves gently caressing the sides of the structure.
Great Barrier Reef Submarines
Explore the beauty of the reef in a three-man mini-submarine. Taking a mini-sub ride means you don’t have to wrangle yourself into a wetsuit and scuba gear, making it less of a hassle than suiting up for a snorkel or dive. Two guests climb aboard the mini-sub with the guide and then launch straight from the beach. In minutes you are submerged among the coral, ready to spot the reef.
The Helicopter Ride
Did you know that it is possible to see the Great Barrier Reef from space? No need to pack the space suit on this holiday, however; we can assure you, we are staying earthbound! The next best thing is to take a helicopter flight from Cairns and you will be soaring over the lush beauty of Green Island, bright patches of coral reef and fathomless shades of blue. There is also the choice to sail out to the Great Barrier reef and then take a helicopter ride over, giving you the best of both worlds. Opt for this experience this in our 21 Day Oz and NZ Natural Wonders package.
Whale watching season is June - September along the eastern seaboard of Australia.
Each year these clever animals undertake their 5,000km annual migration from Antarctica to the warm, calm waters along the Great Barrier Reef to give birth to their calves. From June to July you can have the unique experience of swimming with Dwarf Minke Whales; the Great Barrier Reef is the only place in the world where you can swim with these creatures. Swimming with dwarf Minke whales is an unforgettable experience, which will stay with you for life. These naturally inquisitive mammals are seemingly attracted to boats and people, coming up close to inspect the newcomers to their marine world. They may stay just a moment or spend minutes and sometimes even hours circling swimmers and divers in the water.