The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system at 2,300 km in length and is the largest living structure in the world. It can even be seen from outer space. It is located in the Coral Sea off of the coast of Queensland on Australia’s northern east coast. Visiting the Great Barrier Reef can be a life-changing adventure when you experience, the beauty, the vastness, and the diverse marine life located here. There are many different ways you can explore the Reef. You don’t even have to swim, if you don’t want to. You can view it from the air via aerial charters, seaplane tours, helicopter, and even sky dive. For a closer view, you can sail over the reef in a sail boat, yacht, speed boat, or glass-bottom boat. There are even semi-submersibles that can take you into the world of the Great Barrier Reef without having to get wet. No matter how you explore this wonderful undersea world, you will surely fall in love with in and be forever connected to it emotionally and spiritually. Today, we are going to highlight some of the best excursions you can enjoy when on holiday in Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef.


Snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef Photo Credit:

Blue Linckia Starfish

Blue Linckia Starfish and Coral on the Great Barrier Reef: Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Getting around the Great Barrier Reef’s Port Cities

Great Barrier Reef -  Map

Great Barrier Reef Photo Credit: Wikipedia

There are 5 main port cities where you can gain access to and hire charters to destinations on the Great Barrier Reef. When you are in each city, you can hire a car there to get around and see the sights on land in addition to exploring reef spots off the coast and in the islands of the Great Barrier Reef. If you want to make your holiday on the Great Barrier Reef a family affair, read our posts about touring the Great Barrier Reef with kids.

Seaplane Tour over Heart Reef

Heart Reef - Heart Island - Sea Plane

Heart Reef Photo Credit:

Heart Reef is in the Whitsunday Islands on the south side of the Great Barrier Reef. The Whitsundays are known for their white sand beaches, island getaways, and picturesque scenes right off of a post card. Heart Reef is one of the most recognised spots not just in the Whitsundays, but in the world. The best way to see the Heart Reef is by an aerial tour. There are plenty of charters available via seaplane or helicopter. It was discovered by Air Whitsunday’s pilots in 1975 and is not one of the most photographed spots in Australia, featured on postcards, brochures, and more. In addition to seaplane tours of Heart Reef, the Whitsundays feature walking trails to some of the islands and coastal peninsulas, seaways that can be navigated by kayaks, sailing, or power boats. There are resorts and plenty of destinations with great holiday adventures on all 74 islands. Other islands in the Whitsundays can be reached by ferry or seaplanes. Read more about vacationing in the Whitsundays.

Hiring a Car near the Whitsunday Islands

Prosperine Car Hire Map

Prosperine Car Hire Map Photo Credit:

When you plan to visit this area to see the Whitsunday Islands, you can hire a car to get around the areas up and down the coast and see the sights there. The Whitsundays are located in between Bowen to the north and Mackay to the south; Brisbane is about 900 kilometres further south. You can rent a vehicle at the Whitsunday Coast Airport location. Depending on where you are, you can also hire a car in Mackay, or choose to rent a car at one of the many Brisbane car rental locations. Let our car rental agents know your travel plans and we will be sure to recommend the right vehicle for your land travels. Since there are different terrains, you might need different types of vehicles depending on where you plan to go. If you are interested in learning about Mackay, read our blog post about the endless holiday options in Mackay. You can also read about travel tips in Brisbane.

Speedboat Low Isles Tour

Speedboat Tour

Speedboat Tour Photo Credit:

Port Douglas is on the tropical north side of the Great Barrier Reef. From there, you can charter the Reef Sprinter speed boat on a snorkel adventure in the Low Isles. Up to 14 passengers are transported to the Reef in just 15 minutes via their 500 horsepower speed boat. The Low Isles of the Great Barrier Reef feature amazing coral gardens that are teaming with marine life. This fast adventure leaves you with plenty of time to venture out to other parts of the Reef or see some of the sights on land such as the Daintree Rainforest, which is a treasure to see; it is the oldest and largest continuous living rainforest in the world. Port Douglas’ Four Mile Beach is a popular beach resort area for beach fun, boating, surfing, and fishing. There are also tours available where you can learn about the aboriginal culture and history of the region.

