Great Barrier Reef Accommodation

Visitors to the Great Barrier Reef choose to stay in accommodations in a coastal town or city on the mainland. Providing visitors with a broader range of options, from budget to luxury.  Then, visitors can make combining trips to the Great Barrier Reef easier.

Reef Encounter Cairns

Accommodation is available on some islands and hospitality styles vary from camping to 5-star luxury escapes. It is typical for islands and destinations to specialise in a particular accommodation type. You will unlikely find many properties in one destination, from backpackers to luxury. Therefore, your accommodation wishlist and needs will influence the destinations you choose. Alternatively, if you have a must-see destination, you must book what’s on offer.

Travellers looking for something different opt for unique experiences: Dive enthusiasts may look for liveaboard vessels.

Liveaboards cater to early morning and night dives. Adventurous souls might ‘camp’ overnight on a pontoon platform in the reef’s middle.


Choosing your Great Barrier Reef Region

Great Barrier Reef

We would all love an endless holiday on the Great Barrier Reef and to visit more than 600 islands. However, most visitors choose one of three central regions when planning their holiday.

The Cairns region offers the dynamic city of Cairns and stylish Port Douglas and Palm Cove townships. It is relatively easy to get to the World Heritage Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef, and it has excellent reef viewing options.

The Whitsundays are a group of islands off the coast of Airlie Beach and are famous as a sailing destination for iconic Whitehaven Beach and Heart Reef.

The Southern Region of the Great Barrier Reef has convenient favourite locations and facilities accessed from the more significant population centres further south. Smaller points are relatively uncrowded, more laid-back, and have limited facilities.


Choosing Mainland or Island Accommodation

Choose to stay on an island for easier and faster access to the Reef or multi-day stays, or decide to have more accommodation options and flexibility by staying on the mainland, often at a lower price. Whether you stay on an island or the shore, you will still have numerous tour and trip options to the most spectacular parts of the Great Barrier Reef, whether by boat, helicopter or seaplane. Don’t forget unique liveaboard or sleep-on-the-reef options if you want something completely different!


Cairns Region


From inner-city 5-star luxury to beachside escapes, self-catering motels, and camping.  There is a vast range of accommodation options in Cairns and surrounding suburbs and towns, including popular seaside destinations Palm Cove and Port Douglas.

Cairns is the mainland hub of Tropical North Queensland and is a lively city with its own safe, human-made swimming lagoon on the water’s edge. Port Douglas and Palm Cove are famous and fashionable seaside towns to the north, along with many other beaches. Great eating and shopping options are available in all areas, and good family accommodation options suit all styles and budgets.

The family-friendly islands of Fitzroy Island and Green Island are both quick ferry rides from Cairns and offer coral viewing off the beach, great for the young ones, as well as entertaining activities for families, including rainforest walks, a submarine experience, and crocodiles at Marineland Melanesia. Other exclusive luxury islands include Bedarra Island, Lizard Island, Magnetic Island, and Haggerstone Island. There are also great liveaboard or sleep-on-the-reef options out of Cairns for something different.

Whitsundays Region

Whitsunday Islands

Renowned for island resorts, visitors to the Whitsunday Islands group can also choose from additional accommodation options in the coastal town of Airlie Beach, a vibrant seaside village with quirky shops, relaxed eateries and a large public swimming lagoon. Excellent holiday apartment options and surrounding areas are perfect for families. Family-friendly islands include Daydream Island, Hamilton Resort, Hayman Island and Heron Island.


Southern Region

Lady Musgrave Island

The Southern Region offers more quaint accommodation options, such as camping, cottages, and bungalows, in keeping with the region’s quiet and less inhabited locations. It is better suited for weekends or multi-day getaways, as it is less developed for tourists. The Reef is accessible in this region by the mainland cities of Yeppoon, Agnes Water, Town of 1770, Bundaberg and Hervey Bay. All offer different types of accommodation, with several eco-design options. While the islands in this region can be more challenging to get to.  Lady Elliot Island, Lady Musgrave Island, and Pumpkin Island are nature-focused destinations with eco-resorts that offer reef snorkelling straight off the beach.


Great Barrier Reef Activities