Why You Should Visit the Gold Coast
Sun-kissed skin, sunny beach days, stunning rainforests and iconic Australian moments are what the Gold Coast is all about.
Whether the beach calls your name or you’re after adventure, the Gold Coast awaits.
Get a peek into the good times that never end – even after the sun sets. Here are our 8 reasons why you should visit the Gold Coast right now.
Boundless Beach Days
The Gold Coast boasts a fabulous collection of Australia’s best beaches. Their crystal blue waters, incredible surf breaks and breathtaking high-rise backdrops make Gold Coast beaches irresistible to any kind of beach goer.
Venture to Surfers Paradise Beach, the famous beach hotspot of the Gold Coast, and roll out a towel for a lazy sun-kissed day.
The new foreshore at Surfers Paradise is bustling throughout the day with walkers, cyclists and skateboarders taking advantage of this beachfront boulevard vista overlooking the surf and sand.
Like the Surfers Paradise of yesteryear, beachside shopping, dining, bars and clubs continually offer the complete holiday experience all in one compact destination package.
Broadbeach, south of Surfers Paradise is a precinct full of cafes, restaurants, retailers and is a friendly beachfront. Just a little further down the coast is Burleigh Heads, acclaimed for its beachside village vibe and array of excellent cafes.
Visitors flock to the Southern Gold Coast for its change of pace. From here, you can look back towards the Surfers Paradise skyline in the distance and really feel you’ve slowed down.
The surf is spectacular and the southern suburbs exude old-school beachside charm combined with world-class oceanfront hotels, restaurants and an array of retro festivals.
Live Like a Local
If you are looking for the quintessential “Aussie lifestyle” then head to the Gold Coast with its miles of sandy beaches, urban sophistication and incredible natural environment.
The city’s growth and continuing popularity as Australia’s number one holiday destination is a testament to the relaxed vibes and welcoming atmosphere that the city exudes.
The Gold Coast offers a variety of opportunities to scratch beneath the surface and live like a local.
Drop into one of it’s seriously cool micro-breweries that offer live music and food trucks, or browse its vibrant street food markets. Join the “clubbies” at the local volunteer Surf Life Saving club for a drink and world class views.
Or just take some food down to the beach, fire up one of the free BBQ’s, grab a spot among the locals and take it all in.
Conquer Your Fear of Heights on the SkyPoint Q1 Climb
Sure, the Q1 Resort tower is the highest point in all of Gold Coast, but don’t let that scare you!
The SkyPoint Climb at Q1 is Gold Coast’s answer to Sydney’s Bridge Climb, and an absolute must-do for the best views over Gold Coast.
Starting on level 77 of SkyPoint Observation Deck, you’ll shimmy into a full body suit and strap on a harness before a safety training by a professional and friendly guide.
Harnessed to a purpose-built safety rail system, you’ll find the guided climb up to to the summit unbelievably easy. As the best way to see the true beauty of the Gold Coast, the 360 degree views make the climb truly worth it. The swells of the ocean against the coast, the lush hinterland and even views from Brisbane to Byron Bay are all yours to take in.
Rise with the sun on a morning climb or watch the city lights illuminate the evening with a night climb. You can even include a dining option with your climb – the night climb boasts a delicious shrimp tagliatelle!
As one of the best photo ops in Gold Coast, your guide will snap photos of you and your group with the backdrop of the gorgeous city skyline in the distance. By then you’ll have forgotten all about any fear of heights!
Taste the Incredible Food Scene
The Gold Coast’s food scene has evolved so much in the last few years, it’s a full-time job just keeping up with the latest openings.
From hatted restaurants (the Australian equivalent to Michelin stars), quirky cafes and food trucks to wine bars and craft beer taphouses, there’s something for every palate.
Relish elegant beachfront hotel dining in Surfers Paradise or sample delectable seafood on rooftop restaurants in Burleigh Heads. Get your Asian fusion mix in Broadbeach, where you’ll find creative dishes to delight your taste buds.
The locals swear by street eats such as ramen from Muso and Double Zero’s Neapolitan style pizza.
Chill out at al fresco eateries such as Sandbar with its brunch seaside menu, or see why the good tunes and pizza of Justin’s Rooftop make it a popular favorite with the locals.
Get Up Close with Wildlife at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary
The Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary is the unsung attraction of the Gold Coast, home to one of the world’s largest collections of native Australian wildlife.
Catch the mini train circling around the sanctuary for easy access to the various exhibits and encounters.
Here you can pet the curious kangaroos and feed the rainbow lorikeets perched on your shoulder.
Watch an exciting crocodile feeding or catch the Dingo Walk, where you’ll get to feel the stunning white coat of Marrok, a pure white alpine dingo. Don’t miss your chance for that iconic Australia photo shoot while holding a koala!
For a unique experience, visit the hospital where you can witness the conservation team operate on sick and injured animals. The vets warmly welcome visitors and explain every aspect of their process. Now THAT’S getting up close and personal!
Head for the Hills in the Gold Coast Hinterland
Hidden beneath the Gold Coast’s bold first impression is a serene hinterland filled with thriving rainforests, stunning waterfalls and fantastic walking trails. The best part is it’s all within just an hour’s drive from the hustle and bustle of Gold Coast.
Venture into the ancient, world heritage-listed Gondwana Rainforests and explore its gorgeous national parks. Lamington National Park offers plenty of walking trails for all fitness levels, decorated by cascading waterfalls along the way. Walk among the shady tree canopies on the Tree Top Walkway near O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat.
Take a break from the sand and find your zen in the swimming holes throughout the forest, such as the Currumbin Rock Pools.
