5 Ways to Explore the Great Barrier Reef

If you are just now getting your explorer license or consider yourself a seasoned veteran, there are many ways that you can explore the Great Barrier Reef beyond the average tourist. Here are five ideas to get you started:

Aussies are very proud of our cultural landmarks, and perhaps the crowned jewel of all of them is the Great Barrier Reef. It is one of the most celebrated natural wonders on earth, boasting a rainbow of coral and numerous other wildlife, including crustaceans, sea urchins, mollusks, sponges and starfish. Depending on the season, you can also spot sea turtles, manatees, whales and dolphins, all of which like to play along the reef.

Island Hopping

Can't swim? A bit afraid of the water? Why not get a bird's eye view of the reef? You've probably already seen aerial shots of these views on television programmes, and now you can see it for yourself. Some of the best spots to check out this scenic view are located near Airlie Beach. However, you can also conduct a flyover from the Whitsunday Islands or Cairns.

There are several ways you can see the reef from the air. If you like to feel the rush of adrenaline, you can hop aboard a chopper from Down Under Helicopter and cruise over the Daintree Rainforest as well as the reef. Bringing that special someone along? One of the most romantic ways to see the reef is on a hot air balloon ride, which are available from Cairns and Port Douglas. This is a truly sensory experience, as you can see and hear the stunning wildlife below much more than would if you were in a plane or helicopter. You will definitely want to bring your camera along for this ride, as the shots you will get from the air will be truly spectacular.

Two-for-One Deal

In Port Douglas, you can have easy access to some of the most breathtaking vistas of the Great Barrier Reef along the Coral Sea. However, this is just one of two World Heritage-listed attractions in the city. Here you can spend the morning hiking through Daintree Rainforest, then cool off in the waters near the Great Barrier Reef in the afternoon. This is a very romantic location, and could be the perfect place for a lovers' getaway or honeymoon. If you are up for it, you can even take a trek toward Cape Tribulation, where the rainforest meets the reef for a truly breathtaking natural experience you won't soon forget.

Sailing Excursions

Queensland's Low Isles are an excellent spot to go sailing, as are the Whitsundays and Hamilton Island. You can take it slow and easy or hit the high seas with the best of them here, if you wish to charter a boat on your own. However, there are several trained skippers who can take you on a sailing tour if you feel a bit skittish behind the wheel. If your kids have always dreamed of being a pirate, you should embark to the Low Isles, as it was a secluded locale that was discovered by Captain James Cook in 1770.

If you are feeling a bit carefree, you can also rent a catamaran or Maxi Racer and take to the water for a relaxing afternoon. This way, you can see more of the unique details of the reef while still fitting in a maritime excursion.

Don't Forget your Wetsuit

Perhaps the best way to explore the reef is to dive head first into the water and see it up close and personal. Nearly every destination along the Queensland shoreline is going to be able to equip you with the proper gear to dive into the rugged drop offs and edges, and in some locales, you can even explore a number of the reef's underwater tunnels and caves. The best coastal cities to do so are Cairns, Townsville, Mission Beach and Airlie Beach.

There are many ways you can don a wetsuit and explore the Great Barrier Reef, from traditional scuba diving and snorkelling to seawalking and scubadoo. Whichever route you choose, you better remember to grab your waterproof camera, because the colours here are breathtaking, and you'll want proof that you were there.

Glass-Bottom Boat

If you want to get up close to all of the animals but don't like to get wet, there is still hope for you. Most locales along the Queensland coast now offer glass-bottom boats, so you can still take in the sunshine from on deck, see the beauty of the reef below your feet and learn about the distinctive wildlife from a guide. This could be the perfect method of viewing the reef if you are travelling with little ones who are a bit squeamish about getting into the water, but still love to look at all of the fish.

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