Tips for discovering Australia’s Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef: Experience a world of 
wonder off the coast of Queensland.  
 

There are a number of Australian sites that appear on every gappers “must do’ list – and most likely to appear somewhere at the top of the mix is the Great Barrier Reef. The good news is the reef is getting easier to access with the rise of low-cost domestic carriers. So go pack your swimmers!

By far the largest coral reef system in the world, the Great Barrier Reef extends over 2,600km off the coast of Queensland. Believe it or not, it is larger than the Great Wall of China and the only living thing on earth visible from space.

The reef comprises over 3,000 individual reef systems and coral cays and literally hundreds of picturesque tropical islands which are home to some of the world’s most beautiful beaches.

It’s an enormous, ancient, living organism, composed of live coral gardens growing on inert coral dating back as much as 20 million years. Many generations of coral have built themselves into great walls of stone covered in a diverse range of living coral, algae and an extraordinary array of thousands of species of plants, seal life and animals. This includes a gathering of more than 400 different kinds of coral, coral sponges, molluscs, rays, dolphins, over 1,500 species of tropical fish, more than 200 types of birds, around 20 types of reptiles including sea turtles and giant clams over 120 years old.

So you can imagine that the reef is also a very popular destination for tourists – it’s a beautiful place to snorkel or scuba with the fish, sleep under the stars like on Lizard Island, sail or just chill out.

The most common places to base yourself so you can experience the reef are Cairns (which is also a great party town) and the Whitsunday Islands. Both destinations are extremely easy to get to by plane, train and automobile. Many cities along the Queensland coast offer daily boat trips as well out to various islands in the reef.

WHEN TO GO

June through October is ideal if you don’t like intense humidity. However, you might still find during November to January the weather is hot but bearable with the possibility of picking up bargain flights and accommodation.

HOW TO GET THERE
  • Fly! Virgin Blue and Jetstar offer cheap flights from major cities and towns to Cairns, Airlie Beach and Proserpine airports in Far North Queensland. Subscribe to their newsletter for first dibs on sale flights.
  • Drive! It is a great trip up along the East Coast if you have a few days or a week up your sleeve, and stopping along the way you can see some pretty nice beaches (that you will most likely have to yourself).
  • Coach! Coach travel can be long, but they are very cheap way of getting there too and you may make friends along the way. Visa Bureau Platinum Card Holders get 20 per cent off an Oz Experience pass – and you can hop off and on when and where it suits you! Check out the full information on the discount here.

- The Visa Bureau Platinum Card site has more great offer details to help you make the most of your Australian working holiday!