Springbrook National Park is full of hidden gems such as caves, spectacular waterfalls and a natural bridge arch. Wherever you’re wandering throughout the rainforest, keep an eye out for kangaroos and wallabies peeking out from their bush retreats!
Catch these unique pockets of the rainforest you might’ve otherwise missed on a small group tour, our favorite way to explore the Gold Coast Hinterland.
Shop ‘Til You Dop
You won’t find a love for local markets and high-end shops alike greater than the at the Gold Coast.
Browse the stalls of handmade items and uniquely Australian products at the Surfers Paradise Beachfront Markets.
Feel the bohemian vibes of the Village Markets at Burleigh Heads, where you’ll find boutique stalls of fashionable and locally designed clothes along with delicious street eats.
Luxury shopping gets no better than at Pacific Fair’s offer of high-end designer digs and glamorous department stores.
An experience unto itself is Harbour Town, Australia’s largest outlet shopping center featuring premium Australian and international brands. In other words, a shopaholic’s dream.
Stay Up Late
When the sun goes down, the adults play.
By night, the Gold Coast’s vibrant nightlife welcomes the party-loving night owls, cocktails in hand, at laid-back music venues and rooftop bars.
Energetic, enthusiastic, electric, eclectic! These are just some of the words that sum up the social scene that Surfers Paradise was built on. Surfers Paradise comfortably maintains its position as the good-times hub of the Gold Coast.
For a generous flow of craft beer, stop by Balter Brewery for a nice, cold pint and hang out with its down-to-earth crowd.
Indulge in exuberant luxury at The Star’s 24-hour casino or mingle with the locals at a true Gold Coast rooftop icon – The Island.
Experience a taste of international street food and nightlife at Miami Marketta, a small venue housing 25 food vendors and fantastic live music.
Whether you’re looking for a wild night out in the city or a more relaxed end to your day, the Gold Coast’s extensive nightlife has something for all night-owls.
Ready to Go to the Gold Coast?
Incredible beaches, lush hinterland, theme parks – there’s no end to the reasons to visit the Gold Coast.
This iconic tourist destination is a must for a glimpse into the quintessential “Aussie lifestyle.”
Feeling the call of the Gold Coast? Let’s start planning your trip today! As experts in Australian travel, we’ll help plan your vacation to include a stay in the Gold Coast. We know it’ll be a highlight of your trip!
I Want to Go to the Gold Coast!
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Forever a huge draw to Australia, seeing the Great Barrier Reef never fails to inspire a huge rush of emotions.
As one of the seven natural wonders of the world, the reef is on the bucket list for nature-lovers and travelers alike.
But what is seeing the reef really like?
Are the colors and marine life as vibrant as you see in the postcards?
Is the reef still quite a sight to see?
Our clients weigh in on their Great Barrier Reef experience – and some unexpected surprises.
“We loved the helicopter ride at the reef because it gave us a feel for how large the reef is.”
Photo by: Sheri Hardin
With a scenic helicopter ride over the reef, Sheri Hardin was able to take in the immense size of the reef from a different perspective.
When you’re snorkeling up close to intricate coral gardens and gazing at the colors around you, it’s easy to forget the enormous size of the reef.
Made up of over 900 islands stretching over 1,600 miles along the coast of Queensland, the reef is approximately the same area size as Japan – and visible from outer space!
This means no two spots of the reef are the same – the marine and reef life in the northern part of the reef is different to that in the south.
But the reef takes on an entirely different look when gazed at from above.
The tantalizing blue waters of the reef blend into almost luminescent shades of turquoise – truly breathtaking to behold.
“I did not know snuba was available but was happy it was. It’s like scuba diving but you pull your tank above you.”
Sheri Hardin snuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns
Fascinated with the reef by air, Sheri wanted to go beyond snorkeling to get as up close to the reef as possible.
From glass bottom boats to semi-submersibles, she could easily see the reef without even dipping a toe in the water.
But Sheri felt a little courageous. Though scuba diving seemed daunting, she found the perfect balance with snuba.
With the help of marine biologists, tourism operators are always coming up with new, safe ways to see the reef.
One of these new ways rapidly gaining popularity is snuba, a perfect combination of snorkeling and scuba diving.
After strapping on her snorkeling gear, a snuba harness and light weight belt, Sheri was ready to go.
Breathing from a scuba mouthpiece through a long air line attached to a floating air tank, she explored the reef with ultimate freedom.
No need to come up for air, no heavy equipment weighing her down. No diving experience necessary and easier than snorkeling.
The best part was seeing those hidden sea creatures easily missed by snorkelers!
“The Barrier Reef was great…We were thrilled!”
Barbara McHuron on a helmet dive at the Great Barrier Reef
Although Barbara McHuron is terrified of the water, she was determined to see the reef in its full glory.
Glass bottom boats and semi-submersibles wouldn’t cut it.
After taking swimming lessons just for this trip to the reef, she was ready for a helmet dive.
Another fantastic way for non-swimmers to see the reef, helmet dives allow you to breath normally while walking among the fish and corals.
Once the crew secured the diving helmet on her, Barbara walked down the ramp steps to an underwater reef platform.
She was immediately greeted by curious fish as fascinated with her helmet as she was by them.
“Our favorite moment was when the crew did a fish feeding and the bigger fish came up to the barge.”
On her Great Barrier Reef excursion, Haley Olson and her husband were given stinger suits for protection.
Stinger season was approaching, and it’s much better to be safe than sorry.
This turned out to be a good call after all, as they caught glimpses of jellyfish floating by.
But with the impenetrable protection of their stinger suits and the abundance of marine life in the water below, they quickly forgot about these stingers.
With colorful tropical fish of different sizes and incredible coral formations, it’s easy to get lost in the underwater wonderland of the reef.
