A Guide to Exploring the Great Barrier Reef


The Great Barrier Reef is home to some of the most amazing marine life in the world, from coral and fish to turtles and dolphins. Many vulnerable or endangered species live on the Reef, which supports an enormous ecology of fish, mammals and birds. Thirty species of whales, dolphins and porpoises can be found on the Reef, along with 1,500 species of fish, 5,000 species of mollusc, and numerous other creatures. In some areas, the waters are so shallow at low tide that you can see the Reef up close. Alternatively, you can snorkel or dive to get a close-up view of some of the world’s most stunning sea creatures.


Whitehaven Beach

Whitehaven Beach is one of the most famous beaches in the world, because of its stunning white sand and warm, shallow, azure waters that play host to breath-taking marine life. As the heart of the Great Barrier Reef, it is protected by the Whitsunday Islands National Park and has been voted the world’s top eco-friendly beach. The beach is seven kilometres long, and its 98% pure silica sand is brilliantly white. Get the best view of this stunning beach by making your way to Tongue Point at low tide and taking in the swirling fusion of colours in the ocean kissing the luminescent sand.

Whitehaven Beach

Daintree Rainforest

If you fancy a day away from the beach, a trip to Daintree Rainforest is an amazing experience like no other. Spanning 1,200 square kilometres of Far North Queensland, it is one of the world’s most important ecological habitats. The jungle can be seen on foot, either on a bushwalking tour, or a tour with an Aboriginal guide to see the ancient culture of the custodians of the land. For those who prefer a different perspective, four-wheel-drive tours and river cruises are also available in some areas of the forest. This amazing pocket of lush jungle and its stunning, increasingly-rare ecology is a must-see.


Seaplane Tour

The Great Barrier Reef is so large that it can be seen from outer space and, whilst space travel is out of the question for most of us, seeing the Reef from above is a magnificent experience. Seaplane excursions over the Great Barrier Reef and the surrounding jungle are available from various points along the coast. Whilst it can seem like an expensive activity, it’s a treat well worth indulging in, there is no better way to see the full magnitude of the world’s biggest structure made entirely from living organisms.

aerial view of coral reef

Snorkelling and Diving

For a close-up view of the stunning world just below the waves, snorkelling or diving is the best way to see the Great Barrier Reef in all its brilliance. Taking a boat trip to the most beautiful reefs is the best way to see stunning corals, sea turtles, rays, sharks and exotic tropical fish all colours of the rainbow. If you tend to get a bit queasy out on the waves, or deep water isn’t for you, some islands have excellent reefs that can be accessed from the beach.


If you want to explore as much of the Reef as possible, a live-aboard boat can be a great option. Ranging from one night to two weeks, the boat trips allow you to dive up to four times a day, including at night. It gives you the chance to see the Reef from a whole new perspective, as well as to explore areas that are less visited by tourists. For those travellers that have their heart set on seeing specific marine life, a live-aboard can be a good way to improve your chances.


Although trips to the Great Barrier Reef tend to run all year round, the best time to visit is during the southern winter between June and November. The weather is still mild at this time of year, and visibility around the reefs is superb. Northern Queensland has a wet season from December to March, combining oppressive heat with abundant rainfall, so it’s best to avoid those months completely.

Sustainable Travel Tips

The Great Barrier Reef is, by nature, a fragile natural structure, so it’s important to bear this in mind during your visit. A few tips for visiting this stunning natural wonder sustainably include:

  • Take all of your litter with you and dispose of it on the mainland, whether visiting the beach or travelling by boat. This includes biodegradable waste such as fruit peels, which can affect the delicate ecological balance of the reefs.
  • Never rest or stand on the coral, and do not interfere with marine life. If you’re snorkelling or diving, make sure you are aware of your movements and don’t stir up sediment or disturb coral. You should practise your underwater skills away from the reefs so you’re confident you won’t cause any accidental damage.
  • Wear a wet suit instead of a thick layer of sunscreen. The chemicals can damage the Reef and it is easy to find somewhere to hire a suit along the coast.

If this guide has whetted your appetite for a trip to see the Great Barrier Reef, browse our amazing selection of cruises that allow you to explore this beautiful area. Browse and book online, or call our team on 1300 857 345.



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