The center for all Wikitravel images!

Great Barrier Reef

From Wikitravel
Revision as of 00:34, 16 April 2010 by (talk) (Reef Tours)

Earth : Oceania : Australia : Queensland : Far North Queensland : Great Barrier Reef
Jump to: navigation, search

The Great Barrier Reef is a coral formation, the largest in the world, located off the Pacific coast of Queensland, Australia. It is home to a spectacular array of marine life and offers awesome diving opportunities.



Get in

By day trip reef boat

Day trips to the reef run from most of the length of the Queensland Coast. Generally speaking, the further north you leave from, the shorter the trip to the reef, as it approaches the coast near Cape Tribulation.

The general trip plan for the major operators provides for a early morning departure, Tie up a few hours later off a pontoon or cay where they have purchased rights, usually lunch is available (or included) and a late afternoon return to port. They always return to one or two specific locations, and it is not unusual for several boats to be within a few hundred metres of each other.

These types of trips are offered (at least) from the mainland coastal towns out of Cape Tribulation, Port Douglas, Cairns, Townsville, Airlie Beach (Shute Harbour), Mackay, Gladstone, and 1770 (from north to south). Check destination guides for more information, as not all trips run every day from every town.

Charter or independent boat

It is possible to hire a yacht or launch, or to do an independent charter. The seas inland from the reef tend to be calm. It is possible to hire a boat as a group with no boat licence.

Reef islands

Lady Elliot Island

There are many islands scattered off the Queensland Coast in several different island groups. Many cater for day trips, overnight stays, or both, offering widely varying standards of facilities accommodation. Not all islands off the coast are on the reef. Some are continental islands, some coral cays. Some of the continental islands have coral gardens off the beach, others do not. Some islands are teaming with marine life, and others have little. Check the specific destination guides, to see if the island you are thinking of visiting is a snorkeller's paradise, or just a nice place to pull up a deckchair and relax.

The islands that are not on the reef, generally run some sort of day trip by boat to the reef. Some of these trips, especially those in the Whitsundays, can pick up from the mainland prior to picking up from one or two islands, servicing daytrippers from the islands to the coast, coast to islands, and coast and islands to the reef. In these cases, prices are usually similar to what you would pay from the coast. However, there are some islands (typically the premium ones) that offer their own trips, and these can cost considerably more.

Get around

  • Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. There are many places to depart from to get to the reef.

Cairns is considered the gateway to the reef but boats also leave from Cooktown, Port Douglas, Mission Beach, Townsville & Yeppoon.


  • Pumpkin Island Eco Retreat (Pumpkin Island), Yeppoon, Keppel Bay Islands (Situated between Great Keppel & North Keppel Islands), +61 7 4939-4413, [1]. 8AM - 18PM. Pumpkin Island off the Capricorn Coast near Yeppoon is a sparkling jewel nestled within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Here you will find just five very stylish, eco-friendly self-catering cottages powered by wind and sun, overlooking a crystalline beach. Each accommodates between four and eight guests (with a maximum of 30) and is fully self-contained, very contemporary in flair and nicely separate from each other. $300. (-23.091612,150.902367)

Reef Tours

  • Mike Ball Dive Expeditions [2] offers 3,4 and 7 night trips to the Great Barrier Reef, including the Ribbon Reefs and Osprey Reef in the Coral Sea.
  • Cruise Whitsundays [3] offers a reef trip at Queensland's a reef pontoon located at Knuckle Reef. Knuckle Reef Pontoon features an underwater viewing chamber and a giant waterslide. offers a reef trip at Queensland's a reef pontoon located at Knuckle Reef. Knuckle Reef Pontoon features an underwater viewing chamber and a giant waterslide.
  • Great Barrier Reef Liveaboards [4]. Large range of Great Barrier Reef liveaboards and Coral Sea dive trips. Great Barrier Reef trips from Whitsunday Islands can be found here.
  • Passions Of Paradise: From Cairns to the Great Barrier Reef on a 25 metre custom designed sailing catamaran. Depart daily to beautiful Michaelmas Cay and Paradise Reef, giving you the choice of two destinations where you can sunbathe, snorkel, scuba dive, glass bottom boat ride or simply sail. The trip is suitable for all ages.[6] or +61 7 4041-1600 , for free in Australia : 1800 111 346
  • New Horizon Sail and Dive [7] PO Box 5957, Cairns, Qld 4870, +61-7-4055-6130 (, fax: +61-7-4055-6315). New Horizon Sail and Dive operates two classic sailing boats, Santa Maria and Coral Sea Dreaming, to the outer Great Barrier Reef. They allow you to experience the reef in a smaller more intimate affair with a maximum of ten (10) passengers on each trip. The tours are priced from $380 per person for a two day liveaboard and from $540 for a three day liveaboard, all equipment included..
  • Sunsea Cruises Great Barrier Reef Trip [8] Breakwater Terminal, Sir Leslie Thiess Drive, Townsville, QLD 4810, +61-7-4771-3855 (, fax: +61-7-4771-3955). Sunsea Cruises day trip includes morning and afternoon tea, tropical buffet lunch, unlimited snorkeling with equipment, marine biology presentation and glass bottom boat tours. Adults $139 per person..
  • Cairns Dive Centre [9] offers a range of daytrips and live aboard packages to suit any budget.
Wheeler Reef coral

