The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is the largest tropical reef ecosystem in the world.

We all know it’s big, but let’s break it down into numbers. Extending 2300 kilometres, from Bundaberg in the south to beyond Cape York in the north, it spans more than 300,000 square kilometres, making it larger than New Zealand. In fact, along with the Great Wall of China, it is one of the few landmarks visible from outer space.


Great Barrier Reef, Queensland

Flying over the immense turquoise skeins of this World Heritage-listed wonderland is the only way to come to terms with its size. It could take a lifetime to explore the reef’s vast swathes and meet all its marine life. Known for its extraordinary marine diversity, the system is home to some 3000 individual reefs, 600 species of coral and an estimated 1625 species of fish. The easiest way to marvel at the vivid coral gardens is through a glass-bottomed boat. For a close-up view, try snorkeling, scuba diving or kayaking around a coral cay, wading offshore among emerald parrot fish; watching clownfish snuggle in anemones or joining manta rays winging through the deep. You can charter a plane or yacht, take a cruise, set off on a wilderness island trail – or simply kick back at an island resort, cocktail in hand.


A stroll on the Vlasoff sand cay.

Speaking of islands, did we mention there are more than 100 to choose from? Take your pick from Green and Fitzroy near Cairns, and Hinchinbrook and Orpheus islands further south. Then there’s Magnetic, Hamilton or Hayman… With so many options, it really is the ultimate place to escape.

Sit in the sand under a canopy of stars and watch as huge turtles lumber up the beach on Heron Island. If they are undisturbed, these ancient animals will laboriously dig holes to lay eggs. It’s just one of the wildlife experiences your family can enjoy together on Heron, which is accessible by boat from Gladstone.


Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland

The island is a Jurassic park of creatures – ray and reef sharks gather in the shallows, mutton birds wail like ghosts from their burrows and, in early summer, the trees are filled with nests containing black noddy tern chicks. During school holidays, kids can sign up to the educational Junior Rangers program to take part in exciting activities like reef walks.

 Seaplanes will make a landing off Whitehaven Beach so you can go for a wander


The plane can then zip you, your beloved, a celebrant and a bottle of top-shelf bubbly over to the powdery sands of world-famous Whitehaven Beach to say, “I do”. Or take a Panorama tour, enjoying a flight over the Whitsunday islands, with a stopover at Whitehaven Beach and a glass-bottomed boat tour.

Holiday in star style

Qualia, on Hamilton Island, is one of those exclusive stays favoured by supermodels and TV stars – a haven of opulence and style. You could be tempted to hang out in your pavilion most of your stay, plunging into your private pool and gazing at the 180-degree view over the Whitsundays, but you won’t want to miss the resort’s daily activities, which are a notch or two above the norm.



Qualia Resort, Hamilton Island

Take a luxury cruiser out to the reef or hop on a helicopter and fly to nearby Dent Island for a round of golf. The annual Hamilton Island Race Week brings salted yachties and the glitterati to Qualia, and gourmands relish the Great Barrier Feast weekend – a chance to sample fare from the world’s greatest chefs.

Flat-out on Lizard Island

Imagine digging your toes into the sand on a deserted beach, while dining on a bespoke, seven-course degustation menu; the night sky lit by stars and flaming torches. This is just one of the gourmet experiences on offer at Lizard Island.


 Stunning Lizard Island.

The granite-capped isle, named after the resident Goannas, is the ultimate luxury escape on the outer Great Barrier Reef. If you’re more of a morning person, the resort will prepare a private picnic basket filled with gourmet and fresh food and deliver it (and you) by dinghy to one of the island’s 24 deserted beaches.

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