Even more amazing is when a gigantic blue fish swims up to you and refuses to leave until you pet him.
Who knew fish could be so social?
On the Great Eight list of the Great Barrier Reef, the curious Humphead or Maori Wrasse fish is known to swim right up to snorkelers and divers.
This large blue fish grows up to 6 feet in length and weighs up to 400 pounds – quite the friendly giant!
Excursions out to the reef often include a fish feeding. Among the hungry frequenters is a Maori wrasse, charming Haley with its friendliness and dazzling shades of blue and green.
“I immediately came back up from the water and cried!”
Photo Credit: Tourism and Events Queensland/Fabrice Jaine
After donning on her fins and snorkel mask, Gretchen Ibarra carefully lowered herself into the water from the reef pontoon. She couldn’t see any coral at first, as there was something blocking her view.
A giant, curious manta ray had made its way close to Gretchen for a quick ‘hello!’
Gazing at the manta ray for a few moments, she rushed back to the water’s surface, eyes filling with tears.
The crew immediately congratulated her – this was a moment many people only dream about.
Also slated as one of the Great Eight of the Great Barrier Reef, these majestic and harmless creatures are big bucket list items for snorkelers and divers. As shy creatures that keep mostly to themselves, manta rays remain a bit of a mystery.
With a wingspan of up to 22 feet, seeing these creatures up close is an incredible experience you just have to see to believe. It’s like seeing a small car just glide past you underwater!
You’ll find manta rays hanging out in the waters of Lady Elliot Island, Osprey Reef, Heron Island and Lady Musgrove Island. The best time to see them is during the Australian winter months in May and June.
“A lot of people say the Reef is dead, but that’s not true. The locals say it is on a slow recovery right now and is still quite the sight to see!”
Nicholas Culhane posing with a sea turtle.
Any fears Nicholas Culhane felt on his first diving trip were quelled by the extremely knowledgeable and outgoing crew onboard. His comfort was their utmost priority.
And as often happens – after his first dive, Nicholas couldn’t get enough.
But nothing could prepare him for the exhilarating rush when a sea turtle and 5-foot long reef shark joined him on a swim!
From parrotfish to clownfish to giant clams and reef sharks, the marine life he saw on the outer reef was plentiful and thriving.
More than 1,500 species of fish, over 300 species of molluscs, 30 species of whales and six of the world’s seven species of marine turtles call this reef their home.
Despite recent coral bleaching events affecting coral systems around the globe, the reef remains one of the healthiest and most protected reefs in the world.
Standard excursions out to the reef are joined by marine biologists who provide a wealth of information regarding the health of the reef and marine life.
In fact, tourism operators play an important role in managing its recovery and helping visitors learn about the reef.
Ready to See the Great Barrier Reef?
Arguably Australia’s most precious natural asset, the Great Barrier Reef is a must for any traveler visiting from around the world.
No matter the kind of person you are – whether you’re terrified of the water or can’t get enough – there’s a way to see the reef perfect just for you.
Glorious and packing unexpected surprises, the unparalleled diversity and natural beauty of the reef awaits.
I Want to See the Great Barrier Reef!
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One of Australia’s many unique qualities is its dynamic coastline.
You’ve got warm tropical waters and the Great Barrier Reef in the north, Australia’s best collection of beaches along the central east coast and towering cliffs in the south.
One of the most popular and dream travel itineraries in Australia is traveling along its east coast.
You’ll find travelers from around the world making their way from Cairns in the tropical north all the way to Melbourne in the south.
But we’ll show you the best destinations you must visit while traveling along Australia’s east coast.
See the Great Barrier Reef
Whether you’re in Cairns or Port Douglas, you can’t pass up seeing the Great Barrier Reef.
This must-do in Australia is so insanely popular for good reason. It’s the largest living organism in the world yet looks entirely otherworldly.
Nothing beats those underwater views of this colorful reef wonderland, filled with tropical fish flitting in and out of sight.
The great thing about the reef is the numerous ways to see it. From glass bottom boats to semi-submersibles and underwater viewing observatories, you can see the reef without getting wet!
To see the ultimate splendor and beauty of the reef, you’ll need to take a trip to the outer reef. Check out our Great Barrier Reef guide for more details on seeing the reef in your own style.
Sail the Whitsunday Islands
Not many international travelers know about this hidden part of Australia. Situated between Cairns and the Sunshine Coast, this region sits on the heart of the Great Barrier Reef.
Surrounded by 74 idyllic islands and protected by the reef, the calm waters make this a paradise for sailing and bareboating.
And the 74 Whitsunday Islands are your playground of pristine wilderness.
Mostly covered in uninhabited national parks and secluded beaches, the Whitsundays are just waiting to be explored by the adventurous.
Be the first to walk on untouched beaches each morning. Discover cascading waterfalls and dry rainforest walking trails hidden on the islands. Or even camp overnight at designated camping grounds.
The best part is no license is required for bareboating!
See the Tantalizing Swirls of Whitehaven Beach from Hill Inlet
Let’s face it – there ‘s no end to the list of gorgeous beaches in Australia. You’ll find fantastic beaches all along the coast.
But there’s only a few that rank among the best in the entire world, and Whitehaven Beach is always counted in that number.
With sparkling, white sand so fine it squeaks beneath your feet and waters so clear and blue like something out of Photoshop, this beach is a gem of the Whitsundays.
Located on Whitsunday Island, you’ll need to take a boat tour to get to Whitehaven Beach.
Once you arrive, you’ll want to take the short trek to Hill Inlet, where swirls of white sand and turquoise water blend in stunning shades.
The sight alone is worth a trip to the Whitsundays.
