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Great Barrier Reef Holidays

Turtle, Great Barrier Reef

1,400 miles long (roughly the distance from London to Athens) and visible from space the Great Barrier Reef is arguably the most spectacular expression of nature on Earth. The reef is a UNESCO World Heritage site and home to 1,500 species of fish, six species of turtle and 30 different species of dolphins and whales, therefore it’s not hard to see why it is top of most people’s list of places to visit when heading ‘Down Under’. There are so many ways to explore the reef – from scuba diving amongst the marine life below the waves and dining atop a yacht – gazing down on the reef whilst enjoying world-class seafood – to soaring through the air above it on a private helicopter ride. Find your perfect reef experience by speaking with one of our Travel Experts.

Popular Tailor-made Great Barrier Reef Holiday Itineraries

There is endless possibility when it comes to discovering Australia's Great Barrier Reef, from romantic picnics on a deserted private island to being face to face with some of the world's most iconic marine life. Discover the reef as part of a wider Australian itinerary, find example itineraries below and discover what's possible. 

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Great Barrier Reef Holiday Types

The diversity of the marine life on the reef is mirrored only by the diversity of ways to experience it. Choose from a variety of different Great Barrier Reef holiday types below to find a trip that suits your exact needs. 

Great Barrier Reef Holiday Ideas and Advice

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  • Top things to do
  • When to go
  • Extra info

Things to do in the Great Barrier Reef

See some of the bountiful marine life

The Great Barrier Reef is arguably the best destination in the world to experience marine wildlife. The length of the reef is teeming with over 1,500 species of fish, six species of turtle and 30 different species of dolphins and whales. Get below the waves on a scuba dive adventure; there are sites throughout the Great Barrier Reef for those who are embarking on their first dive or their 100th dive. If you would rather float above the waves there are thousands of amazing snorkelling sites so you can still see just as much marine life without having to submerse yourself.

On your Great Barrier Reef holiday there are plenty of amazing day trips to see all kinds of wildlife, from the deck of a boat or from high up in the sky. And on that note…

Dolphin and whale watching

When visiting the Great Barrier Reef for your holiday make sure that you don’t miss the opportunity to see whales and dolphins. Although it is possible to imagine the sights and sounds of a humpback whale breaching it is impossible to truly understand the awesome power of these animals without witnessing it for yourself. So make sure you do!

And it’s not all about humpback whales – roughly 40% of all whale species can be found in and around the Great Barrier Reef.

As part of your Great Barrier Reef holiday you should also take advantage of some of the best dolphin-viewing platforms in the world. Bottlenose dolphins are abundant along the reef and are an incredibly popular part of most Great Barrier Reef holidays due to their high intelligence and naturally playful nature.  

Whitsunday Islands 

Midway along the long and beautiful tropical Queensland coast that runs parallel with the Great Barrier Reef is the "74 island wonders" that make up the Whitsundays. Almost every island here embodies the word 'paradise' and consists of secluded beaches, friendly towns and surrounding azure waters. Be sure not to miss the stunning Whitehaven Beach, home to the purest silica sand in the world. 

The Whitsunday Islands can be reached by air into two airports:

Whitsunday Coast Airport, Proserpine (PPP) on the mainland and only 25 minutes from Airlie Beach, a relaxed tropical beach town and a popular base for Whitsunday excursions.

Great Barrier Reef Airport, Hamilton Island (HTI), one of the islands of the Whitsundays and Great Barrier Reef.

Airlie Beach can also be reached via road in your own vehicle or via an extensive public transport network. 

Port Douglas and the Daintree Rainforest

This quaint seaside town north of Cairns is lined with boutique shope and restaurants and home to the world-famous Four Mile Beach. Interestingly, it is also a town that straddles two different UNESCO World Heritage sites. In fact, Tropical North Queensland is the only place where two UNESCO World Heritage zones – the Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef – actually touch. Make sure you visit both on your Great Barrier Reef holiday. 

Exploring the Daintree Rainforest

Australia's Daintree National Park is home to the world's older surviving rainforest and is a must-visit on any Queensland holiday.

Take a day trip

Combine a visit to the Great Barrier Reef with a helicopter ride, a sailing adventure, a Catamaran cruise or even an idyllic hot-air balloon ride over the spectacular Atherton Tablelands region. Head to the outer reef for some even more in-depth exploration or discover the spectacular Daintree Rainforest which sits adjacent to the reef. Alternatively immerse yourself in the local culture by taking the opportunity to learn about indigenous culture on a tour. 

There are so many islands to visit you'll have trouble choosing from Hamilton Island, Lizard Island, Heron Island, Orpheus Island and so many more. We have created a guide to the best islands to visit in the Great Barrier Reef to help you with your choice. 

When should I visit the Great Barrier Reef?

This is a great question. And the answer is as soon as humanly possible! You don't know what you are missing until you have seen this world wonder in person. But, on a more practical level there are two distinct seasons in the Great Barrier Reef: April - October; and November - March.

April to October

The Great Barrier Reef is home to balmy and calm waters between April and October, temperatures in the Great Barrier Reef will be in the mid 20s for the majority the time during this period. Visit Queensland at this time to sample some of the best whale watching in the world with Dwarf Minke Whales (between June and August) and Humpback Whales (between July and November) regularly sighted off the coast. Book whale watching in advance to make the most of your Great Barrier Reef trip. 

November to March

The water is a beautiful tropical temperature and the weather above the waves is hot, hot, hot. If you don't deal well with temperatures above 30 degrees celsius then consider avoiding December - February as this is the very height of summer in Tropical North Queensland. During this time the south of the reef is less choppy than the North. Additionally, this time of year encompasses turtle nesting and hatching season. Between November and January turtles nest on the beaches, hatchlings can then be seen between January and March. Hot spots for nesting include Heron Island, Lady Elliot Island and Green Island

Great Barrier Reef facts

  • The Great Barrier Reef receives over two million visitors each year. 
  • It is the world's largest reef system.
  • The entirety of the reef stretches over over 1,400 miles and is roughly the same size as Italy. 
  • Tourism is very well managed on the reef at the moment which reduces damage. 
  • The Great Barrier Reef can be viewed from space.