Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system: a vast collection of more than 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching for over 2,300 kilometres off the coast of Queensland. This vast structure is renowned worldwide for its incredible beauty and diversity of life, and a cruise holiday is one of the best ways to appreciate its charms. Our favourite ports of call provide a taste of what the Reef has to offer, as well as the chance to enjoy the many attractions of mainland northern Queensland.
Located in the heart of Queensland’s Whitsunday Coast, Airlie Beach is a relaxed resort town which serves as gateway to the Whitsunday Islands. From here it’s just a one-hour, high-speed catamaran ride to iconic Whitehaven Beach: a seven-kilometre stretch of impossibly white sand surrounded by cerulean water. Whether you choose to spend your day snorkelling, swimming or simply lazing on the dazzling sand, this is a true taste of paradise, Whitsunday-style. Alternatively, if you fancy some physical activity to counteract the endless on-board selection of delicious food, you may prefer to spend the day sea-kayaking in the clear waters surrounding Tancred, Repair and Shute Islands.
You may be on a cruise holiday, but you will still have plenty of opportunities to venture inland and experience the unique landscape and wildlife of northern Queensland’s hinterland, and an ideal way to do this is by taking a scenic rail journey to the Atherton Tablelands and the mountain town of Kuranda. You can then explore the famous markets, which offer everything from hand-crafted jewellery and Aboriginal artworks to delicious honeys and homemade ice creams, or take a ride above Earth’s oldest continually surviving rainforest on the 7.5-kilometre Skyrail Rainforest Cableway or meet some of its more ethereal residents at the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary.
Climb aboard a luxury catamaran for a day of swimming and snorkelling around the idyllic Low Isles: a Marine National Park zone that incorporates a sandy coral cay and 55 acres of reef and ocean. Just an hour’s sailing time from the buzzing town of Port Douglas, this is the place to be if your vision of a day on the Great Barrier Reef involves drifting with the current over vibrantly coloured coral gardens that are alive with turtles and tropical fish. You may prefer to take a river cruise into the heart of the Daintree Rainforest in search of the region’s legendary saltwater crocodiles – just keep your arms inside the boat at all times!
Your ship will drop anchor for the day, leaving you free to enjoy the time in, on and under the sparkling, clear waters that surround this sand-fringed piece of paradise in the Coral Sea. Alternatively, you can remain on board to enjoy the fantastic facilities offered, ranging from waterslides and adventure parks to retail therapy and spa treatments.