There are more than a few clichés that ring true when it comes to the Great Barrier Reef: White sand, islands, Nemo… But what makes it so special are the experiences you won't find anywhere else in the world.
1. Sleep on the Great Barrier Reef
It's not every day you can sleep on a floating pontoon in the middle of the world's largest coral reef! Cruise Whitsundays' trips leave from Airlie Beach, Daydream Island or Hamilton Island for a Reefsleep adventure.
Spend the day however you like; go on a snorkelling safari, sunbathe on the deck, take a helicopter flight over the reef (at an additional cost), but come 3pm when the day-trippers head home, only nine Reefsleep guests remain.
After waiting for the sun to go down, take a night dive before snuggling up in a swag under the stars (or if you prefer a little more privacy, a double room is available). Wake up to the most pimped breakfast location on earth.
2. Swim with dwarf minke whales
Grab a rope, jump off the back of a dive boat and hold on tight to experience a magical encounter with the most curious of sea creatures. Queensland is the only place in the world where you can swim with dwarf minke whales.
These majestic cetaceans, which can grow up to nine metres in length, stay and play in the northern Ribbon Reefs for just a few weeks each winter, some even coming within arm's length during encounters!
For an experience like this one, head to Mike Ball Dive Expeditions or Eye to Eye Marine Encounters and choose from their three to seven-day expeditions that leave Cairns to explore the Great Barrier Reef and meet up with the 'minkes'. Keep in mind that itineraries can change depending on what the whales are up to!
3. Picnic in the middle of the reef
Live life like a rock star and enjoy a gourmet picnic on a deserted sandy cay – that lasts just a few hours each day – smack bang in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef.
Departing from Cairns or Port Douglas, this private helicopter charter comes with breathtaking reef scenery, two and a half hours to swim, snorkel and relax, and a tropical brunch platter paired with fine Australian sparkling wine. #livingthedream
4. Fly over a hearty coral reef
Cupid alert! Take a chopper or a seaplane tour of the Whitsundays and see the world's only coral reef that has naturally formed into the shape of a love heart.
Snorkelling and diving may be off limits due to its protected status, but declarations of love are welcome. Over the years Heart Reef has sparked numerous proposals from flying romantics.
5. Walk the line between two World Heritage listed areas
Cape Tribulation – about three hours north of Cairns – is the only place on earth where two World Heritage-Listed areas meet: the Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef.
Make the most of nature's two finest playgrounds with a morning kayak tour along the Daintree Coast before heading to 'happy hour' in the rainforest, when all the creatures of the night come out to play, on an adventure night walk .
6. Get a snap with Gavin, the buck-toothed bomber
You can't go on a Green Island Seawalker tour and not get photobombed by local superstar, Gavin the Bluebarred Parrotfish.
During this underwater adventure – 45-minute's boat ride from Cairns – your face and hair stay completely dry inside your helmet (you can keep your glasses on, too) as you walk the seafloor and explore the island lagoon.
It's the perfect ocean activity for underwater rookies, but be warned, Gavin and his cheeky chompers will steal your photo thunder.
7. Play 18 holes on the only island golf course on a reef
It's not the typical water hazards you're avoiding here – it's the world's largest coral reef system! Hamilton Island Golf Club is the only championship golf course in Australia that sits on its own island.
Tee-time has never looked as good as it does on Dent Island, a short 15-minute ferry ride from Hamilton Island.
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Author: Tourism and Events Queensland
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