Take part in any number of activities on the Great Barrier Reef. You won’t even need to get your feet wet with some of these ideas.
Snorkelling and Diving
When you think of the Great Barrier Reef, snorkelling and diving naturally comes to mind given that the attraction lies below the water. The World Heritage listed reef is home to a collection of islands, coral reefs, coral cays, tropical fish and marine life. The best way to have a close encounter with marine life is to jump in the water and snorkel above or scuba dive below the water’s surface.All that is required to snorkel is an ability to swim along with a snorkel, mask and some fins. Many tropical fish and turtles prefer the warmer waters near the surface so you will have plenty to gaze at when you jump in.
Scuba Diving is a more comprehensive way to experience the reef. Diving allows you to go deeper underwater to see marine life such as manta rays, reef sharks and more. A little more experience is required to take a scuba dive but many cruise operators will take you on a short introductory dive to give you a taste of what diving is all about. If you are a certified diver then the Great Barrier Reef is among the top places to dive in the world. Click here for a look at the Best Dives .
This aquatic playground lends itself to peaceful cruising and sailing. The most difficult choice that you will have to make is to decide what part of the reef or island that you would like to visit. The Whitsundays has become known for its sailing tours and charters among its 74 islands. Some the finest and most luxurious yachts, catamarans and super yachts can be found in the Abel Point Marina in Airlie Beach. If you don’t have your own you can join a tour, hire a boat or charter or even join the tall ship Derwent Hunter boat out to the reef for the day. Cairns is also extremely popular with hundreds of cruise operators that take over a million visitors out to the reef every year. Take part in a day cruise, sunset cruise or even a live aboard experience.
For the more experienced, go bare boating and rent your own yacht and plan your own holiday with complete freedom. Skipper your own boat and map out your own adventure discovering secluded and uncrowded snorkel sites and islands off the beaten track. Although not a cheap option, you will be sure to have an unforgettable holiday at your own leisure. Wake up to sunrise on the deck of your boat, snorkel or laze on the sundeck for hours and watch the sunset and stargaze in the evenings. Stay in one bay for a week or travel to many islands and beaches, the choice is all yours!
Experiencing the reef from air is one of the best way to understand the sheer size and beauty of this natural wonder of the world. From air you can see the number of islands, reefs and marine life that call this part of the world home. Your experienced pilot will provided you with commentary and point out the highlights of the reef below. One of the most popular helicopter flights is the trip out to Heart Reef in the Whitsundays where many people propose. Flights from Cairns or Whitsundays are extremely popular and whilst they can be pricey are definitely worth it as the photos and memories are unforgettable.
Seaplanes are also another way of exploring the reef. The benefit of taking a seaplane is that they are able to land on water and allow you time to jump out and snorkel or visit an island. The most popular place to visit on a seaplane is Australia’s best beach Whitehaven Beach.
Hot Air Ballooning
Seaplanes are also another way of exploring the reef. The benefit of taking a seaplane is that they are able to land on water and allow you time to jump out and snorkel or visit an island. The most popular place to visit on a seaplane is Australia’s best beach, Whitehaven Beach.
If a perfectly good plane is not good enough for you, then you can choose to jump out of one at 14,000ft on a skydive over the reef out of Cairns or Airlie Beach. This one of a kind skydive will reward you with stunning views of the island and reefs below at speeds of up to 222km/hr and a freefall of up to 60 seconds.
Glass Bottom Boat Tours
One of the reasons the Great Barrier Reef is a great destination for all ages is because of how accessible it is. Don’t worry if you do not swim as there are glass bottom boat tours, underwater observatories and semi-submersible boats that can give you a glimpse of the world that exists underwater. To participate on these tours it is recommended that you choose a tour that visits the Outer Great Great Barrier Reef platform where they have access to the underwater observatory and glass bottom boats either from Cairns or Airlie Beach in the Whitsundays.
Given that the Great Barrier Reef is based on the water there are a number of water sports that you may choose to try including: stand up paddle boarding, jet skiing, jet boating, sailing, tube riding and wake boarding. One activity that comes highly recommended is sea kayaking. If you are on an island then you can often rent these for a few hours. If you are a keen kayaker you can also head on a guided or unguided expedition over several days kayaking and camping around various islands. You will explore some of the lesser known snorkel spots, secluded beaches or take a stroll on some of the nature walks at nearby uninhabited islands.
If you are keen to throw a line out then the outer waters of the reef are perfect for a spot of fishing. Just keep in mind that the Great Barrier Reef is a protected zone and there are restrictions on where you can and cannot fish. There a number of fishing charters that can take you out for the day and know the best places to go for the catch of the day.Be sure to take a photo with your catch and brag about it to your friends online.