Spot Whales in Hervey Bay
If you’re in Australia with the hopes of spotting a whale, you should make a stop in Hervey Bay. This coastal city near Fraser Island is one of Australia’s best spots for whale watching.
Between July and October you’ll spot humpback whales swimming by Hervey Bay – sheltered by Fraser Island, the calm and clear waters are perfect for resting their young.
Setting out on a whale watching cruise sometimes entails an amazing perk – the whales often like to venture close to the boats, showing off with spectacular breaches!
Go for a Dip in Lake McKenzie on Fraser Island
As the world’s largest sand island and only site where rainforest grows on sand, Fraser Island is out to impress.
And with pristine freshwater lakes, creeks framed in greenery and long stretches of beaches prime for 4wd adventure, this island will become your next ‘happy place.’
Though the beaches at Fraser Island are not quite swimmer-friendly, Lake McKenzie more than makes up for it.
With soft white sand and unbelievably crystal blue water, Lake McKenzie is considered the crown jewel of Fraser Island. After one day on the lake here, no other lake will measure up.
Discover Hidden Gems in the Noosa National Park
For the perfect mix of coastal scenery, native wildlife and refreshing rainforest, spend a day at the Noosa National Park.
You’ll spot something new and breathtaking every way you turn. Koalas napping among eucalyptus trees, spectacular hidden bays and beaches, even wild dolphins and whales – this enviable national park has it all.
Boasting five walking tracks, the most popular is the Coastal Walk, winding through lush shady trees, rocky coasts and clifftops.
Stop for a refreshing dip at the beach in Tea Tree Bay and spot dolphins from Dolphin Point or Hell’s Gate.
Becoming increasingly popular with travelers, this hidden secret is a must on the Australian east coast.
Walk to the Byron Bay Lighthouse at Cape Byron
Byron Bay sees the sunrise first in all of Australia. That alone sets the tone of this coastal town – the atmosphere is like a perpetual bohemian festival.
Everyone is super relaxed, smiles are found at every turn and the surrounding natural beauty and sunshine cures all ailments.
This easy-going town is a favorite with Aussies – you’ll find that most visitors are in fact from within Australia.
And locals agree that an absolute must-do is the coastal walk up to the Cape Byron Lighthouse. Follow the boardwalk on Lighthouse Road, winding around irresistible beaches and surf breaks.
You’ll then ascend up the headland for sea cliff views over Byron Bay and climb up the track to the lighthouse. Your reward is the unbelievable view over Cape Byron – pristine blue water set against green coastal bush, all from the most easterly point of the Australian mainland.
Image courtesy of Destination NSW
Take in Ocean Views on the Bondi to Coogee Walk
For breathtaking views along the coast in Sydney, you could do no better than the Bondi to Coogee Walk. This clifftop coastal walk stretches out almost four miles long, winding on the edge of some of Sydney’s most popular beaches.
This track is best enjoyed at a leisurely pace, and is often broken up into sections: Bondi Beach to Bronte Beach and Bronte to Coogee Beach. With many rest stops, beaches and rock pools along the way, you’ll find yourself stopping throughout the track just basking in the beauty of it all.
Make a day of it and start with a morning swim and beachside breakfast at Bondi, rest at Bronte and spend the afternoon at Coogee.
Or do it all in one go and complete a jog along the track – with stunning ocean views at your side, you’ll enjoy this incredible coastal walk either way.
Road Trip Down the Great Ocean Road
The first thing you need to know about the Great Ocean Road is that it’s named for its magnificent beauty – but also for its length.
Stretching 151 miles long along the southeastern coast, you’ll need to plan at least two days for the trip to truly enjoy the incredible sights along the road.
This makes the trip perfect for self-drivers in Australia.
The road itself begins in Torquay, a seaside town about one hour away from Melbourne and ends at Warrnambool.
Popular stops include Bells Beach for impressive swells from the ocean crashing against towering cliffs and Split Point Lighthouse on Aireys Inlet for gorgeous coastal views.
But an absolute must-see on the Great Ocean Road is the Twelve Apostles, gigantic limestone formations jutting out from the ocean.
Looking for More Things to Do on Australia’s East Coast?
Stretching over 1600 miles, a vacation along Australia’s east coast is no easy feat – but its one of the world’s most rewarding travel routes.
Need more ideas on planning your trip to Australia? Our Australia travel experts make it easy to plan the vacation of a lifetime. Let’s start planning your dream trip!
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Top Things to Do in the Whitsundays
The Whitsunday Islands off the coast of Queensland are known as Australia’s slice of tropical paradise. This idyllic chain of 74 island wonders stun visitors from around the world with their green-clad beauty and secluded white-sand beaches.
With people as warm as the year-round weather and a holiday feel as relaxed as its calm, crystal clear waters, it’s no wonder the Whitsundays are the premier destination for a tropical escape in Australia.
You’ve seen the mesmerizing pictures of Whitehaven Beach and its pure white sand. You’ve pondered seeing the underwater wonderland of the Great Barrier Reef.
How about experiencing these spectacular icons all in one trip?
Make Airlie Beach on the Whitsunday Coast the base of your next holiday, and you’ll be on the doorstep of these beautiful destinations. As gateway to the Whitsundays and the Great Barrier Reef, Airlie Beach is the ideal threshold into the island holiday of your dreams.
Australia is teeming with gorgeous beaches. There’s iconic Bondi Beach in Sydney, the golden beaches of the Sunshine Coast, and a beach so perfect to catch waves it’s named Surfer’s Paradise.
But your idea of tropical paradise is probably a bit more secluded.
