Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Do Go/Don’t go
With average temperatures of 27°C, it’s warm year-round. Reef visibility is better in winter when the seas are calmer, and days are clear and sunny, but the water temperature is cooler than in summer. The hotter but rainier part of the year spans November to December and April to May, peaking in the wet from January to March, when storms can threaten.
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PlanesRegular flights are up for grabs from all major Australian cities to the Great Barrier Reef, with Qantas (www.qantas.com.au), Virgin Blue (www.virginblue.com.au) and Jetstar (www.jetstar.com). Rex (www.rex.com.au), Tiger Airways (www.tigerairways.com) and Alliance Airlines (www.allianceairlines.com.au) also service the area. Cairns Airport (www.cairns airport.com) is the jumping-off point for the northern part of the reef, including charter flights to Lizard Island (www.lizardisland.com.au) and Dunk Island (for Bedarra) with Hinterland Aviation (www.hinterlandaviation.com.au); central Hamilton Island Airport serves the Whitsunday Islands. Sunlover Helicopters (www.sunloverheli.com.au) offers transfers from Cairns Airport to most resort islands.
BoatsFantasea (www.fantasea.com.au) operates daily 30-minute catamaran trips between Shute Harbour at mainland Airlie Beach and Hamilton Island, as well as other Whitsunday islands.
TrainsThe high-speed Tilt Train and the Sunlander run between Brisbane and Cairns, hugging the scenic coast, but you’re looking at around 25 hours in the saddle. Book via Queensland Rail (www.traveltrain.com.au).
AutomobilesThe usual car hire firms can be found at Queensland’s airports, including Avis (www.avis.com.au) at Cairns, but chances are if you’re island-hopping you won’t need wheels, you’ll want wings or sails. Cars can be left in secure parking at main ferry hubs.
TaxisTaxis Outside the larger towns, you’ve more chance of hitching a ride on a dolphin than finding a cab, especially on the islands themselves where transport is often restricted to buggies or hotel transfers. In Cairns, book ahead with Black & White Taxis (131 008).