The Great Barrier Reef is without question Australia’s greatest natural attraction. It’s the largest coral reef ecosystem in the world and more than two million visitors travel across the world to see it every year. The Reef has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1981 and is made up of more than 600 islands and thousands of species of coral, marine and bird life.
You may have seen photos of the Reef, but they will have barely prepared you for the stunning images you will encounter as you first glimpse this magical world below the sea. Dappled light and brilliantly coloured creatures create a dazzling display and the new and wondrous animals and marine life that drift by you are a revelation to say the least.
Of course where there are reefs, there are shipwrecks and the Great Barrier Reef is home to many. Archaeological digs have discovered 30 shipwrecks to date, including the HMS Pandora from 1791 and there are numerous ways to explore these with experienced divers or gear rental and self-exploration.
With so many visitors, it’s lucky the Reef is ‘great’ – covering more than 300,000 square kilometres, in fact. There are hundreds of ways to experience the Reef regardless of your age or fitness level – from floating pontoons and glass-bottom boats to scuba diving and underwater scooters. You can snorkel for an hour or two or spend days on a dive boat – the possibilities are only limited by your time and budget.
There’s also plenty to enjoy above the water with helicopter or light plane rides, and the region surrounding the Reef offers everything from hostels to five-star hotels, and tree houses to luxury yachts. Settle in on one of the many islands and swim to your heart’s content in paradise.