On the Great Barrier Reef, your days can be as languorous or as action-packed as you desire. There are plenty of spots where you can swim, snorkel or dive through swirling anemone tentacles and vibrant green brain coral. Often, you’ll quickly find yourself surrounded by shimmering shoals of silvery fish and ponderously slow sea turtles.
For an aerial perspective, take to the skies on a helicopter flight over Whitsunday Island’s 7 km (4 m) expanse of chalk-white sand and clear turquoise water, or clamber through Orpheus Island’s densely vegetated interior. Alternatively, you can bush walk through rocky Lizard Island up to a lookout point once used by Captain Cook, spot Heron Island's noddy terns through the dense Pisonia forests, or embark on a day cruise to the Low Isles.
Our Australia specialists can help you decide how best to explore the underground jungle. They’ll point you to areas where the reef is thriving, brimming with blue and yellow butterflyfish or clownfish.
Activities in the Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef is teeming with rays, damselfish, dolphins and sharks. You can dive or snorkel past them off many of the reef islands, or from a boat.
From Heron Island, you can take part in a reef walk where a guide will teach you about different marine species. Orpheus Island and Haggerstone Island both offer helicopter tours over the reef, providing a bird’s-eye view over the swirling patterns of coral. Or, if you’d rather stay on land, you can go bushwalking.
From Port Douglas you can board a boat to the coral cays of the Mackay or Low Isles for a taster of the reef’s wildlife. Here, you can don your snorkel and mask and take to the clear, turquoise water in search of purple parrotfish and lethargic sea cumbers. Or, stroll along the cays and feel the powdery sand between your toes.
You can visit a number of remote islands such as Lizard Island and Fitzroy Island on a multi-day Great Barrier Reef cruise. Take advantage of the on-board comfort while visiting far-flung areas of the reef, often overlooked by day trippers. You’ll be guided by a marine biologist through the reef’s underwater world while gaining access to private mooring sites.
Staying on the Great Barrier Reef
There are 2,000 small islands, some little more than sandy cays crowded with seabirds, while others are rocky and thickly forested. Fewer than 20 accommodate overnight guests. Our specialists can help you choose where to stay based on your tastes and interests.
Best time to visit
It’s best to visit the Great Barrier Reef between May and October when the rain and humidity levels are low, and the water is calm. The reef has a wet season from December to April, when humidity is high, and rain clouds the water. Some resorts are closed due to the high rainfall experienced in these months.
Places to visit in the Great Barrier Reef
Featuring heavily on our experiences of visiting the Great Barrier Reef, these selected places are destinations that also prove consistently popular with our travelers. Our specialists can help you choose how to include them in your wider trip, based on your preferences.
Suggested itineraries featuring the Great Barrier Reef
Our itineraries will give you suggestions for what is possible when you travel in the Great Barrier Reef, and they showcase routes we know work particularly well. Treat them as inspiration, because your trip will be created uniquely by one of our specialists.
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Map of the Great Barrier Reef
Places & hotels on the map
Places in and around the Great Barrier Reef
Photos of the Great Barrier Reef
Accommodation choices for the Great Barrier Reef
We’ve selected a range of accommodation options for when you visit the Great Barrier Reef. Our choices usually come recommended for their character, facilities and service or location. Our specialists always aim to suggest properties that match your preferences.
The accommodation on Haggerstone Island fits its environment perfectly, and the six principal structures are all hand-crafted, free-form buildings of varying styles.
Located right on the Great Barrier Reef, Orpheus Island Resort offers a luxurious retreat for those who want to escape from the stresses of everyday life.
Lizard Island is one of Australia's premier resorts. It offers luxurious accommodation and a wealth of stunning white sand beaches from which to enjoy the many water sports on offer.
Located right on the Great Barrier Reef, Heron Island is a great location for couples and families; with swimming, snorkeling and diving, and an abundance of bird and marine wildlife on your doorstep.
With its beachfront location, the Hamilton Island Beach Club offers an intimate vacation experience exclusively for couples. Its rooms all face directly onto Catseye Beach, each with their own private courtyard or balcony.
Hamilton Island Reef View Hotel provides a wonderful island retreat for couples and families alike. It features spacious, well appointed rooms, all with private balconies that overlook either tropical gardens or the Coral Sea.
Qualia offers exquisite accommodation in an idyllic location on the secluded northern tip of Hamilton Island.