Barrier Reef Australia Blog


Where is the best place to visit the Great Barrier Reef?

admin on July 25th, 2023

The Great Barrier Reef is a magnificent World Heritage listed natural wonder of the world located off the tropical coast of Queensland, Australia. For tourists and locals alike the best place to visit the Great Barrier Reef varies according to the types of activities you are planning to do whilst on the reef. The best place to visit also depends on whom you are travelling with, do you have young children or teenagers, are you with girlfriends for a short weekend getaway or a bunch of mates wanting to go game fishing, are you a scuba dive enthusiast that wants to dive with sharks or are you and adventurer who wants to swim with dwarf minke whales?

The next consideration is you must look at the time of year that is best to visit the Great Barrier Reef as the reef is just like your garden, it has its very own underwater season that attracts different marine life at different times of the year and the corals also change and react to the seasons also.

So, to make the question “where is the best place to visit the Great Barrier Reef” easier to answer let’s first start with the type of travellers.

Types of Travellers

  • Families:  Those with school aged children travel during the Australian school holidays
  • Couples:  They normally do not visit the Great Barrier Reef during the school holidays.
  • Corporate Getaways:  They do not travel during the school holidays.
  • Friends Getaway: They travel all year round for long weekends and so on.   
  • Single Travellers:  They normally travel all year round and and some on group tours which run during the warmer months.
  • Special Interest Groups: They travel in the months according to the special interest they are travelling such as turtle hatching in Oct to March, dive with sharks June to September, swim with minke whales June to July or big game fishing November to March.

Next up, when is it best to visit the Great Barrier Reef based on the types of activities visitors are looking to participate in.

Types of Activities On The Reef

  • Scuba Diving: Scuba diving is all year round for both day tours and liveaboard dive trips and the best place to visit for these activities is from Cairns and Port Douglas because the reef is closer, and the corals are hard corals and support a great variety of marine life. The water is deeper and colder, and the marine life are larger.  The Great Barrier Reef is also a top destination for Learn to Dive courses.
  • Swim with Dwarf Minke Whales: June to July is the best time to swim with whales and the only place to participate is on liveaboard dive boats from Cairns and day boats from Port Douglas.
  • Whale Watching: From Hervey Bay June to September is best for Whale Watching tours, Cairns in July for day trip and on liveaboards June to September.
  • Family Holidays: If you have school aged children then this is an easy one you can answer yourselves and the Great Barrier Reef is great to visit from any part along the Queensland coastline.
  • Game Fishing: The best time for game fishing on the Great Barrier Reef is November to January when the Black Marlin and bigger fish are visiting the reef for the coral spawning season and the best place to charter a boat for game fishing is Cairns and Port Douglas.
  • Sailing: Sailing is best when the Tradewinds are blowing, and the most popular place is in the Whitsundays and around the Islands. For yacht racing it is March to May and for cruising it is August to December and into January
  • Luxury Yacht Charter: The Whitsundays are the most popular for luxury yacht charters and visitors can book superyachts from Hamilton Island and Airlie Beach for a day charter or multi-overnight charters. The other popular destination for luxury yacht charters in Queensland is Cairns and Port Douglas so visitors can access the very best parts of the Great Barrier Reef up north.
  • Overnight on the Reef: Enjoying the tranquility of the Great Barrier Reef overnight is an amazing experience!  Choose from a range of overnight and multinight options including - Whitsunday sailing tours, private luxury yacht charters, fishing charters, small ship cruises, to the unique Reef Sleep where you sleep overnight on the pontoon, or in a luxury underwater Reef Suite on the Whitsundays.  Enjoy a tropical island getaway staying at one of the Island Resorts in tropical North Queensland complete with onsite dining, island activities and accommodation for couples and families.

Top Destinations on the Great Barrier Reef

Here are some popular destinations to visit on the Great Barrier Reef:

  • Cairns: Cairns is a vibrant city and serves as the most popular place to visit the Great Barrier Reef due to its fast accessibility and the types of reefs and corals. It offers a wide range of tour options, including snorkelling, scuba diving, and boat trips to various reef locations plus a choice of tropical Islands.  Cairns has an international airport, and popular beachfront resorts at Palm Cove, making it a popular destination for holiday makers.
  • Port Douglas: Located north of Cairns, Port Douglas is another popular base for exploring the Great Barrier Reef. It offers a more laid-back atmosphere with wide selection of holiday accommodation options and stunning coastal views. From here, you can take reef tours to Low Isles and explore premium reef sites of the outer reef to enjoy snorkelling, scuba diving, game fishing, private charter boats or a luxury yacht charter.
  • Whitsunday Islands: The Whitsundays is a picturesque group of islands known for their pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters, and beautiful deserted beaches of the Great Barrier Reef including Whitehaven Beach. Airlie Beach and Hamilton Island are the main departure points for reef tours, scenic flights to Heart Reef and sailing trips to explore the breathtaking underwater world. The Whitsundays are most popular for luxury yacht charters and sailing holidays.
  • Townsville: Located in North Queensland, Townsville offers a mix of city life and natural beauty. It's home to the world-famous Reef HQ Aquarium, which provides an immersive experience and a chance to learn about the reef's diverse marine life. Boat tours to the Great Barrier Reef depart from Townsville as well taking guests over to beautiful Magnetic Island on snorkel and dive tours and to the famous Yongala Wreck.
  • Southern Great Barrier Reef Islands: Lady Elliot Island, Lady Musgrave Island & Heron Island: These islands are located at the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef. They offer a more secluded and eco-friendly experience, with beautiful coral gardens and abundant marine life. These islands are great for snorkelling and diving tours which are very popular for swimming with Manta Rays and sea turtles, with day trips available to both Lady Elliot Island and Lady Musgrave Islands.

When deciding on the best place to visit the Great Barrier Reef, consider factors such as accessibility, the type of experience you desire, and the activities you wish to engage in, such as snorkelling, diving, or exploring from the comfort of a glass-bottom boat. It's also important to choose a reputable tour operator that prioritizes reef conservation and sustainable practices to ensure the long-term preservation of this precious ecosystem.

Explore Barrier Reef Australia website by using the search filters based on geographic locations and then the types of Great Barrier Reef tour activities that interest you. If you are still unsure just contact the Barrier Reef Australia team and they will point you in the right direction. They have over 19+ years of local experience on the Great Barrier Reef. 

Find out about facts & info of the Great Barrier Reef plus a guide to the best Great Barrier Reef experiences...


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