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Great Barrier Reef

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 Cairns

Popular Activities at Great Barrier Reef

Give yourself heaps of time at Great Barrier Reef. Below are the most popular things to do:

If you're seeking more activities, peruse our Wangetti things to do page.


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Top Hotel Deals

See all 333 properties near Great Barrier Reef
Turtle Cove Beach Resort - Caters to LGBT Guests AU$224
Turtle Cove Beach Resort - Caters to LGBT Guests

Turtle Cove Beach Resort - Caters to LGBT Guests

4500 Captain Cook Hwy, Wangetti, QLD
     
    4.3
    of 5, from 62 reviews
    3.5 out of 5.0

    Nestled on the beach, this Wangetti resort is within 6 mi (10 km) of Hartley's Crocodile Adventures, Great Barrier Reef, and Hartley's Crocodile Adventures. Four Mile Beach and Four Mile Beach Park are also within 12 mi (20 km).

    Ellis Beach Oceanfront Bungalows - Campground AU$175
    Ellis Beach Oceanfront Bungalows - Campground

    Ellis Beach Oceanfront Bungalows - Campground

    Captain Cook Highway, Ellis Beach, QLD
       
      4.2
      of 5, from 39 reviews
      3.0 out of 5.0

      Within easy reach of Palm Cove Beach and Clifton Village Shopping Centre, this Ellis Beach campground is located by the ocean and set on the beach. Area attractions also include Great Barrier Reef and Clifton Beach.

      Peppers Beach Club and Spa - Palm Cove AU$193
      Peppers Beach Club and Spa - Palm Cove

      Peppers Beach Club and Spa - Palm Cove

      123 Williams Esplanade, Palm Cove, QLD
         
        4.5
        of 5, from 699 reviews
        5.0 out of 5.0

        Nestled on the beach, this Palm Cove resort is 0.1 mi (0.1 km) from Palm Cove Beach and 2.5 mi (3.9 km) from Clifton Beach. Clifton Village Shopping Centre is 2 mi (3.2 km) away.

        Imagine Drift Palm Cove AU$129
        Imagine Drift Palm Cove

        Imagine Drift Palm Cove

        Cnr Veivers Rd Williams Esp, Palm Cove, QLD
           
          4.3
          of 5, from 303 reviews
          4.0 out of 5.0

          This Palm Cove apartment building is located by the ocean, nestled on the beach a short distance from Palm Cove Beach, Clifton Beach, and Clifton Village Shopping Centre. Local attractions also include Kewarra Beach.

          Mantra Amphora AU$131
          Mantra Amphora

          Mantra Amphora

          49-63 Williams Esplanade, Palm Cove, QLD
             
            4.2
            of 5, from 623 reviews
            4.5 out of 5.0

            Situated in Palm Cove, this luxury hotel is 0.1 mi (0.1 km) from Palm Cove Beach and 2.1 mi (3.4 km) from Clifton Beach. Kewarra Beach and Clifton Village Shopping Centre are also within 3 mi (5 km).

            Alamanda Palm Cove by Lancemore AU$212
            Alamanda Palm Cove by Lancemore

            Alamanda Palm Cove by Lancemore

            1 Veivers Road, Palm Cove, QLD
               
              4.7
              of 5, from 369 reviews
              5.0 out of 5.0

              Nestled on the beach, this Palm Cove aparthotel is 0.1 mi (0.1 km) from Palm Cove Beach and 2 mi (3.2 km) from Clifton Beach. Kewarra Beach and Clifton Village Shopping Centre are also within 3 mi (5 km).

              Hotel Grand Chancellor Palm Cove AU$115
              Hotel Grand Chancellor Palm Cove

              Hotel Grand Chancellor Palm Cove

              Coral Coast Drive, Palm Cove, QLD
                 
                4.1
                of 5, from 631 reviews
                4.0 out of 5.0

                This family-friendly Palm Cove hotel is located by the ocean, within 3 mi (5 km) of Palm Cove Beach and Clifton Beach. Clifton Village Shopping Centre is 2.1 mi (3.4 km) away.

                The Sebel Palm Cove Coral Coast AU$149
                The Sebel Palm Cove Coral Coast

                The Sebel Palm Cove Coral Coast

                Coral Coast Drive, Palm Cove, Palm Cove, QLD
                   
                  4.4
                  of 5, from 118 reviews
                  4.0 out of 5.0

                  Situated in Palm Cove, this golf apartment building is 0.7 mi (1.1 km) from Palm Cove Beach and 2.9 mi (4.7 km) from Clifton Beach. Clifton Village Shopping Centre is 2.3 mi (3.7 km) away.