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Enticingly Popular Tourist Attractions in the Great Barrier Reef

Popular Tourist Attractions in the Great Barrier Reef
Did you know that the Great Barrier Reef is visible from outer space? Situated off the mainland coast of the continent of Australia, it is a popular tourist destination because of its biodiversity, visited by thousands of people from all over the globe.
Sailee Kale
Last Updated: Aug 12, 2017
The Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef system in the world, and home to the most astonishing corals. Apart from corals, the reef teems with a wide and assorted variety of marine life, including tropical fish, reptiles, crustaceans, and birds. Undoubtedly, water sports like scuba diving and snorkeling are the most sought-after activities. The outer fringes of the reef offer much more variety of marine life, including fish and corals, as compared to the inner reefs found closer to mainland. The reef is managed by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority which oversees the tourism as well as takes care to see that delicate balance of biological life is not threatened by human activities. Mangrove forests and lush green tropical rainforests are found on the islands surrounding the reef. Treks, hikes, and trails are the best way to explore the amazing flora and fauna of these islands on foot. Winter is the best season to visit this place, the weather being comparatively mild and dry. The reef has been designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Make the most of your vacation by knowing the activities you can do and the places you can visit around the reef.

Take a look at some of the most attractive pictures from the Great Barrier Reef.
Visiting the Great Barrier Reef
The islands lining the reef offer various opportunities for tourists for sightseeing and exploration as well as water sports like diving. So whether you want to plunge into the tepid waters to view the spectacular marine life, take a tour of the forests and enjoy the vast stretches of greenery, or just loll around the beach enjoying a sunny day, the reef has it all. The reef and its surrounding area have been designated into several national parks, and boat rides are available for tourists, departing from various islands. The most visited islands around the reef are Lady Elliot Island and Whitsunday Islands and the city of Cairns is said to be the gateway to the reef, since it offers travelers with day rides in ferries to visit the reef.
Aerial View of the Reef
Great Barrier Reef
Clownfish Among Anemone
Scuba Diving in the Reef
Scuba diving
Magnetic Island Beach
Magnetic island beach
Multicolored Corals
Acquarium coral colored
Purple Coral Polyp
Purple coral polyps
Silver Gull
Silver Gull
Whitsunday Islands
White haven beach
Lady Elliot Island
Lady Elliot island
This beautiful island lies at the southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef. It offers accommodation facilities for visitors, and is world-renowned for snorkeling and scuba diving. Glass bottom boat rides, reef walking, and island history tours are all offered through various tour operators. These islands are also very popular for sighting humpback whales during winter and spring. If you get lucky, you can even hear the whale song! Birdwatching is also carried out here, and the Capricorn silvereye and the buff-banded rail are native to the island. Also found are the black noddy, eastern reef egret, silver gull, wedge-tailed shearwater, and the brown booby, all calling the island their home.
Whitsunday Islands
Collectively a group of several islands, the Whitsunday Islands are said to be the most visited islands in the Great Barrier Reef. Tourists come here to relax on the tranquil beaches caressed by a gentle sea breeze. Spas and hotel facilities are found aplenty on these islands. The most popular and beautiful beach is, without doubt, the Whitehaven Beach, stretching over 5 miles of sparkling white sand. Whale watching and swimming with dolphins are the favorite activities. But if you are swimming, be warned, this area is notorious for the not-so-pretty blue-ringed octopus and the innocent looking and almost invisible but lethal box jellyfish, also referred to as marine stingers, said to be the most venomous animals in the world! Whitsunday Islands are also famous for yachting. Most of the islands, like the Molle group, have lengthy nature trails, providing visitors with magnificent views of the nearby islands, beaches, and the mainland beyond. If you are a history enthusiast, do not forget to visit Hook Island, which has archaeological remains of the caves of Ngaro people, the Aborigines who were the earliest inhabitants of these islands.

