Discover the best spots to begin your Great Barrier Reef adventure for a truly epic day!

Who wouldn’t want to see the renowned Great Barrier Reef in person? Spotting the colourful wildlife and stunning natural wonders that this expansive region possesses. But where do you begin?

Being such a large place, the Great Barrier Reef has many starting points to choose from. There are several cities, islands, and towns which can be the launching point for a magical adventure!

Read below for a few recommendations of the best places to explore the Great Barrier Reef.

  • Cairns

Great Barrier Reef from Cairns

Queensland’s beloved tropical city of Cairns is known for its sunny weather and exceptional natural wonders. Cairns is the number one spot travellers head to when visiting the Great Barrier Reef. This is because Cairns is the closest city to the Great Barrier Reef. Hundreds of travellers set off from the Marlin Marina to explore the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns every day.

Travellers who are staying in Cairns are lucky because they have lots of nearby attractions to explore. The Daintree Rainforest is full of pristine swimming holes and scenic hiking paths. It’s easy to spend a whole day here. You can still visit the Great Barrier Reef when visiting the rainforest. Just head to Cape Tribulation, the site where the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest meet!

  • Green Island

Green Island

For those who are looking for both a reef and rainforest adventure, look no further than Green Island! The island is nestled within the heart of the Great Barrier Reef and is only about 27 km northeast of Cairns. It is one of the closest Great Barrier Reef islands to mainland Australia.

Green Island is one of the top attractions in Queensland. It’s the only coral cay to have a rainforest growing on top of it, making it a historic, geographic, and environmental attraction for all. Travellers who choose a day trip to Green Island can spend it snorkelling the reef and weaving through the rainforest to their heart’s desire!

  • Fitzroy Island

Fitzroy Island

Be immersed in the Great Barrier Reef’s beauty by visiting one of the reef’s most beloved islands; Fitzroy Island. Join one of the boat tours for the day, exploring the reef and lazing about on the island all in one go!

During the day, guests can enjoy rainforest walks, an ocean trampoline, and paddleboarding. Travellers can snorkel the shallow shores and see the unique creatures that live in Fitzroy Island’s reef. The organisms here are different from those seen in the deeper sections of the Great Barrier.

A Fitzroy Island day trip is the perfect way to enjoy a tropical escape!

  • Whitsundays


The Whitsundays is the perfect base point when visiting the Great Barrier Reef. The area is full of crystal clear beaches, vivid greenery, and over 74 separate islands to choose from. As the entire region stretches out to 282.8 square km, there are many spots where your Great Barrier Reef adventure can begin. Hamilton Island and Airlie Beach are the most popular docking points when visiting. Regardless, you can choose the launch point that best suits your style and budget.

Hamilton Island is suited to those looking for an exceptional luxury vacation. Travellers can find private cabins, spa treatments, and private golf carts to cruise around the island in! Airlie Beach is undoubtedly the more casual option. It has local markets, a beach lagoon, and plenty of nearby rainforest spots!

Regardless of which one you choose, it’s easy to hop from one spot to the next at the Whitsundays. You can easily your day out on the reef before discovering all that this pristine region has to offer. There’s no going wrong with a Whitsundays day trip!

  • Port Douglas

Port Douglas

Port Douglas is seen as Cairns’ little sister. It is a quieter and more luxurious option for travellers seeking a tropical vacation. With a perfect blend of small-town charm and luxurious spoils, you can see the reef, rainforest, and beach all in one go!

Many Great Barrier Reef tours start in Port Douglas. The tours either head straight out into the ocean or follow the quick route to Cairns’ marina. Port Douglas is a great option if you want a tropical escape without the city feel.

Now that you know the best places to see the Great Barrier Reef, you can start planning your reef adventure!

Explore the Great Barrier Reef Tours

Cameron Ward
Cameron Ward
Managing Director at Sightseeing Tours Australia

Cameron Ward began with a passion for travel and turned it into a thriving tourism business. He co-founded Sightseeing Tours Australia after starting out as a tour guide in Melbourne. Cameron delights in helping visitors get the most from their trip to Australia. Whether he's leading tours or writing about his favourite places, Cameron loves sharing his local insight with fellow travellers.

Previous article: