Sailing in the Outer Great Barrier Reef Marine Park

Updated 14/01/22

Kiana Outer Great Barrier Reef Expedition

The Whitsunday Islands are located within the heart of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, the largest reef system in the world! The astonishing natural beauty of the Great Barrier Reef is visited by an abundance of interstate and international travellers each year, who are seeking idyllic tropical getaways under the Queensland sun. Sailing remains the most popular, authentic, and convenient way to experience the Whitsunday Islands and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park!

The Whitsundays are a sailor’s haven! Boasting blissful tropical trade winds and warm temperatures year-round, the islands are protected from harsh winds and swells, with a plethora of calm coves to anchor in for the night at your doorstep. 

The majority of overnight vessels only sail within the Whitsunday Islands, however, there are several unforgettable tours that allow you to explore and experience the Outer Great Barrier Reef in all its wonder! 

An Outer Reef tour is truly a snorkelling and scuba diving experience unlike any other, that will grant you lifelong memories of brushing shoulders with exotic marine species, spotting abundances of unique corals, and falling asleep to all the solitude and serenity of the Outer Reef!


Where is the Outer Great Barrier Reef?

People relaxing on Kiana's foredeck, sailing in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park stretches over 2,300km alongside the east coast of Northern Queensland, Australia. The 2,900 individual coral reef systems are found on both the Inner Fringing Reefs and Outer Great Barrier Reef.

The Outer Great Barrier Reef is located a few hours offshore and is completely isolated from the mainland. Instead of growing from a land base, as most inner fringing reefs do, the Outer Reef grows from the ocean floor up. The visibility generally reaches an impressive 15 metres on the Outer Reef, and provides a unique Great Barrier Reef experience - including sleeping under the bright stars on the open ocean!


Outer Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Tours


Kiana - 3 days, 2 nights

Kiana Outer Great Barrier Reef Expedition

A one of a kind sailing charter in the Whitsundays - the beautiful Kiana sails smoothly to the edges of the Outer Great Barrier Reef, and also explores the inner fringing reefs of the Whitsunday Islands! Diving is the main focus onboard the sleek and spacious Kiana, as you sail and snorkel through the inner fringing reefs and Outer Reef, and explore the iconic destinations of Whitehaven Beach, Hill Inlet Lookout, and Hook Island!

All levels of diving experience are welcome aboard Kiana, from first-time divers to experienced certified divers, everyone can enjoy the colourful underwater playgrounds below! After exploring the luminous silica sands of Whitehaven Beach and taking in the draw-dropping panoramic views from Hill Inlet Lookout, Kiana will sail around the numerous bays and inlets of Hook Island. An abundance of flourishing fringing reef ecosystems will be waiting eagerly to be explored by snorkellers and divers at sites such as Luncheon Bay, Mantaray Bay, and Mackerel Bay. The perfect locations for first-time divers to enjoy themselves and be blown away by the Great Barrier Reef!

Next, Bait Reef on the Outer Reef is calling Kiana’s name! The natural lagoon provides a serene safe haven to moor overnight, and a plethora of marine life and hard and soft corals to explore. Guests can enjoy a genuine sailing experience, opting to help hoist the sails if they wish, as Kiana journeys out to the Outer Reef, which is located approximately 2 - 3 hours from the Whitsunday Islands.

Two people wearing scuba diving gear

It’s time to sail and dive around the Great Barrier Reef, one of the 7 wonders of the natural world! Kiana offers a teeming 3-day and 2-night tour, with only 15 guests on board, that grants you the opportunity to experience all the hot spots of the Whitsunday Islands and Outer Great Barrier Reef! 

Or opt for a personalised, intimate adventure of the Great Barrier Reef on the 5-day and 4-night Kiana Outer Reef Expedition. Ideal for slowing down and getting a true taste of the Outer Reef and Whitsunday Islands, with a small group of only 8 guests. The Great Barrier Reef really is your oyster on board Kiana!


