The Great Barrier Reef might not be the first family destination that comes to mind when vacationing with kids, but you might be surprised to learn all of the different things the whole family can do out on the reef. If swimming out in the Coral Sea over the Great Barrier Reef is a concern, don’t fear because there are plenty of ways to explore the reef up close and still have plenty of adventure without the dangers of the open ocean.

Kid With Turtle - Great Barrier Reef

Photo Credit: CairnsAttractions.com.au

Getting to the Great Barrier Reef

Great Barrier Reef Map

The Great Barrier Reef is located along the eastern coast of Queensland, Australia in the Coral Sea. There are several port cities that you can travel to that give you access to the Great Barrier Reef. There is also a variety of family friendly activities in each port city that you can plan on doing to add to your holiday fun. Port Douglas, Cairns, and Townsville  are all popular coastal destinations with access to the Great Barrier Reef as well as local destinations and activities for the whole family. You can hire a car in any 3 of those port cities so that you can travel with your family on your own schedule.

Great Barrier Reef and Island Excursions for the Whole Family

Beach Snorkeling

Photo Credit: CairnsAttractions.com.au

No matter which coastal city you are in along the Great Barrier Reef, there are hundreds of different boating and snorkel expeditions that are kid-friendly ways to visit the largest living coral reef in the world. You should never think that your children are too young to experience the reef in some way. The Great Barrier Reef can be for anyone, any age, any level swimmer. Before booking a water excursion tour, talk to them about any swimming concerns; most tours offer flotation devices and snorkel lessons. You do not even have to get wet to see and experience this wonder of the natural world. Boat tours, cruises, submarine tours, island excursions, and even aerial tours are available to get different views of the wondrous Great Barrier Reef. The water is so clear; you don’t have to be in it to see the marine life. There are so many different tours available; it is a good idea to research ahead of time. There are close to 3,000 individual reefs that stretch over 2,400 km.  Here are some tour ideas for the whole family to see the Great Barrier Reef:

Glass Bottom Boat Rides

Glass Bottom Boat Ride

Photo Credit: CairnsAttractions.com.au

The Great Barrier Reef is spectacular and immense. A glass bottom boat allows you to cover more ground and a better chance to see more of the reef. And to say there is a lot to see is an understatement, there are over 6,600 special of flora and fauna, including 1,500 species of fish, 4,000 species of mollusks and 400 types of coral. The views from the glass bottom boat allow you to see more from the safety of boat without having to worry about getting wet or swimming.

Island Excursions

Beach Fun

Photo Credit: CairnsAttractions.com.au

In addition to the many individual reefs along The Great Barrier Reef, there are several islands that allow you to get up close and personal with the water and the marine life without being out in the open sea. Some of the islands, like Low Isles, are great for day excursions, and then there are other islands, more than 15 different ones, in fact, that you can plan a day tour or actually stay on and book a room in one of the resorts on the island and stay right in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef. Here are a few examples.

Low Isles Tours

Los Isles Tours

Photo Credit: CairnsAttractions.com.au

If you are looking for a short tour to the inner section of the reef that does not take too long to get too, look for tours to Low Isles. Low Isles is a small island cay with limited access; the closest port city is Port Douglas. Since access to this area is restricted, you can experience a more secluded experience with your family. It also means that you should book tours far in advance. There are a few different ways to explore Low Isles including snorkelling, kayaking, stand up paddle board adventures, sailing, and glass bottom boat rides. Low Island tours are also available where you can learn about the history of the island and the flora and fauna. There is a lighthouse to explore and a swim lagoon in the bay.

Heron Island

Heron Island

Photo Credit: HeronIsland.com

The island’s resort caters to families with plenty of activities in and out of the water. If you are looking for a place to stay that brings you in touch with nature, and leaves the rest of the world behind, then this is that place for you. The rooms have no televisions and the island is outside of mobile phone access. Depending on when you visit, you can witness turtles hatching on the beach, bird watch, or whales frolicking in the waves. Even though the island is small, there is still plenty to see and do including a restaurant, spa, pool, wildlife presentations, guided walks, stargazing, and trivia night. There are also daily trips available for snorkelling, fishing, beach picnics, turtle tours, reef cruises, and more.

Hamilton Island

Hamilton Island

Photo Credit: GreatBarrierReef.org

Hamilton Island is one of the larger islands in the Great Barrier Reef. There are 5 different resorts on the island, so if you are looking for an island with a little more to see and do, this might be the choice for you. Family activities on the island include bowling, art classes, go-kart racing, mini golf, and quad bikes for kids. Combined with the many things that you can do in the water, these island activities make for a fun holiday for the whole family.

Wavedancer - Low Isles

Photo Credit: CairnsAttractions.com.au

Whichever island destination you choose as your destination and no matter which type of Great Barrier Reef tour you choose, you are guaranteed a holiday in paradise. Some islands have airports so you can fly to them if you do not wish to take a boat or a ferry. All of the islands have different beach, lagoon, and wildlife experiences to offer as well as land-based activities. Discover them and see which one is best for your family.