Best Way To Get To Great Barrier Reef From Gold Coast

by Adele

What is the best way to get to Great Barrier Reef from Gold Coast?

We are coming to Australia in Feb/Mar staying in Coolangata. I would love to take a trip to one of the Great Barrier Reef Islands, but everything I have seen is so expensive. Why is that?

Do you have any suggestions for us? Especially about a trip to the Great Barrier Reef Islands.

This answer is based on my own personal experiences...

One of the main misconceptions about Australia and the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is that it is close to everything in Queensland. The GBR is quite a distance from the Gold Coast. Here is some information:

The Great Barrier Reef starts off the coast just north of Bundaberg and runs north to the tip of Cape York. The reef is about 2,300 kms (over 1,400 miles) long in total.

Driving to reef from Gold Coast? Bundaberg (closest part) is a 5 to 6 hour drive, Whitsundays about 15 hours and Cairns/Port Douglas will take you 24 hours driving!

You can fly from Coolangatta to Cairns in 2 hours and Port Douglas is about an hour drive further north.

That's why it is all so expensive.

There is an option for a trip to Great Barrier Reef from the Gold Coast, it's a 3 day trip, probably more suited to singles or couples, and it certainly will get you out there seeing some amazing things. It is guided so you may see and learn more than if you try to plan a trip yourself. You can find more information about the Great Barrier Reef 3 Day Tour from Gold Coast.

The reef has many different qualities and what most people expect, is what you see in most brochures. What is mostly pictured is what is off the Whitsunday Islands (mainland areas close include Mackay, Airlie Beach, Proserpine) and the reef off Cairns and Port Douglas.

There are some islands you can travel to specifically, Green Island and Lady Heron Island - where you can snorkel right off the beach. But you will need to see if these are suitable for your other travel requirements. These smaller islands are more suited to adults and not families unless the children are older, in my opinion.

You can also get packages to the islands like Dunk (badly damaged during Cyclone Yasi in 2011 and not yet recovered) and Bedarra. I haven't been to them, so cannot comment on them or what you are likely to be able to do from there.

I personally recommend Port Douglas if you can make it. Cairns is more commercial and the locations between Cairns and Port Douglas (such as Palm Cove) are great to go to, but you are forever travelling to see things.

From either Cairns or Port Douglas there are many trips, such as Mossman Gorge, Kuranda Rainforest, Cape Tribulation (where the reef meets the rainforest) and lots of tourist attractions that have you meeting the wildlife - Hartley's croc farm, butterflies at Kuranda, Breakfast or Lunch with the Birds at Port Douglas.

The thing to note is that at that during February and March you cannot swim off the mainland beaches in northern Queensland because of the box jelly fish and stingers in general. So you will want to stay in accommodation with a pool. Swimming on the islands may be okay - I am not sure, I know it doesn't affect the reef tours as they are further out and they tend to keep an eye on conditions - so you can snorkel, swim and scuba.

It's the end of Summer and it will also be hot and humid up there. But still wonderful! March will be less so than February, much the same as here on the Gold Coast.

If looking for flights and packages, suggest you check both Brisbane and Gold Coast as options. A package deal for flights and accommodation often works out quite well - especially if you are conscious of costs and the accommodation is secondary to your trip. Sounds like you want to be out there exploring.

If you find that travelling to the Great Barrier Reef from the Gold Coast is going to be too expensive or take too much time out of your holiday, here are some local ideas for the Gold Coast to compensate!

South Stradbroke Island - day trip or stay there.

Tangalooma which has wrecks to snorkel on and some brilliant eco tours to see dugongs, turtles, dolphins etc - Tangalooma is on Moreton Island (off Brisbane) but you can day trip to Tangalooma. The downside is you only get about 4 hours on the island.

Another option for an island adventure, though not on the reef is Fraser Island. You can take a Fraser Island 2 and 3 day tours from Gold Coast.

I hope those suggestions gave you some ideas, I tried to find a good website for you about Great Barrier Reef, but it was sadly lacking!

A really good idea to get a perspective of the distance from Gold Coast to Great Barrier Reef is to use You can do a directions search from Coolangatta to Prosperpine for example (that is main airport town for Whitsundays) and then you can see the names of some of the places along the way, and then you can research.

I hope this helps a bit - I understand that the Great Barrier Reef is one of those icon places to visit - and it is certainly worth the effort.

Hope you can find something that fits the budget and requirements.

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Comments for Best Way To Get To Great Barrier Reef From Gold Coast

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Mar 07, 2018
by: Anonymous

Very well covered

Aug 20, 2012
Thank you !
by: Helen

I live in Australia for 10 years never been in North
:)now we plan a trip and this is a great information.

May 07, 2012
Other methods of travel to Great Barrier Reef
by: Anonymous

Is it possible to get a fast train from Coolangata to the Barrier Reef for a day trip?

Annie Answers
I think the closest part of the Great Barrier Reef to the Gold Coast is about a 5 hour drive plus boat trip. If it takes 5 hours to drive, our trains will get your close but not exactly there in about the same time - we don't have high speed trains in those areas of Queensland.

Then you would have to get to the port to get a boat out to the reef - I am not sure if it would all line up or be realistic.

If you have a big budget you might hire a helicopter and pilot for the day to take you to the Great Barrier Reef or there are scenic flights and day tours to Lady Elliot Island from Gold Coast (will cost you about $700 per adult approximately - 2012 prices)...

Hope that helps,

Dec 13, 2010
Good job!!
by: Anonymous

That was good information. thanks.

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