The Whitsundays has some of the best areas for fishing given its location to nearby estuaries. Lake Proserpine is well known as a hotspot for Barramundi fishing and water sports. Shore based fishing is also available from the many rock walls in the area. The types of fish you can expect to find here are: Mackeral, Tuna, Coral Trout, Trevally, Blue and Black Marlin, Barramundi and more.
Fishing charters are also available from Cairns where operators will take you out to various locations either on the northern rivers and estuaries and parts of the Great Barrier Reef where it is permitted to fish. The corals of the Great Barrier Reef provide the shelter and food ensuring there is an abundance of fish.
If you would love to sleep under the stars but “roughing it” isn’t really your style then you can do the ‘Reefsleep’ with Cruise Whitsundays on the Outer Great Barrier Reef pontoon. How many people can say that they have slept on the reef? Swags and linen are provided and you will enjoy 2 full days and 1 night on the pontoon with lunches, a 3 course BBQ dinner and breakfast provided all for a very reasonable price.
This exclusive experience is only available to up to 9 guests at any time. Whilst you will share the pontoon with the day guests, after 3pm you will have exclusive use to snorkel and dive as much as you wish. The pontoon also hosts an underwater viewing chamber where you can sit for hours and look at the coral or fish that swim by. Enjoy a magnificent sunset over the reef. If you are a certified diver, a night dive is available. Settle in for the night and fall asleep under the stars listening to the gentle sounds of the ocean. You will then head home with the day guests at 3pm the next day. This experience is a once in a lifetime opportunity and should definitely be added to your bucket list if you are in the Whitsundays.
Golf has become quite a popular pastime and Australia has some of the best courses in the world. One that should not be missed is the Hamilton Island Golf Club which is the only Australian 18 hole course on its own island. This championship course has hosted the finals for the PGA Professional Championships. If you time your visit right, in late October, you can see some of the best Australian golfers compete for the title.
The islands natural mountainous landscape gives you some of the best views of the nearby beaches and islands surrounding Hamilton Island. Some other golf courses in the Great Barrier Reef that visitors can take advantage of during their holidays are the Cairns Golf Club, the Mirage Country Club and Palmer Sea Reef Golf Course in Port Douglas and the Magnetic Island Golf Course nearby Townsville.
For something different why not try camping on one of the many uninhabited islands in the Great Barrier Reef. Permits are required from Queensland Parks and Wildlife at a very small cost. Camp under the stars and swim in secluded beaches, bays and coral reefs.
Facilities on the island are very basic so campers will need to be self sufficient by bringing their own food, water and medical supplies. Mobile reception is also not guaranteed so a satellite phone is highly recommended. Weather in the tropics can change suddenly so do try to stay on top of the weather reports and be prepared to evacuate if you need to. All rubbish is to be removed from the island and taken with you when you leave.
If you are a nature lover and love the outdoors and camping then this is will be one of the best camping holidays that you will ever have. Many campers find that they can have an entire campsite or beach to themselves at times and have a hard time saying goodbye to the seclusion and tranquillity of camping on the Great Barrier Reef. For more information on camping and permits please visit the Queensland Parks and Wildlife website here.
What many people don’t realise is that many of the islands and coral cays within the Great Barrier Reef are uninhabited national parks that have a number of walking tracks and lookout points and waterfalls or aboriginal rock paintings. This is a destination that suits nature lovers and water babies. One of the most well known walks is the Hill Inlet on Whitsunday Island which is a short moderate walk that offers a lookout over the iconic Whitehaven Beach. For serious hikers, the 32km, 4 day Thorborne Trail on Hinchinbrook Island is one that comes highly recommended with a number of changing habitats, waterfalls, creeks and lookout points to be seen.
For visitors in the Cairns region, Green Island has short nature rainforest walks on an island in the middle of the reef. Fitzroy Island also has a number of walking trails. Learn about how the island was used as a military base in World War II to protect the mainland from attacks. The island also has scenic walking tracks to the lighthouse and the summit 269 metres above sea level with stunning views of the Great Barrier Reef.
Magnetic Island, near Townsville has a number of walking trails that showcase the island and the native wildlife that live there including Koalas, Rock Wallabies and over 186 types of birds that live here. The Forts Walk is one of the best areas to spot Koalas and also has historic World War II infrastructure with 360 degree views when you reach the top. Birdwatchers should head to the Horseshoe Bay trail to see the resident Curlews among other birds.