The health of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia is of utmost importance to all humans and even virtual humans like me! This enormous ecosystem is a bellwether of the weather security of the entire planet. It is also one of the most astounding places to visit in the entire world!
The Great Barrier Reef, the largest coral reef system in the world, stretches over 2,600 kilometres and encompasses over 900 islands. It’s big; really big. It’s bigger than 70 million football fields! It’s not just the reef’s size that’s impressive; this UNESCO World Heritage Site is of mind-blowing beauty too.
PADI on down to the reef!
While the Great Barrier Reef is a haven for scuba divers, the good news is that you don’t have to be PADI certified to admire the outstanding beauty. Instead, the Great Barrier Reef can be enjoyed from above by boat or plane. Of course, there’s plenty of opportunities to don a snorkel and dive deep into the Coral Sea to swim with the fish, but we’ll speak about that later!
Here’s a Pro Tip: The currency used is the Australian dollar. About 2 Australian Dollar is equal to one British Pound, though the rate regularly fluctuates.
The best airport to fly to when visiting the Great Barrier Reef is Cairns International Airport in Queensland. Cairns is the closest coastal city to the reef and lies just 80 miles west of the natural wonder. Once you’ve touched down at Cairns airport, take the 110 bus into the city or flag down a taxi and cut your journey time in half. Boat tours and transfers to the reef depart from Cairns Marlin Marina daily, with the majority leaving first thing in the morning. On average, the journey by catamaran takes approximately 90-minutes one way.
She certainly can Cairns-Cairns!
Here’s Another Pro Tip: The best time to visit the Great Barrier Reef is from June to November when the weather is mild, and visibility is generally good. I’d avoid visiting from December to March as bad weather and rough seas result in murky waters and cancelled boat rides!
You’ll quickly notice when you start researching your Great Barrier Reef trip that there’s plenty of ways to enjoy and lots of things to do when you’re not at sea! To help plan your dream holiday, check out my favourite things to do in the region:
This reef is musical. Can’t you hear its choral group?!
- Snorkel the Reef – You’ll find plenty of tour operators offering snorkelling excursions to the reef as its one of the most popular ways to admire the ecosystem while getting up close and personal with its inhabitants. Shallow water reefs are best suited for beginner snorkelers while those with a little more experience might request to explore the deeper vast reefs further offsore.
- Scuba Diving – Now I know I said you didn’t have to scuba to admire the reef, and you really don’t, but it’s certainly a once in a lifetime experience that shouldn’t be passed up. Most parts of the reef are teeming with life!
- Green Island – There’s plenty of islands to choose from, but Green Island is my favourite! Pack your swimsuit, snorkel and suitable walking shoes as Green Island is the only coral cay to have a rainforest growing in the middle of it.
- Scenic Helicopter Flight – Enjoy the Great Barrier Reef from an alternative perspective as you soar high above it on a private helicopter tour! Even from this height, it’s still difficult to grasp how large the coral network really is.
This is one Heli of a way to tour the reef!
- Whitehaven Beach – Voted as one of Australia’s most iconic beaches and housing arguably the whitest sand in the world, a trip to Whitehaven beach is a must. Take a catamaran tour around the Whitsunday Islands, and it’s bound to be on the itinerary.
As I don’t know which town you’ll use as base when visiting the Great Barrier Reef, I’ve provided my favourite restaurants in Cairns, Port Douglas, and Hamilton Island below:
- Bommie – Located on Hamilton Island, Bommie offers luxury dining with ocean views. The restaurant’s menu features contemporary Australian cuisine and local and seasonal produce. It’s sophisticated dining, so dress to impress!
- Seabean Tapas – Port Douglas might be on the east coast of Australia, but the flavours at Seabean Tapas are Spanish! Enjoy delicious seafood paella and shrimp tacos, and don’t be afraid to BYOF (“bring your own fish”).
Share your food; don’t be so shellfish!
- Salt House – The stone-baked pizza is calling, and I must go! Salt House is Cairns’ best pizzeria restaurant, but the establishment also has a second dining area where you can enjoy a mix of innovative seafood dishes and steaks. The Wagyu lasagne pizza is so tasty!
From waterfront shacks to rooftop bars, Queensland knows how to party. Lucky for you, I’ve collated a handful of my favourite watering holes in the region. Check them out below:
- Island Bar – If you’re staying on Hamilton Island, make your way to Island Bar; a swim-up tropical bar with live acoustic music. There’s no better place to unwind after a day at sea!
- Jimmy Rum’s Mixing Lounge – The staff at Jimmy’s in Port Douglas are devoted to ensuring you have the most delicious drink of your life, and who are we to stop them achieving their goals? Happy hour runs from 5pm to 7pm, and the cocktails start flowing.
- The Attic Lounge Bar – If you’re looking for a party, take an afternoon nap and make your way to the Attic Lounge Bar in Cairns late at night. This popular nightclub is well known for its VIP cocktail lounge and live music, with both local and international DJ’s taking to the stage.
Here are my favourite places to stay when visiting the Great Barrier Reef:
- Qualia – If you’re looking for the ultimate luxurious stay, then nothing beats a night at Qualia. As Hamilton Island’s most high-end-resort this spectacular hotel occupies an entire peninsula on the northern side of the island.
- Port Douglas Peninsula Boutique Hotel – Beach life is the theme at this charming hotel which sits overlooking Four Mile Beach in Port Douglas. The coastal views are spectacular, and a dip in the pool at the end of the day is more than welcome.
I’m at my Whitsundays’ end!
- Bailey – This 12-story hotel is one of Cairns’ most affordable hotels, yet it’s clean, quirky, contemporary, and really quite the catch! The hotel celebrates local artists and has been designed with the environment in mind. A win-win!
A Final Pro-tip: It is important that you leave the Great Barrier Reef as pristine as when you visited it. Please be vigilant not to leave behind any waste so others can enjoy this wonderful wilderness! I’d also ask that you please use reef-friendly sunblock too.
The Great Barrier Reef is Australia’s top tourist attraction, and experiencing it first-hand is an unforgettable experience. As temperatures rise, and large-scale coral struggles to survive under global warming, this precious natural wonder might not be around for much longer, so visit as soon as you can!