Can you see the Great Barrier Reef from the Whitsundays?

Yes! The 74 tropical islands of the Whitsundays are located within the heart of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park!

As one of the seven wonders of the natural world, the Great Barrier Reef is best accessed and experienced from the picturesque island archipelago of the Whitsundays!

Updated 19/01/22

Stretching over 2,600 kilometres along the northeast coastline of Queensland, Australia, the iconic natural beauty of the largest reef system in the world is home to a plethora of exotic marine species, hard and soft corals, and biodiverse inner and outer reef systems! 

The Whitsundays are world-famous for their blissful trade winds, balmy tropical temperatures, crystal-clear turquoise coves, and secluded silica sand shorelines - creating a dreamy haven for sailing, snorkelling, diving, and island-hopping adventures!

There is more than an abundance of flourishing individual reefs easily accessed from the Whitsundays, yet, you may be wondering which tour is best suited to your Whitsundays bucket list? Let the locals fill you in on the top ways to see the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park from the Whitsundays!


Where is the Great Barrier Reef located in the Whitsundays?

Two women snorkelling near a turtle, Whitsundays

Running adjacent to the east coast of Northern Queensland, Australia, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park stretches over 2,600 kilometres in length from Bundaberg to Cape York - the Whitsundays falls right in the middle!

As the largest living organism in the world, the Great Barrier Reef consists of 2,900 individual reef systems, 900 islands, and is home to over 1,625 fish species and 600 varieties of coral! The 2,900 individual reef systems are found on both the inner fringing reefs and the outer reef - both of which can be found in the Whitsundays, and offer unique Great Barrier Reef experiences!

The Outer Great Barrier Reef is completely isolated from the Whitsundays mainland, located a few hours offshore. Instead of growing from a land base, as the inner fringing reefs located off the Whitsunday Islands do, the outer reef grows from the ocean floor up! We recommend you experience both the pristine serenity of the Outer Reef and lush, coral-lined lagoons of the islands to explore all the Great Barrier Reef has to offer in the Whitsundays!


Ways to see the Great Barrier Reef from the Whitsundays?

1.   Sleep on the Outer Great Barrier Reef 

Women lounging on a Reefbed, onboard the Reefworld pontoon

Fall asleep under a sky full of dazzling stars, and awake peacefully to the solitude and serenity of the Outer Great Barrier Reef from your very own luxurious Reefbed, on the popular Reefsleep tour! Cruise through the Whitsunday Islands to reach the Reefworld pontoon, which is permanently moored alongside the mesmerising underwater playground of Hardy Reef. Fill your days immersing yourself in the exotic stretch of biodiverse outer reef, and nights indulging in all-inclusive meals and beverages - a perfect balance of adventure and luxury!

For those dreaming of ultimate Outer Great Barrier Reef luxury, look no further than Reefsuites! Below deck is Australia’s first underwater accommodation on the Great Barrier Reef, which boasts deluxe king and twin suites with enchanting floor-to-ceiling glass walls. Reefsuites offers only a handful of guests an intimate night submerged in the underwater magic of the reef! 


2.   Snorkel the Whitsundays inner fringing reefs 

Women taking a selfie with reef fish, Whitsundays

Set sail for the day on an unforgettable jam-packed day tour of the Whitsunday Islands, where travellers will be able to explore the crown-jewels of the Whitsundays, Whitehaven Beach and Hill Inlet, and snorkel the vibrant inner fringing reefs of the Great Barrier Reef! Brush shoulders with the gentle Humphead Maori Wrasse, and spot unique soft corals in the treasured tranquil lagoons off Mantaray Bay and Maureen’s Cove! From lively action-packed cruising or luxurious sailing - find your ideal day tour of the Whitsundays here.

If you aren’t short on time in the iconic Whitsundays, venture amongst the mesmerising reef-lined Whitsunday Islands at your own pace, on a fun-filled overnight sailing tour. For those planning an intimate family, group, or work getaway, there is no better way to explore the Great Barrier Reef than aboard a sleek and spacious private charter vessel!


3.   Sail and dive the Whitsundays and Outer Great Barrier Reef 

Kiana sailing through the Outer Great Barrier Reef Marine Park

The majority of overnight vessels only sail within the Whitsunday Islands, however, for those eager to immerse themselves in the beauty of the inner and outer Great Barrier Reef, Kiana’s comfortable and inviting decks are calling your name!

Kiana is a one of a kind sailing charter in the Whitsundays, that smoothly sails to the edges of the outer reef and cruises amongst the tropical island highlights. Offering either a 3 day and 2-night tour or a 5 day and 4-night Outer Reef Expedition, Kiana graciously welcomes first-time and experienced certified divers on board! Experience a true taste of the wondrous Great Barrier Reef with Kiana’s personalised, adventurous snorkelling and diving itinerary!


4.   Fly over the Great Barrier Reef 

View of the Outer Great Barrier Reef from GSL Signature Scenic Flight

The Great Barrier Reef in the Whitsundays is never-ending, with an abundance of inner fringing reefs and outer reefs flourishing around the lush island archipelago. The best way to see all of the Great Barrier Reef is aboard GSL Aviation’s Signature Scenic Flight to Heart Reef, as you soar low over dynamic reefs and sparkling silica sand lagoons!

Glide smoothly over the crown-jewels of the Whitsundays and experience Whitehaven Beach, Hill Inlet, Bait Reef, Hardy Reef, Hook Reef and the ever-illusive Heart Reef from your guaranteed scenic window seat! A scenic cruise over the Great Barrier Reef is a once-in-a-lifetime way to surprise a special someone - and experience the best of the Whitsundays tropical allurement at the same time!


5.   Take a day trip to the Outer Great Barrier Reef 

Reefworld pontoon moored off Hardy Reef

An Outer Reef tour is sure to fulfil all of your snorkelling and scuba diving dreams, as you explore the open ocean ranges of the Great Barrier Reef! The water visibility generally reaches an impressive 15 metres, providing visitors lifelong memories of wading amongst rare marine species and abundances of colourful corals. For those short on time in the Whitsundays, a day trip to the Reefworld pontoon is an extraordinary way to experience a slice of the Outer Reef’s buzzing underwater tranquillity!

An action-packed day trip is ideal for families, friends, and couples - with tours conveniently departing from Airlie Beach, Hamilton Island, and Daydream Island, and returning just in time for dinner and a cocktail to celebrate the day’s memories!


6.   Bareboat yourself around the Whitsundays 

Two girls aboard Powerplay, batfish swimming around them

Enjoy as much privacy and freedom as you wish, as you bareboat yourself around the magical Whitsunday Islands! Bareboating through the inner fringing reefs of the tropical islands grants you the opportunity to snorkel, hike, sail, and explore at your own pace. If you choose to embark on a bareboat sailing adventure it is recommended that at least one passenger on board is well prepared with prior boating experience!

If an intimate, abundant sailing experience of the Whitsunday Islands sounds more than enticing, yet you don’t wish to charter your own vessel, a private overnight charter is a perfect option for your Great Barrier Reef getaway! Choose your dream day-to-day itinerary, adventure at your own pace, and enjoy blissful downtime as your experienced onboard skipper and host take care of everything! Explore our range of exclusive, private sailing vessels here.


Experience one of the seven wonders of the natural world, right in the heart of the Whitsundays!

Call us on +61 7 4914 2425 or live chat with a local boat expert today to find your ideal Great Barrier Reef tour in the Whitsundays!

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