At Whitehaven Beach every spot is perfect to relax on its pure white sand, and the only crowds you’ll see are a mere handful of people. This world-famous beach is the crown jewel of the Whitsundays, constantly rated as the best beach in Australia.
The powdery white sand is 98 percent silica, meaning the sand never gets hot no matter how hard the sun glares. And with shallow, crystal clear waters always hovering at 77 degrees Fahrenheit, Whitehaven Beach is like something out of a dream.
How to Get There
Whitehaven Beach is on Whitsunday Island, the largest island of the Whitsundays. Whitsunday Island is a pristine paradise, with no hotels or resorts in sight, and the only way to reach it is by sea or air. The numerous islands and surrounding reef protect the waters, making them calm and perfect for sailing or cruising to Whitehaven Beach from Abell Point Marina at Airlie Beach.
With waters so still and an ambience so relaxed, you might be aching for a little adventure. Embark on an exhilarating ocean rafting ride and jet through the Whitsundays to Whitehaven Beach. Feel the adrenaline pulse through you as the wind plays through your hair and the water splashes around you.
Once you arrive at Whitsunday Island be sure to take the fifteen minute walk to Hill Inlet for those unbelievable views so iconic to Whitehaven Beach.
The heavenly swirls of white sands and aqua waters will be an unforgettable image ingrained forever into your memory.
Though Hill Inlet provides a commanding view over Whitehaven Beach, the best way to see the otherworldly swirls are by seaplane or helicopter.
The soft shades of blue gently blended with white sand glimmer below as you fly overhead. Land on the beach for a dramatic entrance – for a beach as breathtaking as Whitehaven, such a grand entrance is only appropriate.
Whitehaven Beach is not the only gem you can see while flying over the Whitsundays.
You’ll find the heart of the ocean lies in the Great Barrier Reef of the Whitsundays.
White sand beaches, vibrant green islands and clear turquoise water – the Whitsundays are a picture of utter tropical romance. But the picture isn’t complete without Heart Reef, out to steal yours.
This stunning natural composition of coral is in the perfect shape of a heart. Located in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef, this icon has been the site of many proposals and declarations of love as couples fly overhead by helicopter or seaplane.
The spectacular view appears just as it does in photos on post cards – untouched and brightly colored.
A deluxe scenic flight through the Whitsundays can include a trip over Whitehaven Beach and Heart Reef – two jewels of the Whitsundays. You’ll be reeling from a romance high once you land back on ground.
A more cost effective way to see Heart Reef by air is in conjunction with a visit to the Great Barrier Reef. You’ll depart from the Great Barrier Reef platoon and fly over this romantic natural beauty.
Great Barrier Reef
There’s no way you visit Australia without experiencing the Great Barrier Reef. This mind blowing natural wonder is a definitive Australia destination.
At the Whitsundays, you’re located near the central section of the Great Barrier Reef, making the region ideal for exploring the reef. Airlie Beach and a few of the island resorts of the Whitsundays provide ample ways to experience the reef so you can enjoy this icon in your own style.
Our favorite day cruise departing Airlie Beach out to the reef combines interactive adventures of snorkeling, diving, semi-submersibles and underwater viewing observatories allowing you to see the reef no matter your skill level, or lack thereof.
The reef in the Whitsundays boasts some of the most colorful fish and coral formations anywhere in the Great Barrier Reef. The shallow, warm waters of the Whitsundays provide excellent opportunities for snorkeling.
If diving is your passion, you’ll be in heaven at the Whitsundays, where tens of thousands of fish and other marine life including turtles and dolphins call home.
Want to see the reef without getting wet? Glass bottom boats, semi-submersibles and cruise ships with underwater viewing observatories allow you to marvel at the underwater wonderland of the reef without dipping a single toe in the water.
From sunny day trips to the Great Barrier Reef to leisurely charters around the Whitsundays, sailing is perhaps the best way to explore this chain of islands.
The Whitsundays offers some of the world’s best sailing, and what better way to fall in love with this island paradise than out at sea, enveloped in the glory of a gorgeous tropical sunset?
Airlie Beach offers numerous sail tours departing the marina for half day, full day, and even overnight sailing. One of our favorite luxury yacht tours includes gourmet meals, visits to snorkel sites and Whitehaven Beach – the ultimate all-in-one Whitsundays experience.
Or you may prefer to keep it simple and sail around the bays of Airlie Beach for fantastic views of the sea on a sunset cruise.
You may even hire a private yacht for bareboat sailing without a license or experience, and set course to the Whitsundays for your own island adventure.
As the base for all this tropical island fun, Airlie Beach is the heart and soul of the Whitsundays. The vibrant and social atmosphere in Airlie Beach is infectious and its holiday daze will soon take over, ensuring you’ll never want to leave.
And many people who planned to only visit for a few weeks end up staying forever!
With the Whitsundays and Great Barrier Reef at its doorstep along with its laid-back main street lined with boutiques, cafes and markets, it’s not difficult to see how the tropical charm of Airlie Beach seduces visitors from around the world to its shores.
You can sunbathe at the edge of renowned Airlie Lagoon, located in the heart of the town.
And indulge in the freshest seafood and gourmet dining in one of many thriving cafes, restaurants and bars. Tip: Head to Fish D’Vine, an Airlie Beach institution, for locally-sourced seafood and a choice of 450 types of rum.
Whitsunday Coast & Hinterland
Just minutes from Airlie Beach is the lush green rainforest of the Whitsunday Coast. Discover quiet coves, waterfalls and scenic outlooks on one of many walking trails through the hinterland.
Take a break from the beach side and explore the tropical rainforest surrounds.
Cedar Creek Falls
This hidden gem is a local favorite as a day trip into the Whitsunday hinterland. Best to see during the wet season, fresh water runs off the surrounding rocks into a crisp, emerald green lagoon.
