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Great Barrier Reef — Wonder down under

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Of all Australia's natural wonders, the Great Barrier Reef, stretching along the Queensland coast, must be the most precious. It is the world's largest World Heritage site and since 1981 has been the world's biggest coral reef eco-system.

Its sheer size — 2300 kilometres from the northern tip of the state almost to Bundaberg — means it can be seen from space. It is made up of around 900 islands and more than 3000 coral reefs, most a fair distance from the mainland. Several of the islands are resorts and most cities along the coast offer boat trips for sightseers and divers.

It is rich in marine and bird life. Thirty species of whale, dolphin and porpoise have been recorded there. There is a large population of dugong, six species of breeding sea turtle, 200 bird species, 5000 molluscs, 14 sea snakes and 1500 species of fish. Also found there are 400 corals, soft and hard, 15 types of seagrass and 500 varieties of marine algae and seaweed.

Just where to begin to explore the Reef is a big decision as the islands have different things to appeal to different needs. Honeymooners, families, divers, beachcombers, fishers, total luxury, budget and in between.

The Getaway crew started with the Whitsunday Group, which is made up of 74 islands, sprinkled along the coast from Townsville to Mackay and it is the Reef's most popular playground — above, on and below its beautiful waters.

There is an overwhelming choice of islands accessed from Airlie Beach, most of them well-known. Whitsunday, Hook, Hayman, Hamilton, Long, South Molle and Daydream, one of the most loved. She has just had a $70 million makeover and is looking better than ever.

Daydream Island is the closest of the Whitsunday Islands to Shute Harbour, lying just five kilometres from the mainland. Just one kilometre long and half a kilometre wide, Daydream is popular with day visitors as it is only a short ride from the mainland.

It has three beaches — one is fringed by outcrops of coral and colourful fishlife. The centre and highest point of the island is a small but dense jungle of tropical vegetation inhabited by parrots and tiny sunbirds.

Snorkel amongst the coral and other water activities include sailboarding, jet-skiing, parasailing, coral viewing in glass bottomed boats, and reef fishing. Play tennis, volleyball, badminton or croquet. Learn to dive or try sea kayaking. You can now also play mini golf.

Choose between Garden and Balcony rooms or spacious Ocean Balcony Rooms with views across the Whitsundays. Most have a balcony and each is a stone’s throw from the water.

The Daydreamer Suite offers affordable luxury with spectacular sunset views. With two adjoining spacious rooms, one living area with fold out Sofa and an adjacent bedroom with King size bed with ensuite and Spa bath.

Reef Suites, located in the Daydream Wing, overlook Sunlover’s Beach. They offer a spa bath and two queen size beds.

Ocean Balcony Rooms have cool tiled floors and modern décor. They have one king bed and foldout sofa or two queen beds.

Daydream is the ultimate kids’ destination. From babies to teens, there is something to suit all ages. There is an interactive Jungle Jumble Playground, 19 hold mini-golf course, and they can hand-feed barramundi.

The whole family can enjoy the latest moving on a 13.5 metre screen at the outdoor cinema and enjoy what is believed to be the world’s largest man-made living coral reef lagoon – an Outdoor Aquarium which is home to thousands of tropical fish and live coral species.

The 26-metre Camira offers the newest all-day sailing experience. The sleek, purple catamaran was designed to be fast, gliding through the water at speeds of up to 30 knots and has spacious deck areas so you can enjoy the wonderful views.

You explore Whitehaven Beach, famous for its 12 kilometres of pure white silica sand, swim and snorkel inner reefs and enjoy a barbecue lunch, morning and afternoon tea. A courtesy coach transfers passengers from local accommodation to Abel Point Marina.

To marvel at the reef from on high, Aviation Adventures, owned by local identity Captain Pete Ryan, can fly you in a Bell 47 Kawasaki KH-4.

Tours range from 10 minutes to half-day picnic flights. If you care for the air-conditioned option, the doors come off giving unobstructed views of the Whitsundays.

Fantasea Cruises offers a most exciting experience of staying overnight in Hardy's Reef. Reefsleep's two-day trip takes up to six passengers in two cabins giving them the chance to spend time amongst schools of reef fish and coral formations and enjoy unlimited access to an underwater viewing chamber. You watch the sun set from the deck and alfresco meals are served with nothing but the gentle lapping of the ocean and millions of stars at night. They operate every day except Tuesday.

You can thrill at the beauty of the Reef with a Heli-Reef 10-minute joy flight. A memorable flight takes you over the Marine Park surrounding Hardy Reef in a state-of-the-art helicopter.

While you're there … It's quite possible that once you have experienced part of the Great Barrier Reef you will want more!

Hayman, Green, Orpheus, Bedarra, Peppers Palm Bay and Lizard are luxurious places to stay. South Molle, Dunk, Hamilton, Daydream and Fitzroy are perfect for family holidays. Hamilton and Long Island are in between. Haggerstone is for those wanting a remote island experience and Orpheus is exclusive, secluded and luxurious.

Diving and fishing are excellent at Heron, Wilson, Lizard or Lady Elliot. Fraser Island is home to Kingfisher Bay Resort and South Stradbroke off the Gold Coast has the Couran Cove Island Resort.


Northern Queensland's coastline.


Daydream Island Resort & Spa three night packages start at $230 a couple. Breakfast is included.

Enjoy 3 nights for the price of 2 in a Garden Room from only $345 per person, twin share including daily buffet breakfast and a round of mini golf. Peak Season surcharges apply.

A bonus Getaway offer – the first 200 viewers who book and travel before August 31, 2006 will receive a $100 off their food and beverage. Just say GETAWAY.

Cruise Whitsundays tours aboard the Camira are $380 a family for up to three children.

Aviation Adventures Whitehaven picnic tours are $229 per person.

Fantasea Cruises Reefsleeps start at $395 per person including meals, snorkelling, equipment and two dives.

Heli-Reef 10-minute joy flights start at $129 per person. They can be booked through Aviation Tourism.

Virgin Blue has one way flights to Proserpine. They are on sale from 8.30pm, August 3, 2006, until midnight, August 4, 2006, for travel between November 1 and 30, 2006.

One-way fares from;
  • Brisbane, $69
  • Sydney, $89
  • Melbourne, $149
  • Adelaide, $169
  • Perth, $249

There are limited seats which may not be available at peak times or on all flights. Fares are Internet-only and one-way. An extra $15 will be charged for phone bookings. A credit card surcharge of an additional $2 per person per one-way flight is applicable. Fares are correct at August 3, 2006, and are subject to change.

Please note that the prices listed are valid at the time of filming.

For further information

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

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

Daydream Island Resort & Spa
Whitsunday Qld 4802
Ph: (07) 4948 8488
Fax: (07) 4948 8499

Fantasea Cruises
Box 616, Post Office
Airlie Beach Qld 4802
Ph: 07 4946 5111
Fax: 07 4946 5520

Aviation Tourism Australia
Box 3, Post Office
Hamilton Island 4803
Ph: (07) 4946 8249
Fax: (07) 4946 8280

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