Located in Tropical North Queensland, the Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef system in the world and is a true natural wonder. Featuring a collection of more than 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands, the reef stretches over an area of 133,000 sq mi in the Coral Sea – that’s more than 69 times the size of the Grand Canyon! No Australian vacation is complete without visiting the Great Barrier Reef, which is the single largest structure made by living organisms in the world. The reef is so big it is visible from outer space and is made up of coral polyps, tiny organisms that support a wide diversity of life.
Labelled as one of the seven natural wonders of the world by CNN, the Great Barrier Reef was designated a World Heritage Site in 1981 and has been named a state icon of Queensland by the National Trust. A declared marine park, the Reef is one of Australia’s most popular tourist attractions and is not just a must see attraction on any Australian vacation, a visit to the Great Barrier Reef is truly a ‘bucket list’ experience. Nothing can prepare you for the indescribable beauty of being silently suspended in these crystal waters, surrounded by coral that seems to breathe with the tide and playful and curious marine life that are as interested in checking you out as you are them.
Including some fish that are found only in Australia, the Great Barrier Reef simply must be seen to be believed. Stretching for almost 1900mi along the Queensland coast, the reef is home to the world’s largest collection of corals and offers some of the best scuba diving and snorkelling in the entire world. But never fear, the shrimp we throw on the barbie don’t come from these incredible waters!
Considered the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, the Whitsunday Islands and mainland towns of Port Douglas and Cairns are the most popular places for vacationers to stay when visiting the reef. The Whitsundays are a group of 74 islands situated off the coast of Queensland forming part of the Great Barrier Reef. One of Australia’s most popular vacation destinations, many of the islands are designated national parks.
One of the biggest attractions of the Whitsundays is their easy access to the coral reefs along with their excellent snorkelling and diving, crystal clear waters and incredible white sand beaches. One of the most famous beaches in the Whitsundays is Whitehaven Beach, a spectacular secluded spot boasting otherworldly beauty. The Whitsundays are a tropical paradise and offer a wonderful place to base yourself while exploring the Great Barrier Reef. Here you can enjoy plenty of time to relax, soak up the tropical sun and work on your tan as you sip cocktails by the pool at one of the many stylish resorts. Think the Caribbean but with less rum and more family friendly options.
On the mainland, Port Douglas and Cairns are not only the gateway to the Reef but also the incredible Daintree Rainforest. Port Douglas offers the ideal blend of rainforest and reef along scenic coastline and enjoys a laidback atmosphere. Sharing the same tropical latitude as Tahiti, Port Douglas features a tropical low-rise old world charm that’s not to be missed. Similarly, ranked in the top five Australian holiday destinations, Cairns is particularly popular with international visitors. Boasting a spectacular seaside location as well as plenty of modern shopping, dining and entertainment options, Cairns is also known for its glorious tropical weather.
1050mi south is Queensland’s capital, Brisbane and just an hour further south is the famous Gold Coast. This glittering beachside city is famous for its beach party atmosphere and is a popular holiday destination with locals and international visitors, the perfect place to work on your tan.