Great Barrier Reef

Great Barrier Reef featuring diving, marine life and colorful reefs

Great Barrier Reef

Choose one or more items to build your trip:
Choose one or more items to build your trip:

The largest coral reef in the world lies just off the coast of Cairns and offers thousands of kilometers 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 1,240 miles (2,000 kilometers) 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 133,000 square miles (350,000 square kilometers). 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 organize 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 79 F (26 C), 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.

Top Hotels Close to Great Barrier Reef

Ellis Beach Oceanfront Bungalows - Campground
Ellis Beach Oceanfront Bungalows - Campground
3 out of 5
Captain Cook Highway, Ellis Beach, QLD, 4879
The price is $106 per night from May 31 to Jun 1
Stay at this 3-star beach campground in Cairns. Enjoy free parking, a beach locale, and an airport shuttle. Our guests praise the helpful staff in our reviews. ...
4.3/5 Excellent! (57 reviews)
"Awesome, so close to the breaking waves and short drive to Palm Cove"

Reviewed on Jan 11, 2022

Ellis Beach Oceanfront Bungalows - Campground
Turtle Cove Beach Resort - Adults Only LGBTQIA & Allies
Turtle Cove Beach Resort - Adults Only LGBTQIA & Allies
3.5 out of 5
4500 Captain Cook Hwy, Wangetti, QLD, 4877
Stay at this 3.5-star beach resort in Wangetti. Enjoy free breakfast, free WiFi, and free parking. Our guests praise the pool and the WiFi in our reviews. Popular ...
4.4/5 Excellent! (77 reviews)
"Loved the beach front, the location and the relaxed atmosphere, the managers are amazing at making you feel welcome, relaxed and looked after by all the great team"

Reviewed on Aug 1, 2020

Turtle Cove Beach Resort - Adults Only LGBTQIA & Allies
Imagine Drift Palm Cove
Imagine Drift Palm Cove
4 out of 5
Cnr Veivers Rd Williams Esp, Palm Cove, QLD, 4879
Fully refundableReserve now, pay when you stay
The price is $140 per night from Jun 1 to Jun 2
Stay at this 4-star luxury aparthotel in Cairns. Enjoy free WiFi, free parking, and a beach locale. Our guests praise the comfy rooms in our reviews. Popular ...
4.2/5 Excellent! (583 reviews)
"Great room, good value, great facilities"

Reviewed on Apr 2, 2022

Imagine Drift Palm Cove
Lowest nightly price found within the past 24 hours based on a 1 night stay for 2 adults. Prices and availability subject to change. Additional terms may apply.

Popular places to visit in Great Barrier Reef


Best Lodging Options Near Great Barrier Reef

Ellis Beach Oceanfront Bungalows - Campground
Ellis Beach Oceanfront Bungalows - Campground
3 out of 5
Captain Cook Highway, Ellis Beach, QLD, 4879
The price is $106 per night from May 31 to Jun 1
Ellis Beach Oceanfront Bungalows - Campground
Turtle Cove Beach Resort - Adults Only LGBTQIA & Allies
Turtle Cove Beach Resort - Adults Only LGBTQIA & Allies
3.5 out of 5
4500 Captain Cook Hwy, Wangetti, QLD, 4877
Turtle Cove Beach Resort - Adults Only LGBTQIA & Allies
Imagine Drift Palm Cove
Imagine Drift Palm Cove
4 out of 5
Cnr Veivers Rd Williams Esp, Palm Cove, QLD, 4879
The price is $140 per night from Jun 1 to Jun 2
Imagine Drift Palm Cove
Mango Lagoon Resort & Wellness Spa
Mango Lagoon Resort & Wellness Spa
3.5 out of 5
81 - 85 Cedar Road, Palm Cove, QLD, 4878
The price is $152 per night from May 29 to May 30
Mango Lagoon Resort & Wellness Spa
Sarayi Boutique Hotel
Sarayi Boutique Hotel
4 out of 5
95 Williams Esplanade, Palm Cove, QLD, 4879
The price is $107 per night from May 26 to May 27
Sarayi Boutique Hotel
Peppers Beach Club and Spa - Palm Cove
Peppers Beach Club and Spa - Palm Cove
5 out of 5
123 Williams Esplanade, Palm Cove, QLD, 4879
Peppers Beach Club and Spa - Palm Cove
The Sebel Palm Cove Coral Coast
The Sebel Palm Cove Coral Coast
4 out of 5
Coral Coast Drive, Palm Cove, QLD, 4879
The Sebel Palm Cove Coral Coast
Pullman Palm Cove Sea Temple Resort and Spa
Pullman Palm Cove Sea Temple Resort and Spa
5 out of 5
5 Triton Street, Palm Cove, QLD, 4879
The price is $192 per night from Jun 1 to Jun 2
Pullman Palm Cove Sea Temple Resort and Spa
Coral Coast Apartments Palm Cove AVC
Coral Coast Apartments Palm Cove AVC
3.5 out of 5
Coral Coast Dr, Palm Cove, QLD, 4879
Coral Coast Apartments Palm Cove AVC
Lowest nightly price found within the past 24 hours based on a 1 night stay for 2 adults. Prices and availability subject to change. Additional terms may apply.