Experts in Australia, New Zealand & South Pacific

Great Barrier Reef Holidays

Of all the things to do on a trip to Australia, exploring the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef is undoubtedly one of the most exciting.

The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest and most breathtaking coral reef. It's home to over 1,500 species of fish and rainbow-coloured coral. You can meet the resident green turtles and discover incredible creatures like giant clams and tiny clownfish (aka ‘Nemo’). Even swim with dwarf minke whales.

There are lots of different ways you can choose to explore the reef. For the more adventurous, there are plenty of dive schools that run daily reef trips from Cairns and Port Douglas. Most give you the option to either dive or snorkel (or both). Some even offer a semi-submersible experience. Glass-bottom boats are also a great way to see the reef, especially for those who’d prefer to keep their feet on solid ground. 

For something extra special, you can take a scenic flight over the reef for amazing bird’s-eye views of this natural masterpiece.

Stretching over 2,000 kilometres along the northeast coast, you can base yourself on one of Queensland's many reef-fringed islands such as Lizard Island and Heron Island. Or perhaps one of the beautiful Whitsunday Islands, with their exclusive luxury resorts. 

If you'd prefer to move around a bit, then we suggest flying into Cairns and exploring the Tropical North coast on a self-drive. Stopping off to snorkel where and when you want.

Whatever kind of reef adventure you’re after, there’s sure to be a Great Barrier Reef holiday to suit you.

a woman wearing glasses and smiling at the camera
When in Tropical North Queensland, if you are wanting to do a Great Barrier Reef trip then I’d recommend doing this on your first full day, that way if the weather is bad, or there is a problem with the boat, you can rearrange to do it another day without missing out.
Julie, Travel Designer

Recommended experiences

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There are 5 itineraries to choose from below. Use the filters to refine your options.

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Reef Sleep - Overnight Great Barrier Reef Experience

2 Day Tour
From £299 per person

Located out at Hardy Reef, one of the most spectacular stretches of the Great Barrier Reef, your home for the night is the unique pontoon.

Great for
  • Adventure
  • Beaches & boats
  • Wildlife & nature

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Traveller's guide

  • Travellers Guide: 

    Useful information

    Currency: Australian Dollar (AUD)

    Language: English

    Time difference: GMT+10

    Flying time: approx. 24 hours + 1 stop

    Airport: Cairns Airport (code: CNS)

    Departure tax: included in the cost of your airline ticket

    Visa: all visitors to Australia (except New Zealand citizens) with a British passport require an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) or eVisitor visa. This enables you to stay in the country for up to three months. Your Travel Designer can organise your visa at the time of booking.

    Best time to visit the Great Barrier Reef

    If you’re planning a holiday to the Great Barrier Reef, the best time to go is outside of wet season to avoid the storms and monsoons. For the best visibility, visit between June and November when the weather is mild and the water temperatures are still in their twenties.

    High season: summer (Dec to Feb)

    • Temperatures range from 23-31°C.
    • Hot and humid, this is the start of the wet season which lasts throughout the summer months.

    Shoulder season: autumn and spring (Mar to May and Sep to Nov)

    • Autumn temperatures range from 21-29°C
    • Spring temperatures range from 20-29°C.

    Low season: winter (Jun to Aug)

    • Temperatures range from 17-26°C.
    • The cooler temperatures and lower levels of rainfall make this peak time to visit the Great Barrier Reef so make sure you book your boat trip in advance.
  • Travellers Guide: 

    Getting to the Great Barrier Reef

    Depending on what part of the Great Barrier Reef you want to visit, the two main gateways are Cairns or the Whitsundays airports (Hamilton Island, Proserpine Airport and Whitsunday Airport – both near Airlie Beach).

    Approximate flying times:

    • Sydney to Cairns = 3 hours
    • Melbourne to Cairns = 3 hours 30 minutes
    • Perth to Cairns = 5 hours 20 minutes
    • Sydney to Proserpine = 2 hours 20 minutes

    Getting around the Great Barrier Reef

    An island-hopping sailing trip around the Whitsundays or a snorkel/dive trip to the outer barrier reef? How will you experience the Great Barrier Reef? Though when you are not in or on the water, there's still plenty to see on shore. Hire a car and discover the Daintree Rainforest, or if you're on Hamilton Island – get yourself a golf buggy to scoot around the island.

    Approximate driving times:

    • Cairns to Port Douglas = 1 hour
    • Cairns to Cape Tribulation = 3 hours
    • Cairns to Townsville = 4 hours 30 minutes
    • Cairns to Airlie Beach = 7 hours 30 minutes