Why You Must Visit The Great Barrier Reef

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Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef is an exceptional holiday destination for couples, families, friends, beach lovers, ocean lovers, adventure sports lovers, wildlife lovers… the list is endless! But if you’re on the fence about including the Great Barrier Reef in your Australia vacation itinerary, we’ll show you why it deserves a spot on your bucket list. After showing you exactly why the reef is so very special - we’re going to highlight 10 unique and incredible Great Barrier Reef experiences that will make your holiday unforgettable.

Great Barrier Reef

What makes the Great Barrier Reef special?

What makes the Great Barrier Reef stand out from all the other reefs in the world? It comes down to 3 things: its size, its underwater residents and its ravishingly good looks.

You can see the Great Barrier Reef from the moon

The Great Barrier reef is not just any reef. It’s actually the world’s largest coral reef system. It’s 2,300km long, with a whopping 900+ islands in total, and yes, it really is visible from space. It’s enough to make your head spin.

Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is home to some of the most unique creatures on the planet

The Barrier Reef’s colourful coral gardens are a playground (and an all-you-can-eat buffet) for around 1,500 types of fish, in every shape, size and pattern you can imagine. From tiny, world-famous Nemo (clownfish) to huge Humpback whales, marine creatures in their millions swim around the Reef every day. Sharks, rays, dugongs, turtles, dolphins… you can see them all, in real life, in their natural habitat. That’s pretty special.

Ecologically, the Great Barrier Reef is so important that Sir David Attenborough devoted an entire TV series to it. And you can’t argue with Sir David. 

The Great Barrier Reef is breathtakingly beautiful…

What does the Great Barrier Reef look like, and what is it made of? Imagine that someone has planted a rainbow-hued rock garden spreading for thousands of miles across the sea bed. 

But believe it or not, corals are not plants: you are looking at living creatures.

What is a coral reef?

Coral reefs are made up of tiny animals known as polyps. Incredibly, these animals are mainly transparent, and their amazing colours come from the algae which live inside the polyps’ bodies. It might sound gross, but the effect is heart-stoppingly beautiful. It’s no wonder that millions of travellers visit this World Heritage Site to get a glimpse.

...And it’s as beautiful above the water as it is below

But you needn’t spend your whole holiday with your head underwater for a great view of the scenery. Above the waterline white-sand beaches, palm-fringed islands, ancient rainforests, towering gorges and spectacular waterfalls are all easily accessible during your stay in the area.

Still sitting on the fence? Take a look at some of the once-in-a-lifetime experiences the Great Barrier Reef has to offer:

Whitsundays Barrier Reef

Great Barrier Reef Highlights: Best Things to Do and See

The best holidays are the ones where you and your travel companions make memories to remember forever. So does the Great Barrier Reef deliver? Here are 8 unique and unforgettable experiences you’ll want to add to your bucket list.

1. Take a romantic flight over a heart-shaped reef with your beloved

Soar over the Coral Sea in a helicopter or seaplane for incredible views of the world-famous Heart Reef. Surrounded by perfectly pristine turquoise waters, there couldn’t be a more beautiful place to share with someone special.

(Location: Whitsundays)

2. Explore the “best wreck dive in the world”: the SS Yongala

The largely untouched wreck of the SS Yongala, sunk by a cyclone in 1911, is a dive site like no other. Teeming with life, the coral-encrusted shipwreck hosts more fish than you are ever likely to see in one place.  We’re talking sharks, rays, giant grouper (over 2.5 metres long), and huge schools of every size and colour. A liveaboard dive trip to the remote and mysterious SS Yongala should be on every experienced diver’s to-do list.

(Location: off the coast of Townsville)

underwater reef suites

3. Sleep with the fishes: Spend a night on the Reef

In Australia’s first underwater accommodation, there are no curtains covering the floor-to-ceiling windows. But 4 metres below the surface, the only eyes peeping in at the windows of your Reefsuite will belong to the beautiful fish passing by. 

