If you don't have enough annual leave for hours behind the wheel, here are a few options to travel 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 Beach, Port 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.

Read more about how to get to Airlie Beach

Read more about how to get to the Whitsundays

Return to Great Barrier Reef FAQs

Join a Great Barrier Reef tour

Join us on a small group tour to discover one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Most of our East Coast trips begin in Sydney, Cairns or Brisbane.

14 Days From 3270

See the natural wonders of Queensland and New South Wales on an adventure through the...

13 Days From 3215

Bask in the beauty of north-east Queensland on an adventure that takes you to the Great...

8 Days From 1905

From Brisbane, you’ll visit Noosa Heads, K’gari (Fraser Island), Hervey Bay, Airlie...

5 Days From 1335

From Cairns, take a trip to explore Port Douglas, Daintree Rainforest, the Great...

12 Days From 4490

Experience the full range of Australia’s natural wonder, with visits to the Blue...

Tailor-Made trips

Take four or more on an exclusive trip and tailor your itinerary

6 Days From 1058

This nature-fuelled trip will take you from Cairns to Kuranda, Mareeba, Mossman Gorge,...

19 Days From 4630

Tour from Sydney to Cairns, taking in the splendour of the Great Barrier Reed, K’gari,...

5 Days From 1335

Take a five-day adventure tour through the coastal wilderness of Kuku Yalanji land,...

8 Days From 1905

Discover K'gari (formerly Fraser Island), the Whitsundays, Great Barrier Reef, Mission...

18 Days From 4630

Travelling from Sydney to Cairns, soak up the best of Australia’s east coast beaches,...

14 Days From 3270

Travelling from Sydney to Cairns, soak up the best of Australia’s east coast beaches,...

12 Days From 3215

12 days to uncover Queensland’s best, from Brisbane to K'gari (Fraser Island), the...