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The Great Barrier Reef and Croajingalong

Thursday, October 1, 2009
Natalie Gruzlewski's contribution to Getaway's "Wonder of Australia" is in Queensland and Victoria.

The Great Barrier Reef, Queensland

Of all of Australia's many natural wonders, the Great Barrier Reef would have to be the most precious. It stretches 2300km from Queensland's northernmost tip to a little north of Bundaberg. It is the world's largest coral reef ecosystem and since 1981, the largest World Heritage site on earth.

The Whitsundays, made up of 74 islands sprinkled along the coast from Townsville to Mackay, is a pretty good place to start to explore the reef. Each is different, but shares enormous appeal above and below the crystal waters to suit everyone's wishes.

Cruise Whitsundays' 26m Camira catamaran was designed to be one of the world's fastest. That doesn't mean you miss out on anything; the minute the engines are cut, the sails are hoisted and your adventure begins. Just its colour — purple — makes you realise you are in for something special! It sails from Airlie Beach and reaches up to 30 knots, relaxed rather than slow, under the control of Steve Townsend.

A super special treat is with Pete Ryan of Aviation Adventures in his Bell 47, a "bubble" helicopter. It has a "doors off" option so you can take uninterrupted photos of nature's masterpiece.

Fantasea Cruises has a really exciting overnight stay in Hardy's Reef. Fantasea's "Reefsleep" two-day trips takes just six passengers in two cabins. Guests spend as much time as they like over the two days in an underwater viewing chamber and you watch the sun set from the deck and enjoy alfresco meals. There are thousands of species of marine life and coral formations galore. Fantasea also runs day snorkelling trips.

Croajingolong National Park, Victoria

While the Great Barrier Reef is internationally acclaimed, we have been able to keep a few little coastline gems up our sleeves. Croajingolong, half-way between Sydney and Melbourne, unwraps itself like a giant evergreen canvas for 100km along Victoria's coastline.

Its southern side is the Pacific Ocean, the western side has the Bemm River and Mallacoota is to its east. The north is dense bushland and low hills. It is a landscape so pure and precious that in 1977 the United Nations named it Australia's first World Biosphere Reserve.

The best way to experience Croajingolong is with a pack on your back on an eight-day trek from the southern tip to Mallacoota. The little town is the unofficial capital of the park and is home to the historic Karbeethong Lodge.

For the past 87 years, weary bushwalkers have rested in one of the lodge's 12 rooms, taken a well-deserved shower, sat by the fire and enjoyed a glass of something of their choice. There are single, double and family rooms and you can book the entire place with a group of friends.

Half of the rooms open to a wide front verandah with views over Mallacoota coastal inlet and others have bush views or open onto an internal courtyard.

There's a fully equipped country kitchen, dining and lounge rooms if you wish to self-cater, or a range of local restaurants is recommended if you prefer to eat out.

Deep within Croajingolong is Point Hicks Lighthouse which has stood guard over its patch of the Bass Strait for more than 119 years. It towers almost 40m and marks the half-way point of the coastal walk. Its surrounds haven't changed much since Captain James Cook and his crew first saw it in 1770.

Croajingolong has hundreds of kilometres of tracks perfect for four-wheel drive enthusiasts. They are challenging — narrow and bumpy but with fantastic scenery.

Something a little more peaceful is a paddle on Wingan Inlet. As head ranger, Daryl Burns says, if you need hot running water and flush toilets, it's probably not the place for you. If you enjoy wild, rugged and remote nature you will love it. It's one of the few waterways in Australia free of feral fish species, and anglers love it.

There are plenty of campsites throughout the park and it could be one of the best holidays you've ever had.


Queensland's Great Barrier Reef and Victoria's Croajingolong National Park.


Cruise Whitsundays Camira day cruises are $165 for adults and $85 for children. They are $460 for a family with up to three children. Transfers, morning and afternoon tea, lunch, snorkelling equipment, beer, wine and soft drinks are included.

Aviation Adventures Whitehaven Picnic Tours are $339 per person with a minimum of two people.

Fantasea Cruises' Reefsleep starts at $460 per person. Meals, snorkelling equipment and two dives are included. King rooms are $630 per person for two days and one night.

Wingan Inlet camping starts at $12 per site a night for up to six people.

Prices correct at October 1, 2009.

For further information

Cruise Whitsundays
Shingley Drive
Abel Point Marin
Airlie Beach 4802
Ph: (07) 4946 4662
Fax: (07) 4946 4382

Aviation Adventures
2927 Shute Harbour Road
Whitsunday 4802
Ph: (07) 49 46 9988
Fax: (07) 4946 9787

Fantasea Cruises
PO Box 616
Airlie Beach 4802
Ph: (07) 4946 5111
Fax: (07) 4946 5520

Croajingolong National Park

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