Enjoy the dappled shade of the rainforest canopy above you as you swim in the refreshing waters of the rock lagoon, and take a lunch break with a picnic in these gorgeous surrounds. Only 30 minutes away from Airlie Beach, you won’t want to miss this hidden tropical oasis of the Whitsunday Coast hinterland.
Conway National Park
Another popular escape into the rainforest landscape of the Whitsunday Coast is at Conway National Park. The diverse beauty of its green-clad hills, secluded beaches and panoramic outlooks over the Whitsundays is enough to lure in travelers from Airlie Beach.
Walk on a wide range of bushwalking trails winding through the park and catch sight of the many butterflies in different shades of blue, yellow and orange flutter about you in the forest. Take in the views of the Whitsundays from Mount Rooper Lookout. Discover the quiet seclusion of Coral Beach and watch as hundreds of tiny crabs run across the sand.
Best Places to Visit in Australia for Tropical Paradise
Not too many people know about the Whitsundays region in Queensland. When people think of a trip to Australia it’s usually to the typical destinations – the Sydney Opera House, Ayers Rock in the Outback, and the Great Barrier Reef as accessed from Cairns.
Sure, those are fantastic places to visit in Australia, but for that tropical island getaway of your dreams there’s no other place as perfect as the Whitsundays.
Whether it’s solitude and rejuvenation, fast-paced action or relaxation, you’ll find it all in the Whitsundays.
Ready to make your escape to the Whitsundays? Contact our Destination Specialists to start planning your idyllic island vacation.
I Want to Go to the Whitsundays!
Phone us Toll Free on 1-888-359-2877 (CT USA, M-F 8.30am – 5pm).
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The Best Ways to Experience the Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef is a mind blowing natural wonder. It’s truly one of the best places to visit in Australia. It spans over 1,200 miles and harbors one of the richest ecosystems on the planet with over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands scattered along its expanse. If you’re traveling all the way to Australia, you’ll want to visit the Great Barrier Reef in all its glory. This amazing video produced by David Attenborough gives you an idea of what it’s like to explore the reef, but nothing can really do it justice. It’s one of those things you have to see for yourself.
There are a multitude of ways you can launch your reef adventure. Take the traditional route and dive or snorkel the reef, or stay dry on a glass bottom boat, scenic flight or adventurous sail. Maybe even find a more unique way to explore the reef on your own terms. Read more for your guide on exploring the Great Barrier Reef.
Snorkeling and diving
Don your mask and fins and get up close to the dazzling kaleidoscope of corals, sea turtles, rays, sharks and tropical fish of every color. Snorkeling is the cheapest and most popular way to have an aquatic adventure you’ll remember for the rest of your life.
A Day Trip on a Reef Cruise
One of the best ways to dive or snorkel the reef is to hop aboard a boat excursion. These are great because they take you out to 2 or 3 exclusive dive sites along the outer reef. All boats offer snorkeling, most offer diving for certified divers and a few even offer introductory dives for those who want to try out diving for the first time on the reef. Our favorite operators depart from Cairns and Port Douglas. If you want to make it out to famous dive sites like the Ribbon Reefs on a day-trip, you have to depart from Port Douglas. It’s a great town to stay in, but only a short transfer if you’re staying Cairns. These full day excursions tend to include lunch, snacks, snorkel gear, lycra suits and a guided snorkel tour with a dive master. Scuba diving and gear brings additional costs. Different boats offer different experiences. Some take you out to a single location with hundreds of other people, some offer a more exclusive experience and others go farther out into more remote locations to cater to the more experienced. Talk to an About Australia Destination Specialist to select the right one for you.
The best diving sites are located further from the mainland. Famous dive sites like The Ribbon Reefs with Cod Hole are best encountered on a 3 day Liveaboard. If you want to dive both the Ribbon Reefs and the remote and amazing North Horn at Osprey Reef, you’ll need to take a Liveaboard for at least a week. For the ultimate Great Barrier Reef experience, embark on a 14-Day expedition. During these trips, you can swim with Minke whales (June-July), see Humpbacks (August – October), dive during a shark feed (totally safe, we swear!) and visit some of the most immaculate coral reefs in the world.
Liveaboards generally only offer diving to certified divers, but snorkelers are often welcomed at a discounted rate. Snorkelers on Liveabaords are normally accompanying their diving partners. We wouldn’t recommend it otherwise. There are usually only a few dive sites that will work well for a snorkeler on a 3-7 day liveaboard trip.
For astonishing diving or snorkeling, consider staying on a Great Barrier Reef island. Our favorites are Heron Island, Lizard Island, Elliot Island, Fraser Island, Hamilton Island, and Orpheus Island. Famous diver and documentarian, David Attenborough, has named Heron Island
and Elliot Island
as a few of his favorite dive sites.
So, you’ll be in good company! A stay at most of these islands offer the added bonus of enjoying an all-inclusive resort. Most offer free use of snorkeling gear and motorized dinghies. From these islands, a diver easily take a short boat ride with a small group to a number of amazing dive sites. Snorkelers can see the reef right off the beach or venture further on their own reef bound boat. Your About Australia Destination Specialist
can find you the best deal possible.
Luxury Snorkeling Experiences
If you really want to treat yourself, try out a day-cruise or luxury catamaran tour in the Whitsundays. These small group tours offer exclusivity and comfort all while sailing around some of the most beautiful islands in the world. The ship will drop anchor and you’ll jump into the turquoise water to snorkel among the big sea turtles, anemone and schools of colorful fish. Most excursions around the Whitsunday Islands include a visit to the famous Whitehaven Beach. This long white-sanded beach stretches over four miles along the coast of Whitsunday Island. Unlike most beaches, Whitehaven is made up of 98% pure silica which gives it a bright snow-like complexion. The sand is a fine grain with a soft velvety feel. It also doesn’t retain heat very well, so you won’t burn your bare feet on bright sunny days. It’s the most photographed beach in Australia. You can clearly see why.
