The Great Barrier Reef. It conjures up a whirl of coral, fish and beaches, diving into the depths to witness a world hidden beneath the waves. And it certainly doesn’t disappoint.
The Whitsundays is the perfect base to explore this magnificent natural wonder.
Day One – See Airlie Beach and Hamilton Island
Fly into the Whitsunday Coast Airport (Proserpine). It’s about a 45 minute bus journey to reach the small town of Airlie Beach. There’s also an airport on Hamilton Island, about five minutes’ drive from the resorts there.
Spend some time in Airlie Beach looking at the local wares, swimming in the lagoon and taking a stroll along the Bicentennial Walkway to Abell Point Marina. Get a ferry over to Hamilton Island (times, prices and regularity vary) – the trip is around an hour each way – and do a kayak tour at sunset.
You can stay on a boat overnight but there are quite a few accommodation options around the Airlie Beach vicinity, depending on your budget. The award-winning five-star Qualia luxury resort on Hamilton Island is renowned for its waterfront views, if you fancy splashing out.
Day Two – Snorkel the Barrier Reef
Begin with an Ocean Rafting Fly and Ride tour ($359, 7.30am to 4.30pm), taking in the sweeping ecosystem from the air and from the water. Head to the local airport to go on a high-wing aeroplane for an hour’s flight. GSL Aviation takes you over the most stunning spots in the Great Barrier Reef – namely Heart Reef, Hill Inlet and Whitehaven Beach.
Then you’ll be brought to your Ocean Rafting Southern Lights boat tour. If you’re expecting a slow and relaxing experience, this is not it, but you’ll get a lively and energetic introduction to the surrounding islands.
Two crew members lead the journey out to Hill Inlet, where you’ll take in the views before heading to Whitehaven Beach. An hour of snorkelling awaits, too. Even if you’re nervous, I’d recommend giving it a go. We were given lifejackets and swimming noodles to feel more reassured in the water, and it is really the definition of a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Day Three – Jetski and Relax
Take a jetski tour in the morning (most start at 9am, costing around $100-$200).
If you have any questions or are planning your own trip to the Great Barrier Reef, leave a comment below.