How to get to the Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is located in the Coral Sea off Queensland's East Coast. It spans a massive 2,300 kilometres and features 2,900 individual reefs and 600 continental islands. (It’s so big that it can be seen from space.)

You can access the Great Barrier from many locations along the East Coast, but most tours begin in Townsville, Airlie BeachPort Douglas and Cairns.

All of these destinations have daily flight connections to major Australian cities. If travelling from overseas, you’ll most likely have to transit through Brisbane. Public transport may also be available depending on which state you’re coming from.

From Townsville

Townsville is the starting point to access the gorgeous Hinchinbrook Island, Orpheus Island and Magnetic Island. You can fly to Townsville from major Australian cities with Qantas, Virgin Australia and Jetstar.

If you're travelling from Cairns or Brisbane, you could take the Spirit of Queensland train. The service runs five times per week and stops at most towns along the East Coast. The journey to Townsville takes about six hours from Cairns and 18 hours from Brisbane.

Greyhound and Premier also operate northbound and southbound coach services along the East Coast.

From Airlie Beach

The lively tropical town of Airlie Beach is the launching pad for adventures in the Whitsunday Islands. The most convenient way to get there is to fly to Whitsunday Coast Airport (PPP) in Proserpine. There are daily flight connections with Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Cairns and several other destinations in Australia.

You can also fly to the Great Barrier Reef Airport on Hamilton Island from Cairns, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. This option is probably better if you want to be in the heart of the Whitsundays or are staying at one of the island resorts. Hamilton Island and Airlie Beach are connected via a high-speed ferry.

If you don't want to fly, you can take the Spirit of Queensland to Proserpine and transfer to Airlie Beach with the RailBus Coach.

From Cairns

Cairns is the gateway to the northernmost section of the Great Barrier Reef. It's also the gateway to the ancient Daintree Rainforest, Cape Tribulation and Mossman Gorge.

Cairns Airport is Far North Queensland's main airport with domestic and international flight routes. You can also take the Spirit of Queensland train or jump on a Premier or Greyhound coach from Brisbane.

Find out how to get to Airlie Beach

Find out how to get to the Whitsundays

Still want to learn about the Great Barrier Reef? Return to Great Barrier Reef FAQs

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