Hiring a Car in Port Douglas

Port Douglas Car Hire Map

Port Douglas Car Hire Map Photo Credit: Google Maps

Hiring a car in Port Douglas is a great idea because it means you will be able to tour around the city and surrounds in between tours and excursions to the Great Barrier Reef, Low Isles, and other nearby islands. When you hire a car in Port Douglas, ask your car rental agent for tips on your travel plans and itinerary. They can help you with maps and safety guidelines.

Watch the Turtles Hatch on Heron Island

Heron Island Sea Turtle

Sea Turtle Photo Credit:

Heron Island Resort

Heron Island Resort Photo Credit:

Heron Island Snorkel

Snorkel Heron Island Photo Credit:

Sea Turtles

Sea Turtle Photo Credit:

Hatching Turtle

Sea Turtle Photo Credit:

Heron Island is a coral cay located about 90 km off the coast of Queensland. Heron Island is a small island; you can walk around the island in 20 minutes. There is a resort on the island and it is definitely a place for nature enthusiasts. From September to March, Loggerhead and Green sea turtles come to the island to lay their eggs. If you are visiting during that time, you might see either the mother turtles coming on shore to lay their eggs or the tiny babies hatching and swimming to the water. The closest port city is Rockhampton. It is one of the southernmost spots on the Great Barrier Reef. Rockhampton gives you close access to beautiful spots in the Great Barrier Reef such as Keppel Bay Islands National Park, Curtis Island National Park, and popular dive spots. On the mainland, you can visit Mount Archer National Park, Capricorn Caves, the Fitzroy River, plus great Aboriginal culture tours among many other exciting adventures.

Rockhampton Car Hire Locations

Rockhampton Car Hire Map

Rockhampton Car Rental Locations Map Photo Credit: Google Maps

There are two car hire locations in Rockhampton; you can hire a car in Rockhampton City or visit the car rental location at the Rockhampton Airport. Also close by is the Yeppoon, where you can hire a car in the coastal city of Yeppoon. When you click through the links, you can enter your details to get a car rental quote for the best price on car rentals in Queensland. When you pick up your rental, consult with our rental agents for local tips, maps, and travel safety guidelines.

Live on the Reef on a Luxury Catamaran


Catamaran on the Great Barrier Reef Photo Credit:

Catamaran Cabin - Accommodation

Catamaran Cabin on the Great Barrier Reef Photo Credit:

Catmaran Dining

Catamaran Dining on the Great Barrier Reef Photo Credit:


SCUBA Diving the Great Barrier Reef Photo Credit:

Live aboard excursions are a completely different Great Barrier Reef experience. Sleep, eat, and play right off of the luxury catamaran. It’s like a floating hotel where you can immerse yourself in the beauty and wonder of the Reef. You will be able to spend each day snorkelling or SCUBA diving right off of the ship over different sights on the reef. This is a 2 day live aboard adventure of a lifetime. The boat leaves from the port city of Cairns. The city is adjacent to the north end of the Great Barrier Reef. It is also a good city to stay in for those traveling to the far north of Queensland. The Cairns City Esplanade is on the northern side of the city. On this quieter 2.5 km stretch of city, you will find the swimming lagoon, waterfront boardwalk, picnicking and barbeque spots, and a children’s water park. The southern side of the city is the main hub where The Pier complex is located with restaurants and shopping, more swimming lagoons, Reef Fleet Terminal, and the marina.

Cairns Car Hire Locations


Cairns Car Rental Map Photo Credit:

There are two car hire locations in Cairns. If you fly into the Cairns Airport, you can rent a car there. Cairns City also has a car rental location. Even though you would not be driving to locations on the Great Barrier Reef, it is a great idea to have your own rental car and the freedom to get around Cairns and the things to see and do in and around the mainland. You will want to have a car to get around and see all of the different sights in the city and the rainforests and national parks that are nearby. Read more about things to do near Cairns.