Great Barrier Reef

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The reef’s three distinct regions – The Tropical North, Whitsundays, and the Southern Great Barrier Reef – encompass more than 600 islands and 3,400 individual reefs. Gateways include Cairns, Port Douglas, and Airlie Beach, but you can access the reef from almost any point along the coast.

Great Barrier Reef Cities and Regions

The Tropical North

Stretching to the tip of Cape York Peninsula, the northern reef is defined by lush tropical rainforests, protected islands and cays, and superb reefs bursting with rich colorful corals and tropical fish, making it one of the world’s top spots for snorkeling and diving.

The Whitsundays

An archipelago of 74 islands at the heart of the Great Barrier Reef. Only a handful of the islands are inhabited, while some 66 remain virtually untouched, making the Whitsundays the perfect place to discover secluded beaches and quiet coves.

Southern Great Barrier Reef

Located between Rockhampton and Bundaberg, the Southern Great Barrier Reef is the playground of humpback whales, giant sea turtles, and large pods of dolphins. The main islands are Heron, Wilson, and Lady Elliot.


Sandwiched between the ocean and the lush tropical rainforest of the hinterland, Cairns is a popular jumping-off point for tours out to the reef and nearby islands such as Green Island. Queensland’s most northern city, it is home to more than 130,000 people. The city’s main hub is its esplanade, which is lined with cafés and shops.

Port Douglas

From the rich and famous to students and backpackers, Port Douglas attracts an eclectic mix of people. This former sleepy fishing village is the bustling center for tours to Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef, with tour operators lining up alongside expensive boutiques and up-market restaurants.

Airlie Beach

Centrally located, this lively small town is the ideal base for a host of trips covering the Whitsundays. You can organize every kind of water sport imaginable from parasailing, scuba diving, and island hopping to deep-sea fishing and whale watching.

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