Discover The Best Of The Great Barrier Reef

Dodge the crocodiles and lethal jellyfish and focus on the lesser known (but no less fascinating) beauty of the Reef and its hinterland.

Maybe you've heard of the infamous crocodiles and lethal jellyfish of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef?  Or the cyclones, heat and humidity? Or perhaps you’ve seen Finding Nemo and think the Reef is all about pretty little fishies playing in colourful coral.

Since relocating to this tropical coastline from Paris, I’ve come to know a thing or two about making the best of life here.  Apart from brutal summer temperatures (and a few oceanic brutes), it really is all coconut palm-lined beaches, coral reefs, emerald forests and aqua waters.

The Strand pier Townsville Great Barrier ReefMY FAVOURITE ISLANDS

LOW ISLES
  • One hour off the coast from Cairns, this tiny isle is far enough out into the Reef to boast crystalline waters with an abundance of coral and sea life.
  • Jump on a catamaran tour and enjoy a buffet on-board lunch plus guided snorkel.
  • Stretch out under the sails on the giant net on the way back to shore, being gently swayed into a sunset siesta over the bobbing waves.
GREEN ISLAND

Locals will tell you to avoid this island off the coast from Cairns because of the tourists, but I love that it’s tiny enough to easily walk around and you can spend all day snorkelling your heart out before escaping the hot sun at the island’s poolside resort with cocktail in hand. Sweet.

Green Island Great Barrier ReefMagnetic Island
  • Warm waters and secluded, sandy beaches make for perfect snorkelling at Arcadia Beach and Florence Bay.
  • Hire a stand-up paddleboard.
  • Try beach horseback riding on Horseshoe Bay.
  • Cool off for the afternoon under the shade at Bikini Tree Cafè with a swimming pool.
  • Enjoy cocktails overlooking the Coral Sea and private marina at Peppers Blue Resort.
Magnetic island Great Barrier ReefPeppers resort Magnetic Island Great Barrier ReefDUNK ISLAND
  • On my visit here I saw about a dozen people on the island the whole day.
  • The island’s resort which was flattened in a cyclone several years ago is still under renovation, so there are no guests and you can hog an entire beach to yourself.
  • Pack a picnic and bottle of champagne and try and spot the vivid blue “Dunk Island” butterfly the island is famous for on the type of pristine, empty beaches you see only on postcards.

Dunk Island Great Barrier ReefDunk Island Great Barrier ReefMY FAVOURITE MOUNTAINS + FORESTS

Paluma
  • Meaning ‘misty mountain’ in Aboriginal, you’ll find cooling waterfalls, tropical rainforest walks leading to spectacular lookouts and a dinky little "village in the clouds” so-named for it’s misty atmosphere.
  • My favourite swimming places are Little Crystal Creek, Big Crystal Creek and Birthday Creek where blue pools of mountain-fresh water meet generous, sun-warmed boulders, perfect for sunbaking and picnicking.
  • On your way up to Paluma, stop at the iconic Frosty Mango café. Enjoy a sweet serve of exotic ice-creams and sorbets flavoured with luscious local fruits, nuts and spices such as ginger, macadamia, black sapote, coconut or lychee. All of their ingredients are growing in the adjacent gardens that you can also walk through.
Crystal Creek Paluma MountainCrystal Creek Paluma MountainAtherton Tablelands
  • The most spectacular way to approach the Tablelands is via the breathtaking skyrail and cableway from where you can view the forest canopy and extensive coastline.
  • At the top, get lost in the picturesque village of Kuranda where butterfly sanctuaries, boho boutiques, Japanese tea rooms and french pâtisseries nestle under shady, giant fig trees.
  • Take a leisurely drive through charming villages such as Yungaburra, where Devonshire tea is on the menu at almost every café and the streets are adorned with vibrant flowers overflowing from tubs and hanging baskets.
  • Pop into the quirky Mad Hatterz café where the décor and even the staff are straight out of Alice in Wonderland.

Yungaburra village Atherton TablelandsMad Hatterz Cafe Yungaburra

  • Nearby is the ancient, majestic Cathedral Fig Tree, featuring a canopy the size of two Olympic pools towering above intricate vines and delicate epiphytes, forming a cathedral-like effect.
  • In the nearby village of Malanda, admire the 500 year old Curtain Fig with 15 metre long aerial roots forming a ‘curtain’ around the tree.
  • Pack a picnic and enjoy a refreshing waterfall swim at heritage listed Milaa Milaa or Malanda Falls, surrounded by lush rainforests teeming with birdlife.
  • Dip into the fresh waters of Lake Barrine, formed by a volcanic eruption 10,000 years ago, before tucking into Devonshire tea on the Lake Barrine Teahouse deck overlooking the lake.
Millaa Millaa falls Atherton TablelandsMalanda falls Atherton TablelandsTHE DAINTREE
  • The single largest block of tropical rainforest in Australia, the Daintree Rainforest is World Heritage Listed and also the oldest in the world.
  • It’s ancient beauty was the inspiration behind the movie Avatar.
  • The rainforest meets the sea at Cape Tribulation, where strangler figs and mangroves line secluded, sandy beaches.
  • Cruise the Daintree River for saltwater crocodiles, swim in waterfall pools at Mossman Gorge, zipline through the rainforest canopy and if you’re lucky, a local will let you in on the location of the secret Blue Pools - pebbly crystal clear water holes sacred to local Aboriginals.

MY FAVOURITE BEACHES

Mission beach
  • Sip a cocktail on the coconut palm lined lawns at Castaway Resort bordering 14 kilometres of empty white beach and lush green forests.
  • Wander along the beach at sunset to the cutest little laid back, boho village where you can take your pick of beachfront dinner venues.
  • My favourite restaurant Peppervine offers a luscious array of tapas, woodfired pizzas and house made pasta enhanced by imported beers, ciders and wines.
Mission Beach Great Barrier ReefCastaway Resort Mission BeachPALM COVE

Treat yourself to a five star experience at this tiny coastal village where you can :

  • swim safely away from stingers and crocs in the netted enclosure on the beach.
  • dine outdoors on the timber deck at Peppers Beach Club under the shade of stately paperbark gum trees.
  • stroll along the picture perfect boardwalk past boutiques and upscale eateries to the jetty overlooking Double Island.
  • head for a cocktail to Alamanda Resort right on the beachfront under hundreds of coconut palms.

Palm Cove Alamanda resort Great Barrier ReefMIND THE LOCALS !

  • Saltwater crocodiles (“salties”) can and do take lives; public signs warn about them at creeks and beaches. Freshwater crocodiles (“freshies”) are less dangerous, but you don’t want to disturb them either.
  • Lethal stone fish and bluebottles abound at certain beaches all year round. Swim in the netted areas at beaches to be safe.
  • Give summertime cyclones, high temperatures and lethal jellyfish a miss and enjoy autumn, winter or springtime instead. If you do visit during summer, wear a stinger suit for protection while swimming.

Castaway Resort Mission Beach Great Barrier ReefHappy holidays | Bon vacance !

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