With hundreds of thousands of miles of coral reefs, sun-soaked shores, and waters teeming with fish, nowhere else on earth is like the Great Barrier Reef. Here are the top ways to experience the UNESCO-listed star of Australia's Tropical North.
Dive in to swim, snorkel, or scuba dive amid a kaleidoscope of exotic fish and corals, or try a seawalker helmet dive, all of which provide the chance to spot green sea turtles, anemones, stingrays, giant clams, and other marine life. Keep in mind that you don't have to get wet to experience the underwater wonders—opt for a cruise on a glass-bottomed boat, take a semi-submersible boat tour, or admire the views from an underwater observatory.
The Great Barrier Reef is so gigantic it can be seen from space, and the only way to get a sense of its magnitude is from above. Take off for a scenic flight or thrilling helicopter ride from Cairns and enjoy unbeatable aerial views of highlights such as Lizard Island, Green Island, and the Arlington Reef while soaring overhead. Flights can last anywhere from 20 minutes to over an hour, and many tours combine a flight with a boat cruise or sightseeing tour.
By Sightseeing Boat
The easiest way to discover the Great Barrier Reef is by boat, and a range of day cruises run to popular spots such as Michaelmas Cay, Fitzroy Island, Green Island, and the Low Isles. Soak up the scenery onboard a schooner or catamaran; hop off to explore the islands; or spend a night at the unique Reefworld pontoon. Most cruises depart from Port Douglas, Airlie Beach, or Cairns and typically include breakfast, lunch, or afternoon tea served onboard.