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Great Barrier Reef

Holiday Travel Guide
Great Barrier Reef showing coral, scuba diving and marine life

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 Cair

Top things to do in Great Barrier Reef

Top 10 Hotels Near Great Barrier Reef

Hotel Grand Chancellor Palm Cove
Hotel Grand Chancellor Palm Cove
4 out of 5
Coral Coast Drive, Palm Cove, QLD
Fully refundableReserve now, pay when you stay
The price is RM366 per night from 5 Aug to 5 Aug
This family-friendly Cairns hotel is located by the ocean, within 1 mi (2 km) of Wet Tropics of Queensland and Palm Cove Beach. Clifton Beach is 2.6 mi (4.1 ...
4.1/5Very Good! (698 reviews)
"It was great, we were at the beach, or out and about most of the time so to have this place to come back to sleep in the comfy beds or have a quick swim in the pool was great. We weren't there for the "resort experience" or to laze around the pool and eat hotel food, that's not a holiday to us. A ..."

Reviewed on 25 Jul 2021

Hotel Grand Chancellor Palm Cove
Turtle Cove Beach Resort - Adults Only LGBTQIA & Allies
Turtle Cove Beach Resort - Adults Only LGBTQIA & Allies
3.5 out of 5
4500 Captain Cook Hwy, Wangetti, QLD
This Wangetti resort is on the beach, 3.3 mi (5.3 km) from Hartley's Crocodile Adventures, and within 12 mi (20 km) of Great Barrier Reef and Four Mile Beach. ...
4.4/5Excellent! (77 reviews)
"Loved the beach front, the location and the relaxed atmosphere, the managers are amazing at making you feel welcome, relaxed and looked after by all the great team"

Reviewed on 1 Aug 2020

Turtle Cove Beach Resort - Adults Only LGBTQIA & Allies
Ellis Beach Oceanfront Bungalows - Campground
Ellis Beach Oceanfront Bungalows - Campground
3 out of 5
Captain Cook Highway, Ellis Beach, QLD
Nestled on the beach, this Ellis Beach campsite is within 3 mi (5 km) of Wet Tropics of Queensland, Palm Cove Beach and Clifton Beach. Macalister Range National ...
4.3/5Excellent! (52 reviews)
"Great spot for a quiet getaway. Clean Bungalows right on the beach. Parking on site."

Reviewed on 18 Apr 2021

Ellis Beach Oceanfront Bungalows - Campground
Lowest nightly price found within the past 24 hours based on a 1 night stay for 2 adults. Prices and availability subject to change. Additional terms may apply.

Popular places to visit in Great Barrier Reef

Great Barrier Reef


Top Great Barrier Reef Hotel Deals

Hotel Grand Chancellor Palm Cove
Hotel Grand Chancellor Palm Cove
4 out of 5
Coral Coast Drive, Palm Cove, QLD
The price is RM366 per night from 5 Aug to 5 Aug
Hotel Grand Chancellor Palm Cove
Turtle Cove Beach Resort - Adults Only LGBTQIA & Allies
Turtle Cove Beach Resort - Adults Only LGBTQIA & Allies
3.5 out of 5
4500 Captain Cook Hwy, Wangetti, QLD
Turtle Cove Beach Resort - Adults Only LGBTQIA & Allies
Ellis Beach Oceanfront Bungalows - Campground
Ellis Beach Oceanfront Bungalows - Campground
3 out of 5
Captain Cook Highway, Ellis Beach, QLD
Ellis Beach Oceanfront Bungalows - Campground
Imagine Drift Palm Cove
Imagine Drift Palm Cove
4 out of 5
Cnr Veivers Rd Williams Esp, Palm Cove, QLD
The price is RM586 per night from 5 Aug to 5 Aug
Imagine Drift Palm Cove
Mango Lagoon Resort & Wellness Spa
Mango Lagoon Resort & Wellness Spa
3.5 out of 5
81 - 85 Cedar Road, Palm Cove, QLD
The price is RM754 per night from 6 Aug to 6 Aug
Mango Lagoon Resort & Wellness Spa
Peppers Beach Club and Spa - Palm Cove
Peppers Beach Club and Spa - Palm Cove
5 out of 5
123 Williams Esplanade, Palm Cove, QLD
The price is RM995 per night from 3 Aug to 3 Aug
Peppers Beach Club and Spa - Palm Cove
Mantra Amphora
Mantra Amphora
4.5 out of 5
49-63 Williams Esplanade, Palm Cove, QLD
The price is RM516 per night from 3 Aug to 3 Aug
Mantra Amphora
Sarayi Boutique Hotel
Sarayi Boutique Hotel
4 out of 5
95 Williams Esplanade, Palm Cove, QLD
The price is RM433 per night from 3 Aug to 3 Aug
Sarayi Boutique Hotel
Coral Coast Apartments Palm Cove AVC
Coral Coast Apartments Palm Cove AVC
3.5 out of 5
Coral Coast Dr, Palm Cove, QLD
Coral Coast Apartments Palm Cove AVC
Lowest nightly price found within the past 24 hours based on a 1 night stay for 2 adults. Prices and availability subject to change. Additional terms may apply.