The Great Barrier Reef Australia and Tropical Queensland

"One of the Wonders of the World"

The Great Barrier Reef Australia is the largest coral reef system in the world. It is teaming with marine life with many vulnerable and endangered species.

It is a must see for many tourists wanting to visit Australia. Whether you just want to snorkel or have a go at diving, this is a completely new world to be explored

The reef itself stretches over 2000km. Whilst Cairns is by far the most popular destination, you can experience the Great Barrier Reef Australia from the Whitsundays too. See this Map of Great Barrier Reef for more details.

The Australians tend to plan Queensland holidays in this area of Australia because of its great beaches, hotels and resorts. It makes it a perfect holiday destination.

From Cairns you can also incorporate some other trips – Cape Tribulation, Daintree Rainforest and Mission Beach as well as visiting some crocodiles!

The page here will give you vital info on when to go and how to get here as well as other things to do whilst in the area. But if you want more specifics on the Great Barrier Reef then check out the following links:

Great Barrier Reef facts - some top line facts about the reef

Great Barrier Reef history - its evolution and who first discovered it.

Great Barrier Reef pictures - some of my favourite pics

Great Barrier Reef animals - turtles, fish, dugongs, sharks and more

Great Barrier Reef location - an understanding of how far the reef stretches

Great Barrier Reef Info - must know info for your trip

Great Barrier Reef Destruction - find out what's causing the reef's devastation and what you can do to help

When to go

Cairns is in the tropical north part of Queensland. This means that the best time to have a tropical Queensland holiday is in the dry months from May to October.

You can certainly visit outside of these times but be prepared for it to be extremely hot and humid. Expect some rain too.

It tends to be thunderstorms with intervals of hot sunshine but you can be unlucky and get a week of solid rain.

See Great Barrier Reef Weather for more details

How long to go to The Great Barrier Reef Australia

Unless you are a diving fanatic, you really only need a day to experience the reef. But, this is a great part of Australia to kick back and relax.

Given the day trips you can do too, I'd say you should stay for at least 3 days but up to a week.

Most of the accommodation here is resort style designed specifically for a week or two of relaxation with a day trip or two to the reef and local area.

Getting to Cairns (Gateway to The Great Barrier Reef Australia)

Best way to get here is to fly from the major Australian cities. For more details on travel distances and flights

Whilst Cairns is on the East coast, I personally think it's too far to travel here on a road trip.

But clearly you can hire a camper van or a car to get you here if you have the time to explore the entire East Coast.

Travel distance from Cairns to Brisbane is at least 24 hours!

Getting Around

Driving distances from Cairns airports are minimal so you could get away without a car if you intend to stay put.

I would however hire a car and explore the area a bit more. You don't need a 4WD to do the Daintree rainforest etc unless you intend to go further up to Cooktown.

I personally wouldn't recommend this - the drive is a killer and totally exhausting.

Exploring the Great Barrier Reef Australia

From Cairns you can take day trips to explore the Great Barrier Reef Australia. Generally this involves getting on a large undercover ferry or hovercraft and then landing on a Station literally in the middle of the ocean, where you can get a drink, get changed, hire snorkels etc.

You get a couple of hours on the Great Barrier Reef Australia before heading back on the ferry to Cairns.

You can however opt for a more relaxing trip to one of the islands e.g Green Island Australia, where you can then spend the day, enjoy the beach and snorkel or dive the Great Barrier Reef Australia. I think I’d go for this option rather than the above but check out Snorkel Great Barrier Reef for some more options and ideas of how best to see the reef.

Why not take advantage of being in one of the best marine life areas of the world and learn to dive whilst on the Great Barrier Reef Australia. Click here for more information on Australian diving and deep sea divers or click here for more information on other great dive sites outside of the Great barrier reef: scuba diving australia

What else to do and see in Tropical Queensland

Whilst the Great Barrier Reef Australia is a clear favourite and should be incorporated into your tropical Queensland holiday, there are lots of other great things to do and see:-

Head North

  • Kuranda Australia is a nice morning trip and is only 30 minutes in land from Cairns. It's in the heart of beautiful rainforests and is a great place to explore the Atherton Tablelands. You can see the rainforests in three ways - railway, sky rail or duck boats which go in and out of the water. As well as the infamous markets, you can visit a Butterfly house or Venom Zoo. It really is the journey on either the railway or the skyline that makes this trip. I drove there myself on the last trip and this time I found the markets to be a little disappointing with the town looking quite tatty and rough around the edges. That said, there is a gem of a place in the rainforest not far from the town that would be a great place to stay in instead of Cairns and it won't break the bank - Try Cedar Park Rainforest Resort Mareeba for something a little different.
  • Get a good map and find Etty BayIt's where the rainforest meats the beach and seas and is a beautiful part of the world. You may also be lucky enough to see the odd Cassoway (an endangered turkey looking creature)

  • Daintree Rainforest - a couple of hours drive from Cairns. Visit the Daintree Discovery centre (a series of walkways through the Rainforest)and do a crocodile cruise along the River (Crocodile express)
  • Cape Tribulation - a bit further on from the Discovery Centre (30 mins) this headland is pretty stunning. Worth a stop off and walk along the beach.
  • Explore the area more and stay overnight at the Daintree Eco Lodge. It’s pricey but worth it. ($300 for two including breakfast and massage) They also run heaps of interesting tours including aboriginal culture and birdwatching.
  • Head South

  • Mission Beach Australia - a Queensland holiday favourite about 2 hours from Cairns. It's 4 towns joined up by a 14km sandy beach. Great for relaxing by the beach, horseriding etc. You can visit for the day but it's also a great place to stay. Check out the Sanctuary at Mission Beach. Rooms start from $160. A bargain given the views. There is even a yoga sanctuary here.
  • Paronella Park (not far from Mission beach or 120km from Cairns) It’’s like an old castle in the middle of the rainforest with stunning waterfalls. Definitely worth a visit during the day or evening.
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    Where to stay to experience the Great Barrier Reef Australia

    Whilst Cairns is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef Australia there are, in my opinion, nicer places to stay. Cairns is however the most convenient in terms of pick ups for trips as most operators will pick you up and drop you off to your hotel.

    It is however a bit touristy,very commercial, a bit rough round the edges and slightly tacky. It is the place if you are a backpacker or on a budget as there is much more accommodation here for you.

    If you want to relax, enjoy the sunshine, do some sightseeing and incorporate just a day trip to the Great Barrier Reef Australia or Green Island, I’d probably suggest staying in either Port Douglas or Palm Cove Australia instead.

    Port Douglas is about 70km north of Carins (an hours drive) and its an easy drive from there. It’s a beautiful seaside town with nice shops and plenty of cafes and restaurants. It’s certainly more refined than Cairns.

    Palm Cove Australia is between Cairns and Port Douglas (30 mins from each.) It’s only a very small place with a row of classy hotels, restaurants and cafes right in front of the beach which is ideal for everyone. Personally, I’d stay here as its so beautiful and peaceful. It's also great for spas. But go for Port Douglas if you think you will need more vibrancy.

    The hotels below all look expensive and I've never paid this much. This is a classic queensland holiday for the Australians so there are lots of places to stay around here so you should be able to get a bargain.

    Try and book as late as possible to get a bargain.

    Also consider package deals that include flights so you can sometimes pick up a bargain that way.

    For a full list of hotel options go to each of the following pages:

    Palm Cove Australia

    Port Douglas

    Cairns Australia

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