18 days in Great Barrier Reef Itinerary

18 days in Great Barrier Reef Itinerary

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Route & dates

18 days in Great Barrier Reef Itinerary

Start: Sydney
Fly:  4​h
1
Hamilton Island
— 1 night
ferry:  1​h
2
Airlie Beach
— 2 nights
Fly:  7​h 15​min
3
Cooktown
— 1 day
Drive:  2​h 30​min
4
Port Douglas
— 2 nights
Drive:  1​h 15​min
5
Cairns
— 3 nights
Fly:  3​h 15​min
6
Townsville
— 2 nights
Fly:  4​h 45​min
7
Rockhampton
— 3 nights
Drive + ferry:  10​h 45​min
8
Magnetic Island
— 2 nights
+3
ferry + bus + foot + Fly:  6​h 15​min
End: Sydney

1
night
Hamilton Island

A trip to Hamilton Island takes you to a car-free destination mostly covered in bushland.
Kick off your visit on the 3rd (Fri): discover the deep blue sea with a scuba or snorkeling tour. Keep things going the next day: take in the exciting artwork at Hamilton Island Art Gallery, then soothe aching muscles at some of the top local wellness centers, then stroll through Catseye Beach, and finally head outdoors with Jetryder.

For more things to do, traveler tips, maps, and tourist information, you can read our Hamilton Island driving holiday site .

Sydney to Hamilton Island is an approximately 4-hour flight. You can also do a combination of train, bus, and ferry; or do a combination of bus, car, and ferry. Traveling from Sydney in January, Hamilton Island is somewhat warmer at night with lows of 28°C. Wrap up your sightseeing on the 4th (Sat) early enough to ride a ferry to Airlie Beach.

Things to do in Hamilton Island

Outdoors Wildlife Tours
Find places to stay Jan 3 — 4:
Highlights from your plan
Scuba & Snorkeling
Hamilton Island Art Gallery ©
Hamilton Island Art Gallery

2
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.
Start off your visit on the 5th (Sun): enjoy the sand and surf at Airlie Beach Lagoon, relax and rejuvenate at some of the top local wellness centers, and then get a new perspective on things with Boat Tours & Water Sports. Get ready for a full day of sightseeing on the 6th (Mon): get a dose of the wild on a nature and wildlife tour and then view the masterpieces at Art Whitsunday Gallery & Shop.

For reviews, ratings, maps, and tourist information, use the Airlie Beach online holiday planner .

You can ride a ferry from Hamilton Island to Airlie Beach in an hour. In January in Airlie Beach, expect temperatures between 34°C during the day and 28°C at night. Wrap up your sightseeing on the 6th (Mon) to allow time to travel to Cooktown.

Things to do in Airlie Beach

Outdoors Tours Wildlife
Find places to stay Jan 4 — 6:
Highlights from your plan
Kayaking & Canoeing
Nature & Wildlife Tours
Airlie Beach Lagoon ©
Airlie Beach Lagoon

1
day
Cooktown

Cooktown ©
Cooktown is a small town and locality in the Shire of Cook, Queensland, Australia. Start off your visit on the 7th (Tue): take some stellar pictures from Grassy Hill, stroll through Finch Bay, and then look for all kinds of wild species at Great Northern Tours.

To see ratings, other places to visit, where to stay, and other tourist information, go to the Cooktown trip website .

Use the Route module to find suitable travel options from Airlie Beach to Cooktown. Finish your sightseeing early on the 7th (Tue) to allow enough time to travel to Port Douglas.

Things to do in Cooktown

Parks Wildlife Outdoors
Find places to stay Jan 6 — 7:
Highlights from your plan
Great Northern Tours ©
Great Northern Tours
Grassy Hill ©
Grassy Hill
Finch Bay ©
Finch Bay

2
nights
Port Douglas

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.
Start off your visit on the 8th (Wed): view the masterpieces at Des Spencer Galleries and then identify plant and animal life at Agincourt Reef. On the next day, look for gifts at With Sugar, explore the galleries of Ngarru Gallery, then relax and rejuvenate at some of the top local wellness centers, and finally see the vivid underwater world at Opal Reef.

For ratings, photos, maps, and more tourist information, read our Port Douglas trip itinerary builder tool .

You can drive from Cooktown to Port Douglas in 3.5 hours. Expect a daytime high around 37°C in January, and nighttime lows around 28°C. Wrap up your sightseeing on the 9th (Thu) early enough to drive to Cairns.

Things to do in Port Douglas

Wildlife Parks Shopping
Find places to stay Jan 7 — 9:
Highlights from your plan
Agincourt Reef ©
Agincourt Reef
Ngarru Gallery ©
Ngarru Gallery
With Sugar ©
With Sugar

3
nights
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.
You'll explore the less-touristy side of things at Balloon Rides and Spas & Wellness. Let the collections at The Australian Armour & Artillery Museum and Bones and Jones capture your imagination. Take a break from Cairns with a short trip to Village Gallery in Palm Cove, about 36 minutes away. There's much more to do: look for all kinds of wild species at Atherton Tablelands, let the river carry you with a rafting and tubing tour, and head off the coast to Michaelmas Cay.