See the Reef without Getting Wet
If swimming isn’t your thing, you can still see the Great Barrier Reef without submerging into the depths of the South Pacific.
Glass Bottom Boats
Glass bottom boat tours are a great way to admire the underwater beauty of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Most boats are designed to accommodate as many people as possible while still allowing everyone a clear view of the tropical life thriving below them. Some boats come with tour guides who provide detailed descriptions of the different type of coral and marine life. If you have the opportunity, take a night tour to see the coral really come to life after dark. There are great glass bottom boat tours operating out of Airlie Beach, Cairns and Port Douglas. Some also offer scuba diving and snorkeling excursions which makes them a perfect option for mixed company.
Reef HQ Aquarium
Reef HQ houses the largest living coral reef aquarium. The building itself is quite small when compared to other aquariums, but the live ecosystem sets it apart from other aquariums you’ve seen. It’s a great introduction to the reef as friendly guides explain about the reef in an educational and entertaining manner. Be sure to stop by the turtle hospital.
Fly Over the Reef
Behold the sheer magnitude of the Great Barrier Reef by taking to the sky and seeing the reef from above. You’ll find plenty of opportunities to fly over the reef while on your Australia vacation. From the Whitsunday Islands, you can take a flight out to Hardy Reef to snorkel, hang out in a semi-submersible, check out the underwater observatory or chill on the deck and get a massage. After, take the scenic view and fly over Heart Reef. Or skip Hardy Reef and soar over the heart of the Great Barrier Reef from any one of the Whitsunday Island resorts. Helicopter rides and scenic flights are also available from Cairns and Port Douglas. Stay at a resort like Lizard Island or Orpheus Island and a low-level flight over the reef is par for the course. You’ll be awed by the stunning beauty of the maze of reefs weaved together to form this natural wonder.
If you fancy yourself an angler, fishing on the reef is a must. Cairns and the Ribbon Reefs are probably best known for trophy black marlin fishing. About 30-50 miles off the coast lies a very special stretch of ocean called “Marlin Mecca” where more “granders” (100lbs or more) are taken than all the other combined fishing water in the world. Billfishing aficionados can try their hand at catching the big one every year late September through December. Lizard Island is the only land-based operation that offers access to “Marlin Mecca”.
There is also great light tackle fishing on select areas of the reef. Take a charter from Cairns or stay on a Great Barrier Reef Island for access to nearly every species of Pacific game inhabiting the ocean just adjacent to the reef and the continental shelf. It’s a great experience for fishing enthusiasts, offering some of the fastest game-fishing in the world.
Unique Reef Experiences
Looking for something a little more “out-of-the-box”? Maybe you aren’t a very good swimmer but you really want to explore the reef. Try one of these awesome tours.
Seawalking/ Helmet Diving
A helmet dive is a perfect way for non-swimmers to explore the reef like pro divers. It’s quick and easy too. You start with a quick briefing. Then, you’ll don a large space-suit type helmet and you’re ready to go. A guide will take down about 6 people at a time. Jump into the water and hold on to metal tubing as your guide takes you around the ocean floor. You’ll be completely surrounded by colorful fish and coral and you won’t even get your hair wet. Children as young as 12 can participate, so it’s great for families. You can embark on this unique diving experience from Cairns or Port Douglas.
Another great option for people who don’t want to scuba dive the reef is a tiny 3-person submarine. Two people, guided by an experienced pilot can explore the underwater world of the beautiful coral and exotic marine creatures without traditional scuba gear or training. Tours depart from Fitzroy Island, just a 45 minute boat ride from Cairns. There is always a safety diver trailing the sub while your experienced diver and submarine pilot doubles as a tour guide, providing vivid descriptions of the surrounding sea life and corals. This is a really fun and super safe way to see the Great Barrier Reef!
Are you ready to start planning your visit to the Great Barrier Reef? Check out some of our Great Barrier Reef Deals below, request a custom vacation quote or phone us toll free on 1-888-359-2877 (CT USA, M-F 8.30am – 5pm).
You may also like: 16 Photos That Will Make You Want To Go To Australia Right Now | 11 Best Underwater Experiences in Australia | Great Barrier Reef, Best Australian Beaches & Dives | Vacation Deals
Kakadu National Park, located in the Top End of Australia’s Northern Territory, isn’t for everyone.
But if you have adventure in your heart, love nature and enjoy learning about ancient cultures, it’s one of the best places in the world!
It’s one of those unique Australian destinations that is genuinely described as a very spiritual travel experience. With nearly 8,000 square miles of diverse wildness, this park holds a scared place with the Bininj/Mungguy people. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to explore this diverse natural wonderland and Aboriginal culture on your visit to Kakadu.
Here are a few things you might like to add to your bucket list and some tips for travel along the way!
Swimming Holes & Waterfalls!
Image by: NeilsPhotography
Kakadu is a tropical area with two distinct seasons, Wet & Hot (October – April) and Dry & Cool (May – September). But even in the middle of the dry season swimming holes can be found. While you may be tempted to take a dip in any old pool, it’s best to stick to the popular and monitored swimming holes. Kakadu, after all is known for its crocodiles! Always observe the warning signs.
Gunlom – A Pool with a View
Hidden at the top of a waterfall that can only be found after a steep hike, is an amazing little swimming hole with a view that can’t be beat!