Reefsleep Great Barrier Reef Experience

Women relaxing in a Reefbed, Reefsleep Great Barrier Reef Experience

Sleep under the bright stars on a luxurious outdoor Reefbed, on the new Reefleep tour, which has been recently added to the bucket-list dreams of travellers near and far! A luxurious tour of the Outer Great Barrier Reef, guests are able to soak up the wonder of Reefworld, which is moored adjacent to the spectacular coral walls of Hardy Reef - 40 nautical miles from the mainland!

After beginning your journey cruising through the Whitsunday Islands to the Outer Reef, snorkel and scuba dive to your heart’s content on tranquil stretches of biodiverse, flourishing Outer Reef. Brush shoulders with colourful reef fish, spot hundreds of varieties of unique corals and take some blissful downtime with a cool beverage after your snorkelling and diving is finished for the day. That’s right - Reefsleep has all-inclusive alcohol (wine, beer), and indulgent meals onboard!

Awaiting you on Reefworld’s top floor is your luxe, cosy Reefbed, and a sky full of stars to enjoy! Wake peacefully the next morning to a once in a lifetime sight - the rising sun over the serenity of the Outer Great Barrier Reef! Spend the morning snorkelling after breakfast, or check out the magic of the Outer Reef from the onboard underwater observatory!

Women watching the sunrise, Reefsleep Great Barrier Reef Experience

Reefsleep is ideal for those dreaming of an adventurous, yet luxurious experience - not many can say they’ve slept under the stars of the world-renowned Outer Great Barrier Reef!

Reefsleep guests have to option to be picked up from Airlie Beach, Daydream Island, or Hamilton Island.


Reefsuites Underwater Hotel

Women in her Reefsuites Underwater Hotel room

Immerse yourself in the heart of the Outer Great Barrier Reef in exclusive luxury! Reefsuites Underwater Hotel is Australia’s first underwater accommodation on the Great Barrier Reef, offering floor-to-ceiling glass walls that ‘submerge’ guests in the underwater magic of the reef from the luxury of their own private king or twin suites!

Travel 40 nautical miles from the mainland through the Whitsunday Islands before reaching Hardy Reef, one of the most spectacular stretches of the Great Barrier Reef. Submerge yourself in the underwater wonderland for the day, as you snorkel or scuba dive through the biodiverse, flourishing reef ecosystem. Make your way back to the luxe, newly refurbished Reefworld pontoon, where all-inclusive delectable catering calls your name. Indulge in the onboard relaxation, with a cool beverage in hand as the sky slowly turns magnificent shades of orange and gold! Yes, Reefsuites has all-inclusive alcohol (wine, beer)!

Fall asleep and wake the next morning to the panoramic views of the Great Barrier Reef - make sure to look out for the giant groper! Watch the Outer Reef slowly come to life over breakfast, a morning snorkel, or from the onboard underwater observatory - it’s all yours to explore!

Reefworld pontoon moored adjacent to Hardy Reef, Great Barrier Reef

Reefsuites is ideal for those dreaming of experiencing the Outer Great Barrier Reef in personalised, exclusive luxury - you really do need to experience the tranquillity to believe it!

Reefsuite guests have to option to be picked up from Airlie Beach, Daydream Island, or Hamilton Island.


GSL: Scenic flight to Heart Reef

Scenic view of Heart Reef, GSL Scenic Flight to Heart Reef

If you’re short on time in the Whitsundays, yet dreaming of ticking the Outer Great Barrier Reef off your to-do list, opt to cruise blissfully above the Whitsundays and Great Barrier Reef on GSL Aviation’s Signature Scenic Flight to Heart Reef!

Experience the crown-jewels of the Whitsundays, as you soar above Whitehaven Beach, Hill Inlet Lookout, the Great Barrier Reef, Bait Reef, Hardy Reef, Hook Reef, and the ever-romantic Heart Reef! Every passenger is guaranteed a scenic window seat, as you cruise low over flourishing reefs and swirling silica sand lagoons - the best view of the Whitsundays!


Experience all the adventure and luxury the Outer Great Barrier Reef offers!  

Call us on +61 7 4914 2425 or live chat with a local boat expert today to explore your Outer Great Barrier Reef sailing options!

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