Isn't it funny that we so often refer to Australia's largest World Heritage site as simply 'the reef'? It's as though something this grand defies words.
The Great Barrier Reef dominates Queensland's coastline, from the tip of Cape York to the southern shores of Bundaberg. It's home to more than a thousand islands and cays, reaches two kilometres deep in some parts and can be spied from space. It's certainly a challenge to sum up.
Inspired by Tourism and Events Queensland's new ebook – 101 ways to do the Great Barrier Reef – we've hand-picked six extraordinary experiences that put the 'great' in Great Barrier Reef and are pretty easy on the eyes.
Catch some Zs floating on the reef
When listening to white noise of rolling waves just isn't getting you to the land of nod, there's always spending the night on a floating pontoon in the middle of the reef.
By day, explore the Whitsundays at your leisure – snorkelling, sailing and sunbaking until the sun starts to dip. At 3pm, Cruise Whitsundays will whisk you away to Reefsleep, where a maximum of nine guests can take an evening dive and spend the night under the stars in a stylish swag or a cosy double bedroom.
High-five a dwarf minke whale
If coming eye to eye with a gentle giant is high up on your bucket list, make it happen on the Northern Ribbon Reefs accessible from Cairns. Dwarf minke whales travel through the warm Great Barrier Reef waters each winter, delighting divers with their inquisitive nature.
The reef is the only place in the world where you can snorkel and dive with minke whales, making this experience a totally unique one. The Northern Ribbon Reefs are also home to the famous Cod Hole – a world-renowned dive site named for the friendly potato cod fish that are hand-fed by divers.
Chew with a view at a reef brunch
The Great Barrier Reef is no stranger to celebrities who hover over it from their private choppers and fork out five-figure sums to bunk down in private island abodes. If all of that is leaving you feeling a little blue, head out into the big blue for a fully rockstar experience.
Book a private helicopter charter departing Cairns or Port Douglas, by which you can scope the aquatic scenery from above before touching down for a leisurely swim and a tropical brunch platter with a glass of bubbles. It's a tough life.
Tee-off on an island golf course
The sand trap won't even phase you when you're playing a round on Australia's only island-based championship golf course. Hamilton Island Golf Club is something of a misnomer – it actually sits on its own slice of paradise on Dent Island, a 15-minute ferry ride from Hamilton Island.
Designed by pro golfer Peter Thompson, the 18-hole course is one of the most unique spots in Australia to work on your handicap while admiring those ridiculously good looking Whitsundays views. Putting along steep valleys before a long lunch at the clubhouse? Don't mind if I do!
If you're planning on popping the question or rekindling a little romance, a seaplane or heli flight over the iconic Heart Reef in the Whitsundays will win you a lifetime's worth of brownie points with your sweetheart.
Discovered just 40 years ago, the heart-shaped coral composition located in Hardy Reef is one of the most romantic places in Australia and fiercely protected due to its natural significance. A scenic flight over the Heart Reef is the ultimate declaration of love for your bae, your bestie or just for the reef itself!
Dive into the deep without getting wet
After meticulously mapping our roads, Google have taken their Street View technology down under – underwater, that is. The world's first 3D mapping of the Great Barrier Reef means you can virtually dive the reef wearing your jammies instead of a wetsuit.
A specially-designed camera allowed divers to take 360-degree snaps of the reef, which is not only incredibly nifty but will also help scientists track the health of the natural World Wonder. The project wrapped up on June 8 for World Oceans Day.
By Ashton Rigg