11 days in Great Barrier Reef Itinerary

11 days in Great Barrier Reef Itinerary

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Route & dates

11 days in Great Barrier Reef Itinerary

Start: Sydney
Fly:  5​h
1
Cairns
— 2 nights
bus:  1​h 15​min
2
Port Douglas
— 2 nights
Drive:  2​h 30​min
3
Cooktown
— 1 night
+2
Drive + Fly + Drive:  6​h 30​min
4
Magnetic Island
— 1 day
ferry + Drive:  4​h 30​min
5
Airlie Beach
— 3 nights
ferry:  1​h
6
Hamilton Island
— 1 night
Fly:  4​h
End: Sydney

2
nights
Cairns

Cairns ©
A neat, cosmopolitan city of shaded plazas and laid-back neighborhoods, Cairns serves as a popular base for exploration of the surrounding region and the Great Barrier Reef, as well as a center for watersport activities like surfing or waterskiing.
Get outdoors at Michaelmas Cay and Scuba & Snorkeling. You'll find plenty of places to visit near Cairns: Palm Cove (Hartley's Crocodile Adventures & Palm Cove Beach).

To see traveler tips, photos, and tourist information, refer to the Cairns online trip builder .

Sydney to Cairns is an approximately 5-hour flight. You can also drive; or take a train. Expect somewhat warmer temperatures when traveling from Sydney in December; daily highs in Cairns reach 36°C and lows reach 26°C. Wrap up your sightseeing on the 29th (Sat) early enough to drive to Port Douglas.

Things to do in Cairns

Wildlife Outdoors Parks

Side Trip

Palm Cove
Find places to stay Dec 27 — 29:
Highlights from your plan
Michaelmas Cay ©
Michaelmas Cay
Scuba & Snorkeling
Hartley's Crocodile Adventures ©
Hartley's Crocodile Adventures

2
nights
Port Douglas

A holiday in Port Douglas balances an activity-filled getaway with plenty of opportunities to relax, thanks to its proximity to the Great Barrier Reef and bustling beach life.
On the 30th (Sun), see some colorful creatures with a scuba or snorkeling tour. On your second day here, see exotic creatures in open habitats at a safari tour.

To find more things to do, photos, ratings, and other tourist information, you can read our Port Douglas tour itinerary builder site .

Traveling by car from Cairns to Port Douglas takes 1.5 hours. Alternatively, you can take a shuttle; or do a combination of bus and shuttle. In December, daily temperatures in Port Douglas can reach 36°C, while at night they dip to 26°C. Cap off your sightseeing on the 31st (Mon) early enough to travel to Cooktown.

Things to do in Port Douglas

Wildlife Outdoors Tours
Find places to stay Dec 29 — 31:
Highlights from your plan
Scuba & Snorkeling
Safaris

1
night
Cooktown

Cooktown ©
Cooktown is a small town and locality in the Shire of Cook, Queensland, Australia. Start off your visit on the 1st (Tue): contemplate the long history of Cooktown History Centre, visit a coastal fixture at Grassy Hill, explore the different monuments and memorials at Cooktown War Memorial, then get engrossed in the history at James Cook Museum, and finally enjoy the sand and surf at Finch Bay.

To find out how to plan a trip to Cooktown, use our trip itinerary maker.

You can drive from Port Douglas to Cooktown in 3.5 hours. Finish up your sightseeing early on the 1st (Tue) so you can travel to Magnetic Island.

Things to do in Cooktown

Historic Sites Parks Beaches
Find places to stay Dec 31 — Jan 1:
Highlights from your plan
Grassy Hill ©
Grassy Hill
James Cook Museum ©
James Cook Museum
Finch Bay ©
Finch Bay

1
day
Magnetic Island

Magnetic Island ©
On the 2nd (Wed), deepen your appreciation for local ecosystems through Big Mama Sailing, enjoy the sand and surf at Geoffrey Bay, and then admire all the interesting features of Magnetic Island Forts Walk.

For photos, maps, other places to visit, and tourist information, read Magnetic Island trip maker tool .

Explore your travel options from Cooktown to Magnetic Island with the Route module. In January, daily temperatures in Magnetic Island can reach 37°C, while at night they dip to 29°C. Wrap up your sightseeing on the 2nd (Wed) to allow time to travel to Airlie Beach.

Things to do in Magnetic Island

Outdoors Wildlife Transportation
Find places to stay Jan 1 — 2:
Highlights from your plan
Geoffrey Bay ©
Geoffrey Bay

3
nights
Airlie Beach

Very much a town with an emphasis on the tropical lifestyle, Airlie Beach offers exotic surroundings with palm trees and charming, sandy beaches.
Take a break from the city and head to Kayaking & Canoeing and Heart Reef. You'll explore the less-touristy side of things at Cumberland Charter Yachts and Grotty Yachty Clothing. Spend the 5th (Sat) among aquatic life with a scuba or snorkeling tour. There's more to do: zoom along the surf with a waterskiing or jet-skiing adventure and soothe aching muscles at some of the top local wellness centers.

To find photos, traveler tips, other places to visit, and other tourist information, you can read our Airlie Beach trip itinerary builder website .

Traveling by combination of ferry and car from Magnetic Island to Airlie Beach takes 4.5 hours. Alternatively, you can do a combination of ferry and bus; or do a combination of ferry, flight, and bus. In January, daily temperatures in Airlie Beach can reach 34°C, while at night they dip to 28°C. Finish your sightseeing early on the 5th (Sat) to allow enough time to ride a ferry to Hamilton Island.

Things to do in Airlie Beach

Outdoors Tours Wildlife
Find places to stay Jan 2 — 5:
Highlights from your plan
Kayaking & Canoeing
Scuba & Snorkeling
Heart Reef ©
Heart Reef

1
night
Hamilton Island

Hamilton Island ©
A trip to Hamilton Island takes you to a car-free destination mostly covered in bushland.
On the 6th (Sun), play a few rounds at Hamilton Island Golf Club and then enjoy the sand and surf at Catseye Beach.

To see other places to visit, maps, traveler tips, and other tourist information, use the Hamilton Island day trip app .

You can ride a ferry from Airlie Beach to Hamilton Island in an hour. Another option is to do a combination of bus and ferry. In January, daytime highs in Hamilton Island are 35°C, while nighttime lows are 28°C. Finish your sightseeing early on the 6th (Sun) so you can travel back home.

Things to do in Hamilton Island

Outdoors Beaches Parks
Find places to stay Jan 5 — 6:
Highlights from your plan
Catseye Beach ©
Catseye Beach
Hamilton Island Golf Club ©
Hamilton Island Golf Club

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