To find photos, ratings, more things to do, and more tourist information, read Cairns trip itinerary planner .

You can drive from Port Douglas to Cairns in 1.5 hours. Alternatively, you can take a bus; or take a shuttle. In January, daily temperatures in Cairns can reach 37°C, while at night they dip to 28°C. Wrap up your sightseeing on the 12th (Sun) early enough to travel to Townsville.

Things to do in Cairns

Outdoors Tours Wildlife

Side Trip

Village Gallery
Find places to stay Jan 9 — 12:
Highlights from your plan
Balloon Rides
Michaelmas Cay ©
Michaelmas Cay
River Rafting & Tubing

2
nights
Townsville

Tucked snugly beneath a steep, craggy mount--known as Castle Hill--the vibrant city of Townsville is as picturesque as its backdrop.
Start off your visit on the 13th (Mon): take in the exciting artwork at The Drill Hall Studio, take in the architecture and atmosphere at St James Cathedral, then view the masterpieces at Umbrella Studio Contemporary Arts, then take an in-depth tour of Townsville Museum and Historical Society, and finally contemplate the long history of National Trust Heritage Centre. Get ready for a full day of sightseeing on the next day: take in the exciting artwork at Pinnacles Gallery, explore the galleries of Perc Tucker Regional Gallery, and then discover the deep blue sea with a scuba or snorkeling tour.

To find ratings, traveler tips, other places to visit, and other tourist information, read our Townsville vacation planning tool .

You can fly from Cairns to Townsville in 3.5 hours. Alternatively, you can drive; or take a bus. In January, daytime highs in Townsville are 37°C, while nighttime lows are 29°C. Finish your sightseeing early on the 14th (Tue) so you can travel to Rockhampton.

Things to do in Townsville

Outdoors Wildlife Tours
Find places to stay Jan 12 — 14:
Highlights from your plan
Scuba & Snorkeling
The Drill Hall Studio ©
The Drill Hall Studio
Perc Tucker Regional Gallery ©
Perc Tucker Regional Gallery

3
nights
Rockhampton

Rockhampton ©
With over 300 sunny days every year, Rockhampton plays host to numerous outdoor activities.
Step off the beaten path and head to Capricorn Caves and Rockhampton Botanic Gardens. Take a break from the city and head to Farnborough Beach and Rockhampton Zoo. Change things up with a short trip to Yeppoon Main Beach in Yeppoon (about 38 minutes away). And it doesn't end there: examine the collection at Archer Park Rail Museum, brush up on your military savvy at C.Q. Military & Artifacts Museum, take in the exciting artwork at Rockhampton Art Gallery, and explore the engaging exhibits at FLOW Visitors Centre.

To find reviews, more things to do, and more tourist information, read our Rockhampton online holiday planner .

You can fly from Townsville to Rockhampton in 5 hours. Alternatively, you can take a train; or drive. January in Rockhampton sees daily highs of 38°C and lows of 26°C at night. Wrap up your sightseeing on the 17th (Fri) to allow time to travel back home.

Things to do in Rockhampton

Parks Outdoors Museums

Side Trip

Yeppoon
Find places to stay Jan 14 — 17:
Highlights from your plan
Capricorn Caves ©
Capricorn Caves
Rockhampton Botanic Gardens ©
Rockhampton Botanic Gardens
Yeppoon Main Beach ©
Yeppoon Main Beach

2
nights
Magnetic Island

Kick off your visit on the 18th (Sat): get engrossed in the history at Magnetic Island Museum, cast your line with a fishing tour, then kick back and relax at Geoffrey Bay, and finally hunt for treasures at Horseshoe Bay Markets. Get ready for a full day of sightseeing on the next day: look for all kinds of wild species at Nelly Bay to Arcadia Trail and then step off the mainland to explore Magnetic Island National Park.

To find where to stay, traveler tips, maps, and other tourist information, go to the Magnetic Island visit planning app .

Traveling by combination of car and ferry from Rockhampton to Magnetic Island takes 11 hours. Alternatively, you can do a combination of train and ferry; or do a combination of bus and ferry. In January, daytime highs in Magnetic Island are 37°C, while nighttime lows are 29°C. Wrap up your sightseeing by early afternoon on the 20th (Mon) to allow enough time to travel back home.

Things to do in Magnetic Island

Wildlife Parks Nature
Find places to stay Jan 17 — 20:
Highlights from your plan
Fishing Charters & Tours
Geoffrey Bay ©
Geoffrey Bay
Magnetic Island National Park ©
Magnetic Island National Park

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