Spectacular, mesmerising and awe-inspiring. As one of the seven wonders of the natural world, a cruise of the Great Barrier Reef lives up to every superlative you can think of. You don’t get many natural wonders more wonderful than this. Whether you’re embarking on your first cruise or going on the adventure of a lifetime on a round the world cruise, the Great Barrier Reef has to be on your bucket list.
Australia’s Great Barrier Reef needs little introduction. This underwater wonderland of colourful coral stretching for 1,200 miles off the coast of Queensland takes the crown as the largest living thing on Earth. It can even be seen from space! Those lucky enough to get a close-up view of this natural phenomenon can see marine life in glorious technicolour with vivid corals competing with the bright hues of shimmering shoals of tropical fish.
It’s no secret that visiting the Great Barrier Reef is many travellers’ dream. Getting the chance to plunge into the crystalline waters is an out-of-this-world experience. Feel yourself become part of a constantly evolving masterpiece – where turquoise shades form a moving translucent backdrop that ripples and flickers in time to the sun’s dancing rays.
True Aussie wilderness in Cairns
On dry land, a Great Barrier Reef cruise offers plenty to enthral. The city of Cairns is famous as the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef itself. It’s from here – and the smaller town of Port Douglas further north – that boats depart on day trips laden with enthusiastic divers and snorkelers.
But Cairns has another face. It is the gateway to the lush attractions of the Daintree Rainforest, where there numerous day trips visit; and is a springboard to the remote Cape York Peninsula. Adventurers relish the opportunity to explore on four-wheel-drive safaris through the wilderness.
Visitors can delve into the area’s aboriginal history on trips to see ancient rock art, or visit the famous Tjapukai Cultural Park to gain an insight into the tribe’s fascinating traditions. Another absorbing day trip involves taking the Skyrail cable car through the rainforest and across the mountains to the village of Kuranda where you can then board the Kuranda Scenic Railway back to Cairns.
Explore the history of Townsville
Townsville, further south, is famed above all for its grand 19th century landmark buildings. Nestled between the sea and the distinctive reddish granite cliff that dominates the skyline, this is a city that is perfect for discovering by foot on stops during a short cruise. The main waterfront area is fairly compact, though travellers looking to explore a little further can follow the network of paths in and around the city. There is plenty to see; from the botanic gardens and Townsville’s maritime museum, which retraces North Queensland’s Naval history, to the Museum of Tropical Queensland, where at set times visitors can load and fire their very own cannon.
Those eager to venture further afield can join tours to the old Gold Rush town of Charter Towers, known for its collection of elegant and historical buildings dating from the 19th Century when the town was an irresistible draw for prospectors seeking their fortunes.
Meet the wildlife of Magnetic Island
Besides the temptations of the offshore reefs, visitors on a Great Barrier Reef tour can take the passenger ferry to the magnificent Magnetic Island. Soaking up the stunning views during the 40-minute ride, visitors can spend the day unwinding on one of the isle’s 20 beaches or exploring its unspoilt environment. Don’t miss out on seeing adorable koala bears snooze in gum trees and rock wallabies bounce through the undergrowth. Around half of Maggie, as she is fondly called by locals, has been designated as a national park, and is refreshingly rugged and unspoilt.
Ultimate luxury on Hamilton Island
It’s a different story for Hamilton Island – the swish resort paradise in the Whitsunday Islands. Famous for its dazzling powder beaches, manicured luxury resorts and tourist draws, the island is set against a backdrop of tropical scenic beauty. It’s the perfect place for that favourite of Aussie pastimes – the classic beach barbecue. But the best way to soak up the idyllic setting of the Whitsundays is to take a sailing trip through the islands where you will uncover perfect bays for snorkelling stops and pristine deserted strips of sand. Like the rest of North Queensland, it is an ideal place to stretch out and relish nature at its very best.