How to visit the Great Barrier Reef

The Whitsundays are located in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef and are an ideal place from which to explore this World Heritage Listed attraction, so large it can be seen from space!

The Great Barrier Reef hosts one third of the world’s coral species. It is also home to more than 1,500 species of fish as well as turtles, whales, dolphins, dugongs, reef sharks, manta rays and giant clams.

How to get there

In the Whitsundays, there is a wide choice of tours and trips available to get you to the Great Barrier Reef. Tours can be combined with sailing, snorkelling, diving, fishing and flying! The trick is finding a tour that fits in with your travel plans and ticks some of those boxes. However you choose to have your Great Barrier Reef adventure, you are bound to fall in love with this amazing living structure - one of the seven natural wonders of the world.

How to get there

Come fly with me!

A popular way to see the Great Barrier Reef is by air. Flying over this vast coral formation is awe-inspiring and reinforces just how enormous it is. Most tours take in the islands as well, including the iconic Whitehaven Beach and swirling sands of Hill Inlet. Some tours include a stop at Whitehaven Beach, frequently voted one of the world’s top 10 beaches. This stunning stretch of white silica sand on Whitsunday Island is the perfect location to enjoy a picnic lunch and recline in the crystal clear waters with turtles and rays. Your flight then heads further out into the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park to take in the sights of Bait Reef, home of the amazing stepping stones, Hook Reef and Hardy Lagoon (a real insta-moment) and Heart Reef, a coral reef that has formed naturally into the shape of a heart – a well-known Whitsundays landmark from the air. In the Whitsundays, there is a choice of flying options including fixed-wing plane, helicopters and seaplanes.


There’s a certain air of romance to a seaplane, reminiscent of a bygone era, and they are a great way to enjoy the Whitsunday Islands and Great Barrier Reef from both the air and on the surface. Your pilot will descend to 500 feet while at the reef to take in all the marine life including turtles, rays and, in the right season, pods of humpback whales. You will also experience the sensation of landing on the ocean’s surface in a seaplane with a ‘touch and go’ water landing.


Fixed-wing planes are also on offer in the Whitsundays and everyone is guaranteed a window seat! See all the best sites the Whitsundays and Great Barrier Reef have to offer in comfort and style, including the 74 Whitsunday Islands and island resorts, as you head towards Whitehaven Beach and Hill Inlet. Enjoy two passes of Australia's best beach and then head out to the reef. On board, everyone enjoys a pilot commentary and superb views from the high-wing aircraft.


A great option if you’re short on time. Enjoy the best views of the Great Barrier Reef, as well as iconic Heart Reef, the Whitsunday Islands and Whitehaven Beach – it’s all included on a helicopter scenic flight. Not only will you see it all from above, but you can also land on Whitehaven Beach with 1 ½ hours to explore. Alternatively, if you have other plans for visiting world-famous Whitehaven Beach, you can just stay in the air!

Come Fly With Me

Optional extras

Some scenic flights to the reef include the option of snorkelling and coral viewing from a private semi-submersible vessel with underwater viewing chamber, sun and shade deck areas and easy access into the calm waters of Hardy Lagoon.

Sail to the reef

If you’re more of a ‘water baby’ than an ‘air-head’, there are tours to the Great Barrier Reef where you can turn your hand to some sailing. Sail the Whitsunday Islands and Outer Great Barrier Reef on a 16.4m ketch, fitted out for a maximum of 14 guests for comfort and space. Relax in the large roomy saloon and comfortable cabins, all fully air-conditioned to ensure a good sleep on those steamy, tropical evenings.  Above deck there’s lots of room for gearing up to go diving, snorkelling or just relaxing in the sun.

Dive the reef

If diving’s your thing, you’ll be pleased to hear there are lots of options for indulging your passion on the Great Barrier Reef, where you can experience a magical world beneath the waves (no certificate needed). Take the plunge to see for yourself the abundance of coral and marine life that this weird and wonderful landscape has to offer. Cruise on a new, custom-designed dive vessel, with two levels of air-conditioned luxury, lounge-style seating, a partially shaded deck and fresh water shower on-board. Tours include diving gear and wetsuits and two different dive locations.

Come Fly With Me

Fish the reef

The Whitsundays fishing is at its best on the ‘Outer’ Great Barrier Reef - so say the region’s reef fishing companies, who are passionate about what they do. Enjoy a fast and comfortable ride out to remote reefs with nothing to worry about, as everything is provided including rods, reels, handlines, tackle and bait. Expect to catch coral trout, red throat emperor, red emperor, spangled emperor, nannygai, cod, spanish mackerel, trevally, tuna, cobia, black marlin, sailfish and many more reef and pelagic fish. Morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea is provided and your catch is cleaned and put on ice. You can even have your fish cooked fresh that day at local fish and rum bar Fish D’vine for a small charge. What a great way to finish your day off fishing in the beautiful Whitsundays.

Cruise to the reef

If all this sounds far too energetic, then you can simply cruise to the Great Barrier Reef in comfort and style on board a high-speed catamaran with spacious air-conditioned lounges, large outdoor viewing decks and bars serving refreshments! Enjoy an outstanding range of interactive Great Barrier Reef Adventures at a custom-built pontoon, where you can spend the day exploring the underwater world of magnificent marine life and colourful corals. You can also join a small group for a Snorkel Safari, where you'll learn how the reef was formed, how coral feeds, grows and breeds, and see some very special inhabitants – parrotfish, magnificent anemones, cleaner wrasse and of course, anemone fish (Nemo!).

Sleep on the reef

Star gazing by night, exploring by day - it really doesn't get much better than this. Spend a night sleeping under the stars at the Great Barrier Reef with a two-day, one-night adventure. There can be few more unique experiences offered in the world than the chance to sleep under the stars on the reef, 39 nautical miles off-shore.

The pontoon is on Hardy Reef - one of the most spectacular stretches of the Great Barrier Reef – and offers a once-in-a-life time, memorable overnight experience. By day, all the activities are offered including diving, snorkelling and scenic helicopter flights, and once the day-guests depart, you get the pontoon to yourself and a handful of other guests. As dusk approaches, watch for turtles surfacing to nibble the seaweed around the pontoon and watch as the sun sets over the reef, while you sip your cocktail. See the reef really come to life at night and gaze up at a gazillion stars from your comfy swag, before the tranquillity of the ocean lulls you to sleep.

Sleep on the reef