The Great Barrier Reef: As a world-famous natural wonder, it’s an absolute must-visit while on holiday in Australia. Underneath the blue waters you’ll find coral gardens teeming with colourful fish and a whole host of marine life calling the area home. There are plenty of day activities in the Great Barrier Reef, from snorkelling to qualified dives, offering the ultimate underwater adventures.
There are also plenty of adventures to be had on land, as the Great Barrier Reef is also home to hundreds of picture-perfect tropical islands, lined with sandy beaches and palm trees, just waiting to be explored. Take a boat ride through the waters to admire these islands in all their splendour – or for a different view – try a helicopter flight. Here are just some of the most beautiful examples of tropical paradise waiting for you in the Great Barrier Reef.
Lady Elliot Island
Found in the southern area of the reef, this Great Barrier island is a coral cay and a sanctuary for over 1200 species of wildlife. Dubbed the home of the manta ray, Lady Elliot Island offers the chance to swim with these creatures alongside turtles and countless colourful fish.
On land, you can walk around Lady Elliot Island’s emerald edges in just 45 minutes. The golden sandy beaches are made out of crushed coral, and watching the dolphins leaping out of the water off-shore it truly memorable.
Perhaps the most famous of all the Great Barrier Reef islands, the Whitsundays are made up of 74 different islands. Most of the Whitsunday Islands are uninhabited, and is designated a National Park where wildlife can thrive. There are a few, however, which have become popular Great Barrier Reef island resorts, such as Hayman Island, the northernmost island in the group; Long Island offers stunning rainforest and bushland, while Whitsunday Island is the largest of them all.
With so many islands, the Whitsunday Islands offer a lot of activities, from hiking through the rainforests to jetskiing on the water. It’s also one of the best destinations in the southern hemisphere for sailing: the perfect way to travel from island to island.
Fitzroy Island is easily accessible by boat from Cairns in just 45 minutes, making it one of the reef’s most popular islands. Great Barrier Reef aside, Fitzroy Island is considered a National Park in its own right, sporting spectacular walking trails and wonderful wildlife. Try the Secret Garden Walk through the rainforest; or the steep ascent to the lighthouse for far-reaching views to neighbouring Little Fitzroy Island.
This is also a great spot to enjoy the view under the water as the island is almost completely surrounded by coral reef. Avid snorkellers should head to Nudey Beach, reputedly the best spot on the island.
Like Fitzroy Island, Green Island is also just 45 minutes from Cairns, making it the perfect quick island getaway. Just 15 hectares in size, you can walk the circumference of the island in 20 minutes, ideal for visits long or short. With rainforest making up most of the interior, the edges are either compacted coral or beautiful coral beaches, extending out into the sapphire blue waters.
All of this makes for the perfect environment for snorkelling, swimming and walking. This 6,000-year-old coral cay is also home to the Marineland Crocodile Park, where daily crocodile shows enable you to see these creatures up close.