Great Barrier Reef
Comprised of almost 3000 individual reefs scattered among 900 islands, the Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef system on the planet.
In fact, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is 344,000 square kilometres, meaning it spans over 14 degrees of latitude, bigger than Victoria and Tasmania combined.
Despite the magnitude of the Great Barrier Reef though, it’s not visible from the end of a pier, and you must travel out to it. Fortunately, though, Port Douglas is the closest mainland departure point.
From here, you can get to Agincourt Reef, considered one of the best diving and snorkelling sites in the world given it is on the edge of the continental shelf - but it will still take an hour and half in a high-speed boat to reach it, which is why day trips are the go.
Reef day trips and overnight cruises cater to all tastes and visit a variety of locations, so if you’re not up for snorkelling or scuba diving, you can view the marine life through glass bottom boats, semi-submersible submarines or, hop on a chopper and see the manta rays, turtles, dugongs, dolphins and whales that way.
While Port Douglas is technically closer to the outer reef, Cairns has a greater range of boats and tours departing from their shores, so you can't go wrong either way.
Islands in the reef
While the focus is rightly on what’s going on under the water, there’s also islands to explore. From Cairns, you can do full day tours to Green Island, a unique coral sand cay that is home to a tropical rainforest and a crocodile park, or Fitzroy Island, with similar nature walks and a turtle rehabilitation centre.
While not naturally occurring, there’s also a couple of floating platforms that you can cruise out to and spend a day on, or swimming off, such as Great Adventures Pontoon and Marine World platform.
Or opt for some of the least visited islands, a little further south of Cairns, and check out the five Frankland Islands. There’s also the Lowe Isles, accessible from both Cairns and Port Douglas. Don't forget, RACV Members can enjoy savings for any of these day trips and more.