2300 kilometres in length, the Great Barrier Reef is world’s most spectacular marine attraction. It’s also surprisingly accessible for a wide range of budgets, offering a diversity of experiences, some that even allow you go underwater and keep your hair dry. Accommodation and meals are uniformly outstanding, the weather reliably co-operative (even when it rains or is overcast, the reef is open for business!) and the locals famously cheery. Below you’ll find practical tips for visiting Australia’s most famous natural wonder.
Length of Trip : 2 - 7 days.
You can experience the reef in all styles and budgets. From the luxury high-end at Lizard Island to an overnight stay on the government-managed Lady Elliot Island, to scenic helicopter flights, or just taking a day trip out with Quicksilver Cruises to the outer reef.
Best time to go : Year-round. April/May is particularly dry, offering clearer water and less people during the shoulder season.
Wheelchair friendly : Yes
Family friendly : Yes
Where to eat :
On Lizard Island, fine dining is included in your stay and it is exceptional! Lady Elliot Island offers dining packages which include a-la-carte or buffet options. In Gold Coast, check out the festive Miami Marketta which has various international options and a dessert hall. In Cairns, try the grilled meat options at the Waterbar and Grill.
Where to Stay :
Private swimming pool access and BBQ areas make for a perfect family vacation destination at the Oaks Lagoons in Port Douglas. Alternatively, check out the luxurious Lizard Island or more budget-friendly Lady Elliott Island.
Getting There :
Cairns is the main gateway hub for visiting the region, with direct flights from throughout Australia as well as international destinations like Japan, Singapore, and Hong Kong. From here you can rent a car, arrange with a pick-up service, or connect with a local tour operator to head up or down the coast. East Air operates daily flights to Lizard Island from the General Aviation Terminal. Seair Pacific offers scenic flights from Gold Coast to Lady Elliot Island.
Note from Robin :
With two World Heritage areas side by side, the rainforest meets the reef in tropical North Queensland. Besides the reef, the Wet Tropics rainforest (the world's oldest) is well worth checking out. There are more than 600 tours a day offered to both attractions from the hub of Cairns. If you plan on spending time in the water, invest in a thin full body swimsuit to protect you from stingers. Tip for the Quicksilver outer reef tour: Ask if there's a cruise ship in town that day as it can get very busy.