Gliding through the warm waters off the coast of Queensland surrounded by the incredible wildlife that ducks and darts around the coral habitat of the Great Barrier Reef is up there with the world’s top most wished-for experiences. And the beauty of this offshore treasure, which can clearly be seen from space, is that it is so easily accessible from such a range of exciting nearby locations.
While you wind down from your day’s diving or snorkelling out on the reef, these bases offer you the chance to enjoy some time on the beach, chow down on some delicious seafood and see some spectacular sights.
If there’s ever a city that will get you in the holiday mood, it’s Cairns. This favourite among holiday goers, pronounced “cans”, is filled to the brim with great places to eat and drink, and the dress code is very much boardshorts. The Aquarium is well worth a visit, as is Crystal Cascades: a secluded freshwater swimming hole fed by waterfalls. Whatever you end up doing, you’ll no doubt be swept up in the carnival atmosphere.
Where Cairns is all-action, Port Douglas offers a serene and sophisticated base for exploring the reef. But it’s not just the coral that you can explore here: the Daintree Rainforest forms the backdrop for Port Douglas and offers fantastic opportunities for exploration. The port is also famous for the Four Mile Beach, a giant strip of palm-fringed white sand which conveniently begins at the main area for eateries: Macrossan Street. Head up to the Trinity Bay lookout point from the path at the northern end of the beach for spectacular views of the sand and the ocean beyond.
Airlie Beach is a great place to kick back and enjoy the supremely turquoise water. You can have some fun with the watersports and other activities available out on the ocean blue, and the Saturday morning markets are a treat: you can sample a range of local delicacies and have a browse of arts and crafts from the area.
The hub of the Whitsundays, Hamilton Island is a tropical island with coral-fringed beaches on which to wind down when you’re not snorkelling. For accommodation, the island has everything from five star beach clubs and hotel accommodation to private apartments. There is good food and wine, a lovely warm climate – Hamilton is found on the same latitude as Honolulu and Mauritius – and you can even have breakfast with Koalas at the Koala Gallery!