(Location: Whitsundays)

4.The annual Coral Spawning: See the Reef become a gigantic snowglobe

Visit the Great Barrier Reef in spring, around the November full moon, for a spectacle like no other. For 1000km from Port Douglas to Heron Island, millions of coral spawn at the same time, releasing millions of eggs and transforming the Reef into a snow flurry. This perfectly synchronised love-fest can only be witnessed over a few nights and it’s dependent on the lunar cycle each year.

(Location: various)

5. Watch hundreds of baby turtles dipping their toes in the water for the first time

On secluded sand dunes and beaches along the Queensland coast, you can witness the amazing spectacle of tiny turtles hatching from their eggs and toddling down to the ocean. Lady Elliot Island, Heron Island and Bundaberg’s Mon Repos Beach are some of the top turtle-watching hotspots.

(Location: various)

Great Barrier reef Turtles

6. A gourmet picnic on a secluded island (and a helicopter to drop you off)

From the moment your helicopter pilot drops you off on Vlasoff Cay, at the heart of the Great Barrier Reef, the island is yours and yours alone. You’ll be furnished with a gourmet picnic hamper and a bottle of bubbly, plus a snorkel and flippers to explore the azure waters around you. 

(Location: Cairns)

7. Play championship golf on an island in the Whitsundays

Hamilton Island Golf Club’s exclusive 18-hole championship course is situated on its very own island. The challenging course has been used for the PGA Professional Championship finals so you’ll need to bring your A-game. Will the spectacular Whitsunday Islands backdrop put you off your swing?

(Location: Whitsundays)

8. Discover Cape Tribulation, home to not one but TWO World Heritage Sites

110km north of Cairns, beautiful Cape Tribulation is a remote headland where the Wet Tropics Rainforest and Great Barrier Reef UNESCO World Heritage Areas meet. The rugged Daintree Rainforest is one of the world’s most ancient. Beneath the lush forest canopy, if you are lucky (they’re a bit shy) you can glimpse 2-metre-tall Cassowary birds, the descendants of dinosaurs, wandering around. If you take a cruise along the Daintree River, you’ll even see crocodiles up to 5 metres long from the safety of a boat.

(Location: Cape Tribulation)

Cape Tribulation

9. Bask on Australia’s most idyllic white sand beach

Whitehaven Beach is what dreams are made of. Sink your feet into the soft white sand that stretches for miles along the coast of Whitsunday Island. Stroll to the northern end of the beach and you’ll find the famous Hill Inlet beauty spot. Here, the tide shifts the sand, combining it with the blue-green waters to create an array of colourful swishes and swirls.

(Location: Whitsundays)

10. Swim with graceful, giant Manta Rays

Can you imagine swimming, snorkelling or diving alongside a creature that resembles a 7-metre-wide kite? Manta Rays are inquisitive gentle giants, and they are regular visitors to the Great Barrier Reef. Lady Elliot Island in the Southern Great Barrier Reef is dubbed the “home of the Manta Ray”, and you’ll find them here in large numbers, especially during the cooler months (from May to August). 

(Location: Lady Elliot Island)

Ok, you’ve convinced me. How do I fit the Great Barrier Reef into my already-full Australia itinerary?

Looking for some Australia itinerary ideas which feature the Great Barrier Reef? Take a look at our vast library of Queensland Self Drive itineraries

You’ll find everything from a sumptuous 12 day Reef and Rainforest Luxury Honeymoon, to a mammoth 20 day Sydney to Cairns coastal road trip itinerary, and even a Kakadu & North Queensland Adventure for lovers of remote Aussie landscapes and unique experiences. 

With options to fit a wide range of tastes and budgets, we’re sure you’ll find your dream holiday in there. And if you don’t? Get in touch! We can customise any of our itineraries to suit you perfectly, or design one exclusively for you from scratch.


More articles to help you plan your trip to the Great Barrier Reef and Tropical Queensland.

Where Should You Stay When Visiting The Great Barrier Reef?
The best honeymoon destinations in Tropical North Queensland
Best Things To Do In Tropical North Queensland
Alternatives to Diving Australia's Great Barrier Reef


Submitted by
Marianne Davies
: 15 Jun 2021 (Last updated: 15 Jun 2021)

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