The Great Barrier Reef (GBR) stretches 1930 kilometres from the mouth of the Fly River in Western Papua to Breaksea Spit off Bundaberg, and is one of the world's great wonders and home to diverse marine life of the most vivid colours. It is the largest naturally built structure in the World, composed of skeletons of coral polyps & tiny sea creatures which have built up over the years.
About 350 species of coral can be found ranging from iridescent orange to mesmerising blues. It's estimated that 1400 fish have made their home among this fragile ecosystem. Groper in the area are said to grow to 200 kilograms.
The GBR is comprised of 2 reef systems. The outer reef is mostly underwater and marked only by a line of surf breaking and can be seen from the shore opposite Cape York Peninsula, then following the edge of the continental shelf 350 kilometres off the coast. The inner reef rises from the floor of a large lagoon and consists of haphazard coral growths. There are also reported to be over 2000 major reefs that are included in the GBR. Many a ship have come to their demise throughout the GBR. There are a reported 500 wrecks in the area.
The GBR also has 2 types of islands, coral cays & continental islands.
The cays are reminiscent of the popular perception of paradise, they are small sandy island covered in palm trees & tropical vegetation, with beaches that glisten under perfect skies and are surrounded by bright turquoise waters. There are several cays in various stages of their evolution, while Green Island & Heron Island are two of the more significant.
Continental islands, popular in the reef system, are the tops of mountains usually covered in thick vegetation, and are separated from the mainland and rise abruptly to 300km. One of the islands is the largest island national park in the world!
Notable Islands of the GBR:
- Bedarra Island
- Brampton Island
- Daydream Island
- Dunk Island
- Green Island
- Great Keppel Island
- Hayman Island
- Heron Island
- Hichinbrook Island
The main concentration of resorts can be found on the Whitsunday Passage, where you can trek the ancient Daintree Rainforest or relax on the luxurious tropical Hayman and Lizard islands. Dive charters are very popular in the area, & if you don’t dive, you can still take a boat out to the reef and go snorkelling. You can sail around the 74 idyllic islands of the Whitsundays, or take a seaplane flight over this living masterpiece. The Great Barrier Reef offers the opportunity for great adventure, whether you do it in luxury or on a budget.
How to get there
International flights fly directly into Cairns Airport. Domestic flights fly to Hamilton Island, into Proserpine (on the Whitsunday Coast) and Townsville airports on the mainland. Airlie Beach is a 25 minute shuttle bus from Proserpine Airport and is the gateway town for travel to many of the island resorts in the Whitsunday Islands.