A UNESCO World Heritage site, The Great Barrier Reef is the Earth’s largest living thing, and is even visible from space. If that doesn’t give you a good enough reason to add it to your bucket list, keep reading! I recently spent a weekend in Cairns, and had a day out on the Great Barrier Reef, and then a day at Fitzroy Island having some chill-out time on the beach. I absolutely adored my time up there. It’s such a special place and I’m now desperate to go back!
When it’s winter in Sydney, it’s summer in Queensland
Ok, so not quite. Cairns is in Tropical North Queensland which essentially has two seasons; wet and dry. Our winter down in the Southern parts of Australia is when the dry season is in Queensland, meaning when I went beginning of September we had blissful 29 degrees C and clear blue skies.
You can get a good feel for it in just a weekend
It’s just a three hour flight from Sydney, and about an hour from Brisbane meaning it’s perfect for a weekend trip (psst, click on that link to read my packing list for a weekend trip) from most places on the East Coast of Australia. I flew out Saturday morning and back to Sydney Monday evening and it was a great amount of time to get a good feel for the place.
It looks similar to The Caribbean
This one really shocked me, but the islands look and feel just like the Caribbean – over 15,000km away. It really reminded me of Palm Island in St Vincent and The Grenadines, and the marine park surrounding it. On my way to the airport I even had a taxi driver from England, who used to work for Virgin Atlantic flying to the Caribbean regularly, and the reason he moved to Cairns is because he found it so similar to the Caribbean but it’s much more livable than the Caribbean islands.
The magical shades of blue of the ocean and reef beneath
The different shades of blue are just magical. From the sky, to the ocean, and then the different shades of the reef beneath are really something, and it’s hard to describe just how incredible it is.
There are stunning islands everywhere
I visited Fitzroy Island, but there are dozens of islands you can visit and all of them look stunning! I chose Fitzroy Island as it’s very easy to do a day trip to and much quieter than Green Island, but there are plenty of others that would be amazing to spend a couple of days on (Lady Elliot Island and Heron Island are on my list).
The underwater world is like a whole other universe
As soon as you dip your head below the surface of the water, you feel as though you’ve been transported to some sort of parallel universe or dream-world. The colours, the coral, the marine life…and even the shapes and structure of the coral. I swam through arches and around corners, snaking my body through narrow corridors with coral either side of me. It felt like I’d been allowed to view something very special, and it definitely reminded me of the Little Mermaid underwater world! (but without the mermaids and singing, obvs)
Some of the best beaches in the world
Nudey Beach on Fitzroy Island is regularly named one of the best beaches in the world, and the best in Australia. But it isn’t just Nudey that’s spectacular, there are hundreds – even thousands – of beaches all along the Great Barrier Reef that will make your jaw drop.
The colourful fish and marine life is abundant
Nemo, reef sharks, turtles, giant potato cod, giant clams, manta rays, dolphins, minke whales. You name it, the waters of the Great Barrier Reef have it.
It’s not exceedingly expensive and can be done on a budget
Cairns is a backpacker town, meaning it’s pretty cheap and a great place to go on a budget. There are a plethora of hostels, budget hotels, and a couple of luxury hotels too. The day trips out to the reef are very well priced, for an entire day starting at 8am and getting back to Cairns at 5, I paid just $180AUD with Passions of Paradise. This included a huge lunch, afternoon tea, and the use of snorkels and wetsuits. The boat was a new luxury boat with only about 40 people onboard, but there are much bigger boats with 300 people on board if that’s your kinda thing.
The sensational sunrises and sunsets
Each morning I woke up to the most incredible sunrise, and the sunsets were pretty magical too. Australia always has the best sunrises and sunsets, and the Great Barrier Reef ones were definitely on-par with Western Australia’s ones.
So what are you waiting for? Get booking – you need to get to the Great Barrier Reef before the coral bleaching worsens!
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