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Great Barrier Reef

The largest coral reef in the world lies just off the coast of Cairns and offers thousands of kilometres of coral, marine life and untouched white sand beaches.

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. It stretches for 2,000 kilometres (1,240 miles) in the warm waters off the coast of North Queensland. The reef is known for its pristine white-sand beaches, secluded islands and crystal-clear waters brimming with coral and marine life. The World Heritage listed site is best visited by day trip from Cairns. Snorkel, dive or cruise the reef on a glass-bottomed boat.

This is the world’s largest coral reef. It encompasses close to 3,000 individual reefs and 900 islands that stretch over almost 350,000 square kilometres (133,000 square miles). It’s estimated to be about 600,000 years old, and is renowned for its stunning biodiversity. See tropical fish, sea turtles, whales, dolphins, porpoises, molluscs and giant clams that are more than 120 years old. Living organisms like sponges and starfish feed off the coral.

The best way to enjoy the reef is to get on a boat and head out to sea. You can organise tours from the central tourism office in Cairns. There are a range of different tour companies and packages to choose from, whether you want to snorkel or dive, charter a yacht or stay overnight on an island. If you prefer to stay dry, sign up for a cruise on a glass-bottomed boat and explore the reef in an underwater observatory.

Many islands make up the Great Barrier Reef, and some are easily reached by day trip from Cairns. The islands range from low-lying sand cays surrounded by crystal-clear water, to popular holiday islands dotted with resorts. Island hop as part of a tour or book a seat on a sea plane and spend a couple of nights in a luxury resort.

June to October is considered peak season when there is the best water conditions and the most number of visitors. Come outside this season for reduced rates on accommodation and tours. The average seawater temperature is 26 C (79 F), and the air temperature is warm in winter and hot in summer.

It takes anywhere between 90 minutes and two hours to reach the reef from Cairns

Popular Activities at Great Barrier Reef

Make the most of your time at Great Barrier Reef. Here is a list of the top activities:

If you're looking for more activities, check out our Wangetti things to do page.


Guide to Exploring Great Barrier Reef


Map

Top Hotel Deals

See all 409 properties near Great Barrier Reef
Turtle Cove Beach Resort-Adults Only LGBTQIA & Friends Rs9,014
Turtle Cove Beach Resort-Adults Only LGBTQIA & Friends

Turtle Cove Beach Resort-Adults Only LGBTQIA & Friends

4500 Captain Cook Hwy, Wangetti, QLD
     
    3.5 out of 5.0 Stars

    This Wangetti resort is on the beach, 2.3 mi (3.7 km) from Wangetti Beach, and within 6 mi (10 km) of Great Barrier Reef and Hartley's Crocodile Adventures. Mount Formartine North Summit and Hartley's Crocodile Adventures are also within 9 miles (15 km).

    Ellis Beach Oceanfront Bungalows - Campground Rs8,402
    Ellis Beach Oceanfront Bungalows - Campground

    Ellis Beach Oceanfront Bungalows - Campground

    Captain Cook Highway, Ellis Beach, QLD
       
      3.0 out of 5.0 Stars

      Nestled on the beach, this Ellis Beach campsite is 1.4 mi (2.3 km) from Mount Formartine North Summit and 2.8 mi (4.5 km) from Palm Cove Beach. Great Barrier Reef and Clifton Beach are also within 6 miles (10 km).

      Imagine Drift Palm Cove Rs7,473
      Imagine Drift Palm Cove

      Imagine Drift Palm Cove

      Cnr Veivers Rd Williams Esp, Palm Cove, QLD
         
        4.0 out of 5.0 Stars

        Located in Palm Cove, this beachfront apartment building is in the entertainment district, 0.1 mi (0.1 km) from Palm Cove Beach and 1.9 mi (3.1 km) from Clifton Beach. Kewarra Beach and Clifton Village Shopping Centre are also within 3 miles (5 km).

        Peppers Beach Club and Spa - Palm Cove Rs11,851
        Peppers Beach Club and Spa - Palm Cove

        Peppers Beach Club and Spa - Palm Cove

        123 Williams Esplanade, Palm Cove, QLD
           
          5.0 out of 5.0 Stars

          Nestled on the beach, this Palm Cove resort is 0.1 mi (0.1 km) from Palm Cove Beach and 2.5 mi (3.9 km) from Clifton Beach. Clifton Village Shopping Centre is 1.9 mi (3 km) away.

          Hotel Grand Chancellor Palm Cove Rs4,740
          Hotel Grand Chancellor Palm Cove

          Hotel Grand Chancellor Palm Cove

          Coral Coast Drive, Palm Cove, QLD
             
            4.0 out of 5.0 Stars

            This family-friendly Palm Cove hotel is located by the ocean, within 2 mi (3 km) of Palm Cove Beach and Clifton Beach. Clifton Village Shopping Centre and Kewarra Beach are also within 3 miles (5 km).

            Sarayi Boutique Hotel Rs5,074
            Sarayi Boutique Hotel

            Sarayi Boutique Hotel

            95 Williams Esplanade, Palm Cove, QLD
               
              4.0 out of 5.0 Stars

              Located in Palm Cove, this beachfront hotel is next to a golf course and within 1 mi (2 km) of Palm Cove Beach and Clifton Beach. Kewarra Beach and Skyrail Rainforest Cableway are also within 9 mi (15 km).

              Mango Lagoon Resort & Wellness Spa Rs5,571
              Mango Lagoon Resort & Wellness Spa

              Mango Lagoon Resort & Wellness Spa

              81 - 85 Cedar Road, Palm Cove, QLD
                 
                3.5 out of 5.0 Stars

                Situated by the ocean, this spa aparthotel is 0.6 mi (1 km) from Palm Cove Beach and 2.3 mi (3.7 km) from Clifton Beach. Clifton Village Shopping Centre and Kewarra Beach are also within 3 miles (5 km).

                The Sebel Palm Cove Coral Coast Rs7,031
                The Sebel Palm Cove Coral Coast

                The Sebel Palm Cove Coral Coast

                Coral Coast Drive, Palm Cove, QLD
                   
                  4.0 out of 5.0 Stars

                  Located in Buchan Point, this apartment building is 0.7 mi (1.1 km) from Palm Cove Beach and 2.9 mi (4.7 km) from Clifton Beach. Clifton Village Shopping Centre is 2.3 mi (3.8 km) away.