A refuge for nesting seabirds, Repulse Island National Park and Gloucester Island National Park falling under the Whitsunday Islands, are other areas worth visiting in the Great Barrier Reef. Swimming, boating, and camping are major activities carried out here, but visitors have to pay the required fees and obtain a permit. Boats should be carefully maneuvered for fear of harming sea turtles, which tend to swim near the surface.
Lizard Island
Lizard island
Positioned in the northern part of the reef, Lizard Island is made of 24 stunning beaches covered with white sand and lapped by lucid waters. Snorkeling and scuba diving are carried out at Cod Hole and Pixie Bommie, the favorite site for divers in Australia! If you intend to visit and stay at this place, make sure you book in advance, the only choices you have are camping (after obtaining permit) and a five-star hotel.
Port Douglas
Port Douglas
A small town that seems to stand still with the passage of time, Port Douglas lies just north of Cairns. A place that's perfect for the naturally adventurous, visitors can engage in sailing, yachting, relaxing on the splendid Four Mile Beach, spear fishing with the Aboriginals, and soaking in the lush green Australian outback. Port Douglas is another favorite among divers, since it lies close to the outer reef, where they get a chance to come across splendid corals, barracudas, and schools of brightly colored tropical fish. Barracuda Bommie, Helms Deep, and Castle Rock are the top visited dive sites, making up the reef structure belonging to Agincourt Reefs.
Hinchinbrook Island National Park
Hinchinbrook island
The Hinchinbrook Channel separates Australia's largest island national park from the mainland. Deep mangrove forests line the boundary of the channel, whose shores have been eroded with time due to high tides. The inland here is mainly mountainous, studded with a few volcanic peaks. Renowned for its scenic beauty is the awe-inspiring Mt. Bowen which rises sharply from the sea, and is composed of jagged, granite cliffs. This island is almost uninhabited, and hence, in an unaltered state. Visitors can take a walk down the Thorsborne Trail, but bear in mind that there is a limit to the number of visitors per day. On the other hand, if you want to enjoy a walk in the wooded hill slopes or relax on the immaculate sandy beaches, go down to the Orchid Beach, whose northern tip is thronged by visitors for breathtaking views of the sunset. The opposite end of the Orchid Beach is a nesting ground for loggerhead turtles. Connecting these two ends is a vast expanse of unspoiled sand, the perfect place to unwind. The forested areas are home to several birds, and visitors can get a peek at pheasants, cockatoos, scrubfowl, and wompoo doves. Swimming in the warm waters is another popular pastime, and you may even have dolphins and turtles to keep you company!
Capricornia Cays National Park
Queensland Australia
A national park off the coast of Queensland, it has numerous tourist-oriented activities like whale watching, camping, boating, diving, and snorkeling. This park is home to the endangered loggerhead turtles dwelling in the South Pacific. Only a select few of the islands are accessible for tourists, and only by boats, the others are protected by law and fall under the scientific national park category. Engulfed by coral cays on all sides, fishing is a very important industry here, the prime catch being king prawns. A paradise for birds, egrets, oystercatchers, sea eagles, white-bridled terns, and shearwaters are found here. Fitzroy Reef, a part of the Capricorn and Bunker group of islands which fall under Capricornia Cays is a prime dive site, teeming with dense coral clusters. Visitors are left spellbound after viewing the branching corals on the lagoon floor through glass bottom boats. Also check out the wreckage of the SS Pacific, a steamer that went down in 1903. Spars and boilers, along with some wooden objects are still visible in the ocean.
Magnetic Island National Park
Koala sitting on tree
The salient features of this national park are the rocky elevations jutting out into the sea and comprising mostly giant boulders. Its seascape is dotted with miles of white sandy beaches, and mangrove forests are found everywhere. Other than a nesting site for birds, this island also plays host to rock wallabies and koalas. Walking and trekking are the best ways to explore this scenic island. Tours are conducted by commercial guides. Take a trail down from Horseshoe Bay to Balding Bay for a panoramic view of the headlands and the beaches surrounded by hoop pines. The Horseshoe Bay Lagoon is the ideal place for birdwatching, so keep an eye out for olive-backed sunbirds, sandpipers, plovers, ospreys, kites, and magpie geese. Other scenic nature trails include going over the Picnic Bay, passing through wetlands, mangroves, and Savanna grasslands and coming to a stop at West Point. Hotel accommodations are available on the island.
Tips for Tourists
  • Scheduling a trip to the Great Barrier Reef involves careful planning, especially during the high season, which lasts from May through October. If you plan to travel during this period, please make your reservation at least 3 months in advance so you get the accommodation of your choice.
  • Although most islands and national parks are open to visitors all year round, check beforehand for weather advisories to avoid choppy waters, strong gusts, and cyclones, which can prevent boats from plying to these islands.
  • Most of these islands are secluded, so do not venture out alone and carry a few essentials with you, like a first-aid kit, potable water, extra food, mobile phone, batteries, a cap or hat, sunscreen, and sturdy shoes (trails can be slippery).
  • When swimming or diving, it is advisable to wear a Lycra suit covering your entire body, since dangerous jellyfish and octopus are found in the waters. Do not step into the waters alone. If you are by yourself, remain alert for unusual tides and currents, and swim back to safety if you sense the slightest danger.
  • Do not attempt to feed wildlife if you encounter any animals and do not pluck leaves and flowers.
  • Most importantly, do not collect corals to take back as a souvenir. It is illegal and may land you in trouble, though some areas do allow visitors to collect corals.
The Great Barrier Reef is Australia's primary tourist destination. CNN lists it as one of the wonders of the world. Unfortunately, climate change and global warming have given rise to coral bleaching. Corals are extremely temperature-sensitive beings, and are unable to withstand the rising ocean temperature. Still the fact remains that no place on earth can match the striking biodiversity found here. With inviting turquoise waters, extraordinary marine life, and sun-swept beaches, the reef and the islands surrounding it all provide several organized activities for people and kids alike. So a trip down under is truly incomplete without paying a visit to this fascinating work of nature.