One of the most popular tourism attractions in the Top End, monitored by rangers, Wangi Falls is a great swimming hole with a charming waterfall and beautiful surrounds. This guided tour takes you to Wangi Falls and other popular attractions in Kakadu within the Litchfield National Park.
Jim Jim Falls
A highlight for most travelers to the region, Jim Jim Falls (and Twin Falls) is not to be missed! It’s a bumpy ride and a pretty rocky walk to get to the falls, but most people find the sight to be worth the effort! This is especially true right at the beginning of the dry season when the roads are open and the falls are still flowing heavily. They can pull back to a trickle pretty quickly after the rains stop.
Jim Jim Falls in the Wet Season – Epic!
Jim Jim Falls in the Dry Season – Still pretty great!
Image by: Michael Whitehead
Ubirr is one of Kakadu’s unforgettable rocks. Located in the east region of the park, this ancient outcropping of rocks is known for its rock art and panoramic views. Inside several natural shelters you’ll find a collection of Aboriginal rock paintings, dated as far back as thousands of years! Check out this Australian Outback itinerary which includes a guided tour of the area.
Ubirr sunsets are amazing!
Ubirr Rock Art – also amazing!
Image by: Robert Nyman
Yellow Water Wetlands!
Part of South Alligator River floodplain, the Yellow Water provides the ultimate wildlife experience. Cruise the Yellow Water in a canopied boat to see crocodiles, jabirus, sea eagles, whistling kites and more! This Outback wilderness itinerary includes a spectacular cruise on the Yellow Water Billabong.
Yellow Water Sunset
Image by: Muireann Ní Cheallacháin
Yellow Water Calm
Image by: Alberto Otero García
Bird Watching – White Bellied Sea Eagle
Epic Ariel Shots!
Image by: Alberto Otero García
The remote beauty and diversity of Kakadu demands heli rides! If you’re going to take a scenic flight once in your life, Kakadu is a great place to do it. Just look at these amazing shots!
Image by: Paul Mannix
Maybe seeing termite mounds doesn’t sounds like a great time to you. Well, you haven’t seen these termite mounds. You’ll surely be impressed and amazed at the architectural feats created by these tiny little bugs.
Consider an overnight stay in Kakadu to witness the amazing site of the night sky over Kakadu’s rough edges. Hotels and ‘glamping’ are both available! Try this epic Australia Adventure with 2 nights in Kakadu.
Image By: Robert Nyman
Kakadu is not for the faint of heart. ‘Salties’ (Saltwater Crocs) as well as their more docile cousins, freshwater crocodiles, are found in the waters of Kakadu in extraordinary numbers. Saltwater Crocodiles are the world’s largest living reptiles. On average the crocs in Kakadu are about 16 feet, but they can grow to 20 feet and weight over a ton! You can see the salties jump on this Jumping Croc & Nature Adventure tour out of Darwin. Stay safe in Kakadu while you enjoy the awe inspiriting site of salties in the wild!
Image by: Paul Mannix
Are you ready to start planning your trip to Australia? Talk to one of our Destination Specialists today. We’ll make sure you have an ‘no worries, mate’ vacation!
Help Me Plan My Trip >>
Phone us Toll Free on 1-888-359-2877 (CT USA, M-F 8.30am – 5pm).
Can’t get enough jumping crocs? Push play to see salties jump out of the water in slow-motion!
Australia is an amazing diverse land known for it’s unique wildlife, the Great Barrier Reef and, of course, the Outback. Open spaces that seem to stretch on forever are steeped in the rich ancient culture of the Aboriginal people. The wide ochre landscape reflects Australia’s pioneering spirit and distinct identity. It’s truly an amazing place.
There’s a little bit of outback in every state of Australia, but the most robust and well-known experiences can be found in the Northern Territory, especially the Uluru/Ayers region.
This area of Australia’s Outback is truly breathtaking. Below you’ll find a collection of videos you can watch to get an idea of what a trip to Uluru might be like. We’ve done our best to create a compendium that would best impart the outback experience. Yet, images, words and video will always fail to truly convey the profound experience of Australia’s Outback. You’ll just have to see in person to truly experience its majesty.
These are the places you should visit in Australia! Are you ready to plan your trip to Australia?
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Phone us Toll Free on 1-888-359-2877 (CT USA, M-F 8.30am – 5pm).
Located just off the shore of Port Campbell National Park in Victoria, Australia, is this breath-taking limestone stack known as The Twelve Apostles. If you’ve ever heard of the Great Ocean Road in Australia – The Twelve Apostles is one of the monumental moments along the scenic drive.
These magnificent towers keep watch over the Southern Ocean and have become icons of Australia.
“Once upon a time – or up to 20 million years ago – they were connected to the cliffs of the mainland. The waves and wind carved them into caves, then arches, and eventually battered them down into columns that rise up to 45 meters high.” – Australia.com
As the years have come and gone the stacks have withered to the eight that remain strong and triumphant. This destination is one of those “can’t miss” moments because these limestone wonders are literally challenged daily to withstand the high winds and waters that relentlessly beat against them. The most recent stack that fell was in 2005.
When visiting The Twelve Apostles be sure to inquire about the shipwrecks and history that surround these natural wonders. If you’re taking a drive along the Great Ocean Road – be sure to plan extra time to take a romantic stroll at sunset to see the Apostles Stacks up close and personal. It’s a great once-in-a-lifetime photo moment.
A day trip to the Twelve Apostles can take a bit of planning. The best way to take the trip is from Melbourne. We’ll help you plan your stay in Melbourne and your drive on the Great Ocean Road so you don’t miss this spectacular sight.
I Want to See the Twelve Apostles!
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