Great Barrier Reef – Views From Above


There are a lot of things to be seen on a trip to Australia. In fact you could spend months and months and still not see everything. I lived there for a year and while I saw a lot, there was still so much I was unable to get to. Australia is a huge country, and it’s filled with fabulous things to see and do. But one of the absolutely top things to visit when in Australia is the Great Barrier Reef. Usually when people think about visiting the Great Barrier Reef they think about either snorkeling or diving. But there is another amazing way to see the reef and that is from the air.

The famous Heart Reef within Hardy Reef.

Book a trip to Airlie Beach

There are a few different ways to fly over the Great Barrier Reef, but I recommend getting to Airlie Beach because it’s a great launching off point for all sorts of activities around the area.

Whitehaven Beach from the air

If you are already in Cairns of course you can leave from there as well. But I highly recommend also visiting and flying over Whitehaven Beach, and to do that you would need to fly from Airlie Beach. So I recommend Airlie Beach over Cairns, if you have the choice.

An elephant?

Depending on where you are in Australia, getting to Airlie Beach shouldn’t be too difficult. It’s a 12 hour drive from Brisbane or just a 2 hour flight. But getting from the airport to the actual town of Airlie Beach requires prebooking a shuttle ride. You really can’t get there any other way unless you want to rent a car. Once you have your flight and shuttle ride booked, you just need to find a place to stay and you are set. Airlie Beach is a small but happening town, with many different choices for accommodations. Lots of GBR excursions leave from there, so you have plenty of things to choose from. You won’t be bored. Plus there’s a great little market on the beach on the weekends. And people do cool sand art like this.

Yes that is a fire-breathing dragon playing a ukulele.
Yes that is a fire-breathing dragon playing a ukulele.

Book a scenic flight over the reef for great views

From the air the Great Barrier Reef looks like one huge painting.
From the air the Great Barrier Reef looks like one huge painting.

This is the company I used for my flight and I was very happy with them. We went on a small plane, but I know that there are other companies that offer helicopter rides as well so look around and choose what works best for you. If you are hoping to get some fabulous pictures, as was I, then choose a good time of day. Unfortunately because of the sunlight and glare off the water and on the plane windows, I wasn’t as happy with my pictures as I’d hoped to be. If I did it again, I would contact the company and find out if they offer rides all day long or only at certain times of day. I went in the morning but I think the afternoon would have been better. Of course the weather plays a big part in whether or not you can even go up, so allow a few days in town in case you have to postpone or reschedule your flight for some reason.

The reef is absolutely stunning from above

Flying over the reef, in addition to my visit to Whitehaven beach, arguably one of the best beaches in the world, was a highlight of my year in Australia. I can’t recommend it enough. If you haven’t been already, you need to put it on your bucket list!

The designs and color of the reef are so mesmerizing from the sky. I could have spent hours up there.

Have you been to Queensland? Did you fly over the Great Barrier Reef?