The Best Way to Experience The Great Barrier Reef

The Best Way to Experience The Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef: Australia

The Great Barrier Reef, an iconic treasure of Australia, stands as one of the world’s most remarkable natural wonders. Stretching over 2,300 kilometers along the East Coast, it encompasses an astonishing 3,000 individual reef systems. Prepare to be mesmerized by the vibrant marine life that call this reef home, including an array of fish, turtles, sharks, jellyfish, and dolphins. If your goal is to encounter Nemo (or Dory!), you’ve come to the right place!

Moreover, the Great Barrier Reef is adorned with hundreds of tropical islands, each offering its unique allure. From Fitzroy Island to Green Island and Daydream Island, these idyllic destinations are nothing short of dreamy.

Here’s a fascinating tidbit: In true Aussie fashion, the Great Barrier Reef is so immense that it’s the only living entity visible from space!

As a backpacker on your gap year, you may be wondering how to make the most of your time and money while experiencing the breathtaking beauty of the Great Barrier Reef. Having been fortunate enough to visit this marvel a few times, here’s my recommendation…

Fitzroy Island

Prepare yourself for a true slice of paradise! Just an hour away from Cairns Marina by boat, Fitzroy Island offers the perfect combination of reef exploration and an idyllic island getaway, even for those with limited time.

Snorkeling enthusiasts will be delighted to discover the opportunity to dive straight into the crystal-clear waters right off the beach. I highly recommend checking out Nudey Beach (no, it’s not a nudist beach!), where you can witness the wonders of the vibrant coral, enchanting fish, and graceful turtles. The clarity of the water allows for an immersive experience like no other.

If you’re up for some island exploration, Fitzroy Island has a variety of walking tracks to choose from, ranging from approximately 20 minutes to 2 hours in duration. One particularly fantastic hike leads to the island’s lighthouse and summit, treating you to breathtaking views that make every step worthwhile. For an alternative perspective, consider taking a ride on the glass-bottom boat—an excellent opportunity to observe and learn about the coral and fish species that call the Great Barrier Reef home.

Fitzroy island is paradise on earth!

I opted for a day trip with Raging Thunder, and it turned out to be an exceptional choice. The package included snorkel gear for the day, a fascinating glass-bottom boat tour, hassle-free return transfers from Cairns, and access to various beach hire equipment like kayaks, paddleboards, and even an ocean trampoline! This comprehensive tour is highly recommended for backpackers seeking to explore Fitzroy Island. Not only did the inclusions ensure a stress-free day of adventure and enjoyment on Fitzroy, but the staff members were also incredible—knowledgeable, friendly, and accommodating. As an added bonus, I even had the opportunity to return to Cairns aboard the thrilling “Thunderbolt” jet boat, a 30-minute ride brimming with excitement.

All in all, it was an incredible day spent on a stunning island—a definite must-do for anyone visiting the reef from Cairns!

Raging-Thunder Beach shack

Snorkel day trip

For those eager to experience the majesty of the reef from the water, snorkel or dive trips from Cairns are an excellent choice. Departing from Cairns Marina, these day trips typically last around 90 minutes, transporting you to the world’s largest reef. Whether you’re a seasoned diver or a complete beginner, these trips cater to all levels of experience. Snorkeling, introductory dives, and certified dives are all on offer, providing an opportunity to try diving with the guidance of a trained instructor and a small group. It’s a chance to dip your toes into the exhilarating world of underwater exploration without committing to a full dive course or breaking the bank. Exploring the reef from the depths of the ocean is an awe-inspiring experience, though it may come with a touch of nerve-wracking excitement. Nevertheless, I wholeheartedly recommend it to everyone.

En route to the reef, you’ll receive a safety briefing (if you’re diving) and learn about the reef’s wonders, including its coral formations and the diverse marine species you’re likely to encounter throughout the day. If you prefer a more leisurely day, consider booking a snorkel day trip for a relaxed experience of snorkeling, reef education, and sunbathing on the deck.

Already captivated by diving or already a certified diver? Take it a step further and immerse yourself in an overnight Great Barrier Reef tour. It’s an opportunity to truly delve into the wonders of the reef and indulge in an extended and unforgettable experience.

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Whitsunday Islands

Airlie Beach, positioned as the gateway to the Whitsunday Islands, is nestled in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef along the coastline. Let me assure you, the Whitsundays are an absolute must-visit! I can confidently say that the three days I spent cruising around the Whitsunday Islands on a sailing yacht were the highlight of my entire East Coast trip (and that’s saying something!). The experience was nothing short of incredible: partying with fellow backpackers, snorkeling in pristine, crystal-clear waters, and basking in the beauty of this tropical paradise.

Also read: 15 Instagram Pics That Will Inspire Travel to Australia

Imagine sleeping under the stars on the deck of a boat, gazing up at the mesmerizing night sky in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef. During the day, I had the pleasure of exploring some of the most breathtaking beaches I’ve ever laid my eyes on—seriously, do yourself a favor and Google Whitehaven Beach!

The Whitsundays offer a wide range of options to suit every preference. Whether you’re seeking a couple of nights on an adventurous sailing boat, a relaxing escape on a luxury catamaran (at backpacker-friendly prices), the thrill of adventure aboard a traditional tall ship, or simply a lively party atmosphere in paradise, you’ll find something that fits your desires perfectly.

Whitsunday Islands

Regrettably, the future of our magnificent reef is under threat from factors such as climate change. Despite efforts to preserve the Great Barrier Reef, it’s important to cherish its beauty while we still can. I encourage you to embrace the various ways to experience this wonder responsibly and make the most of its splendor. We prioritize working with operators who hold eco-certifications and promote sustainable diving and snorkeling practices, actively supporting marine conservation initiatives. Let us treasure this precious ecosystem and ensure its preservation for future generations to enjoy.

Still not sure how you should experience the Great Barrier Reef? Get in touch for tour recommendations from the Working Holiday Guide crew and help planning your trip!

Ready to start your trip to Australia? Check out our Ultimate Australia East Coast Adventure package which includes your Whitsunday Islands & snorkel trip from Cairns & so much more! Fitzroy Island with Raging Thunder upgrades are available.

Also read: Things to do in Queensland

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