Great Barrier Reef Towns

There are several significant towns along the Queensland coastline that have a direct link with Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.


This quaint, trendy holiday resort town 90-minutes drive north from Cairns is an ideal starting point for tours of both the nearby Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest. It has a laid back lifestyle enhanced by many eateries and bars, expensive holiday homes and resorts, and an all-important marina.

  • Palm Cove

Palm Cove is a northern beachside suburb of Cairns, and It is a slick off-the-beaten-track hamlet. Family holidaymakers, wedding parties and romantic couples are all attracted and love to escape into its upscale resorts and holiday apartments. It is the last major settlement on the road north to Port Douglas.

Cairns is an international airport gateway to the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest. It is a sophisticated, multicultural hub with 5-star accommodation and dining. It is a convenient base to plan and launch land and sea tours to explore the nearby coral reefs and rainforest. It is the largest city in Far North Queensland and boasts extensive transport connections, a lush rural hinterland, world-class infrastructure and a wealth of international culture and Aboriginal heritage.


  • Townsville

This major northern city with robust infrastructure has a multi-economy focus that includes more than tourism. There is an abundance of accommodation options and community support services. Its world-class reef aquarium features marine life and coral from the Great Barrier Reef, and the university is a mecca for reef and marine research. The nearby offshore Magnetic Island has a myriad of inlets, coral reefs and a national park teeming with wildlife.

  • Mackay

A section of the Great Barrier Reef lies off Mackay, a holiday transit city wi small tourism industry and many excellent beaches popular with residents. Northeast of the town is the once-popular tourism hotspot of Brampton Island which is in nascent stages of redevelopment.

The starting point for most journeys out to the unique Whitsunday Islands group, Airlie Beach is a thrill-seekers playground for the young and restless, faux trendies Toursland transitioners on a road trip to wherever. Its many accommodation hostels and beer gardens provide respite in an aquatic playground. You can book your scenic flights, sailing adventures or make plans for a Great Barrier Reef island visit.

  • Gladstone

Gladstone is the gateway to the Southern Great Barrier Reef. It is about 450 km north of Brisbane and is a major shipping port and the launch point for several islands to its north. It features many world-class diving and snorkelling sites, deepwater coral lagoons, and reef fishing tours. It is the closest major centre for the islands from Lady Musgrave to Great Keppel.

  • Bundaberg

Off the coast of Bundaberg is Lady Elliott Island, the southernmost start of the Great Barrier Reef. Also in the area is Mon Repos Regional Park, home to sea turtles. The city is about 385 km north of Brisbane and is a tourism gateway for inland national parks and resort islands. Other primary industries include sugar cane growing and rum distilling.