The Great Barrier Reef is a famed diving destination, although divers with experience of the tropics find parts of it overused and damaged.

Most travellers learn to dive in Townsville, Cairns or Port Douglas: all have a very competitive dive industry. Most students prefer to do a two day pool and classroom course, followed by a two or three day liveaboard visiting the reef to the east of Cairns. It's possible to learn with some of the operators that travel to the Coral Sea, but check first about the difficulty of their dive sites. Land based learn to dive courses cost about $500, dive courses including a liveaboard start at about $700.

Some day trips to the reef are available from Cairns and Port Douglas diving operators. These trips involve about 2 hours boat travel in each direction and will cost $170-$200. Most operators do three day liveaboards to the reefs east of Cairns, starting about about $500 for 3 days diving and 2 nights on the boat, meals included. Snorkelers can travel on these trips for reduced prices, but check first about the suitability of their sites for snorkeling. Serious divers generally prefer the five or seven day liveaboards visiting the Coral Sea to the north.

Most boat trips, particularly liveaboards, may be up to 40% cheaper if booked at the last possible moment on standby rates. A certain amount of risk is involved in doing this: you must arrive at the destination hoping that a booking will become available, you need to be able to be somewhat flexible about your date of departure, and you may not be able to travel with your first choice operator. However, most divers report that they are able to find at least one standby trip when they try this. Dive travel agents may also be able to advise you.

Some of the islands have a fringing reef, and it is possible to dive or snorkel from shore.

The southern part of the reef off Townsville is known mostly for the wreck of the Yongala, visited on both liveaboards and day trip operators from Townsville, Ayr and Magnetic Island. The Yongala sank in 1911 in about 30 metres (100 feet) of water. As the bottom is otherwise featureless in this area, it is a haven for fish and coral. However, as the site is unprotected many trips have to be cancelled if weather conditions are not favourable.


  • Seafood at the Great Barrier Reef islands and nearby coastal areas are delicious. There are restricted fishing areas, although it would be better if you go a restaurant. Reef fish are also available in fish and chip shops.


Reef day trips sell alcohol on board. Reef islands nearly always have at least one bar, usually much at the centre of island life. Some have innovative pool bars. Some have a young party scene, others have cocktails by the pool, and others close early, targeting the demographic that prefers to wake early to see the dawn, rather seeing it through the haze of the night before. Check the destination guides.

Stay safe

There are marine threats on the reef, from Stonefish to Sharks, Sea Snakes to Jellyfish. Many trips to the reef are made all year around, and injuries due to any of these causes on the reef are rare. Still, take advice from authorities, obey all signs, and pay close attention to safety warnings.

  • Box jellyfish are occur near beaches and near river estuaries from October to April north of 1770. They can occasionally be found outside these times. They are usually not found in deep water or over coral, and most people snorkelling on the reef do so without stinger protection. However wearing a wetsuit (available on all the dive boats) will give you added buoyancy, and also some protection against stingers. They are very rare, but deadly.
  • Sharks are only smaller species which are no threat to divers or snorkellers. The Great White Shark does not inhabit Far North Queensland.
  • Saltwater Crocodiles. Crocodiles do not actively live in the ocean, their primary habitat is in river estuaries north from Rockhampton They can use the ocean as a means of travel between river systems and islands. It is very rare for them to enter the coral reef areas.
This article is an outline and needs more content. It has a template, but there is not enough information present. Please plunge forward and help it grow!

Create category