Great Barrier Reef

Getting There

Australia's Great Barrier Reef is a favorite distination of local and international visitors. Since it extends some 2000 kilometres long north to south along the Queensand coast, visitors are sometimes perplexed as to how to get there. There are any number of access points by boat from the mainland, and some islands on the Reef may have landing strips for planes to come in.

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    Great Barrier Reef

    Reef scene with fish and corals, Wheeler Reef, Great Barrier Reef off Townsville, Queensland, Australia
    ••• Auscape / UIG/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

    This is Australia's premier spot for divers and snorkelers and for people who just wish to laze away the days under a tropic sun and maybe do a spot of swimming, water skiing, or simply walking on some of the whitest sand beaches in the world. Visit the Great Barrier Reef on cruises from Queensland coastal towns or stay at any of the Great Barrier Reef holiday resorts.

    Great Barrier Reef: Down Under Wonder

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    Great Barrier Reef Map

    Check out the towns and islands of the Great Barrier Reef. If traveling by road in Queensland, the coastal Bruce Highway is the route to take.

    View the Great Barrier Reef Map

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    Cairns

    Aerial view of Cairns, your gateway to the Reef
    ••• Aerial view of Cairns, your gateway to the Reef. Photo: Paul Ewart, courtesy Tourism Queensland

    The city of Cairns is relatively small but is nonetheless a popular tourist destination. It is, of course, a major jumpoff point to the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef.

    Cairns: Gateway to the Great Barrier Reef

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    Daydream Island

    Get set to sail on Daydream Island
    ••• Get set to sail on Daydream Island. Photo by Peter Lik, courtesy Tourism Queensland

    Why daydream when you can come and visit? Dive among the coral and the exotic tropical fish or simply enjoy the beaches and tropical fun.

    Daydream Island: Watersports and Lazy Relaxation

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    Green Island

    Tropical island ... a boat is moored close to the beach as visitors explore the island
    ••• Tropical island ... a boat is moored close to the beach as visitors explore the island. Courtesy Tourism Queensland

    One of the most accessible and popular islands on the Great Barrier Reef is Green Island, a 12-hectare coral cay set in a 710-hectare reef bed just about 30 kilometres from the far north Queensland city of Cairns.

    Green Island: Coral Cay

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    Hamilton Island

    A bird's-eye view of Hamilton Island
    ••• A bird's-eye view of Hamilton Island. © Tourism Queensland

    One of the more accessible resort islands on Australia's Great Barrier Reef, Hamilton is nestled in the heart of the Whitsunday Islands.

    Hamilton Island: Resort Island

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    Heron Island

    Go snorkeling in its waters
    ••• Snorkeling in the waters off Heron Island. © Tourism Queensland

    Heron Island is a coral cay along the Tropic of Capricorn some 72 kilometres east of the Queensland town of Gladstone. White sand beaches, clear blue waters, colorful reefs, interesting marine creatures are among its attractions.

    Heron Island: On the Tropic of Capricorn

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    Hinchinbrook Island

    Hinchinbrook Island beach
    ••• Lazy days on Hinchinbrook Island beach in north Queensland. Photo by Peter Lik © Tourism Queensland

    Hichinbrook Island is a wilderness island popular for its eco-tourism activities. Go hiking on land and snorkeling in the water.

    Hinchinbrook Island: Wilderness Island

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    Bowen

    Bowen by the sea ... a beach holiday haven
    ••• Bowen by the sea ... a beach holiday haven. Photo: Peter Lik, courtesy Tourism Queensland

    Bowen is the Queensland town close to Airlie Beach and the Whitsunday resort islands. Holiday in Bowen itself or cruise to the Whitsundays.

    Bowen on the Whitsunday Coast

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    Mackay

    Strolling by the sea at Mackay's Blacks Beach
    ••• Strolling by the sea at Mackay's Blacks Beach. © Tourism Queensland

    Probably not as popular a jump-off point to the Reef but there are day tours and extended charters to take. Mackay lies between Cairns and Brisbane and a number of tropical islands lie just off the coast.

    Mackay: Between Cairns and Brisbane

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    Townsville

    Aerial view of Townsville ... south over The Strand to Castle Hill
    ••• Aerial view of Townsville ... south over The Strand to Castle Hill. Photo: Susan Wright, courtesy Tourism Queensland

    Between Mackay and Cairns, you'll find the city of Townsville, the regional capital of north Queensland. It is, too, a jump-off point to the Great Barrier Reef.

    Townsville: Between Mackay and Cairns