27 days in Great Barrier Reef Itinerary

27 days in Great Barrier Reef Itinerary

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Route & dates

27 days in Great Barrier Reef Itinerary

Start: Adelaide
Fly:  7​h
1
Mackay
— 2 nights
Fly:  6​h
2
Fraser Island
— 2 nights
+3
Drive + ferry + Drive + Fly:  9​h
3
Hamilton Island
— 1 night
ferry:  1​h
4
Airlie Beach
— 4 nights
bus:  3​h 45​min
5
Townsville
— 3 nights
ferry:  30​min
6
Magnetic Island
— 2 nights
ferry + Drive:  3​h 15​min
7
Mission Beach
— 2 nights
Drive:  2​h
8
Cairns
— 4 nights
Drive:  1​h 15​min
9
Port Douglas
— 4 nights
shuttle + Fly:  6​h 15​min
End: Adelaide


2
nights
Mackay

Mackay ©
Mackay is a city and its centre suburb in the Mackay Region on the eastern coast of Queensland, Australia. Kick off your visit on the 6th (Thu): kick back and relax at Town Beach and then look for gifts at Let the Children Play Toyshop. Keep things going the next day: take in the exciting artwork at Artspace Mackay, enjoy the sand and surf at Bucasia Beach, and then buy something for everyone on your list at Caneland Central Shopping Centre.

To see more things to do, where to stay, ratings, and more tourist information, go to the Mackay vacation app .

Adelaide to Mackay is an approximately 7-hour flight. You can also drive. In December, Mackay is a bit warmer than Adelaide - with highs of 36°C and lows of 26°C. Wrap up your sightseeing on the 8th (Sat) early enough to travel to Fraser Island.

Things to do in Mackay

Parks Beaches Outdoors
Find places to stay Dec 6 — 8:
Highlights from your plan
Lamberts Beach ©
Lamberts Beach
Town Beach ©
Town Beach
Caneland Central Shopping Centre ©

2
nights
Fraser Island

Fraser Island ©
Visit Eli Creek and Indian Head for some beach relaxation. Escape the urban bustle at Seventy-Five Mile Beach and The Pinnacles.

For other places to visit, where to stay, ratings, and other tourist information, go to the Fraser Island day trip app .

The Route module can help you plan travel from Mackay to Fraser Island. Plan for slightly colder nights when traveling from Mackay in December since evenings lows in Fraser Island dip to 23°C. Wrap up your sightseeing on the 11th (Tue) early enough to travel to Hamilton Island.

Things to do in Fraser Island

Parks Outdoors Nature
Find places to stay Dec 8 — 11:
Highlights from your plan
Seventy-Five Mile Beach ©
Seventy-Five Mile Beach
Eli Creek ©
Eli Creek
Champagne Pools ©
Champagne Pools

1
night
Hamilton Island

A trip to Hamilton Island takes you to a car-free destination mostly covered in bushland.
Start off your visit on the 12th (Wed): get outside with Jetryder, then take in the exciting artwork at Hamilton Island Art Gallery, and then see some colorful creatures with a scuba or snorkeling tour. Get ready for a full day of sightseeing on the 13th (Thu): tee off at Hamilton Island Golf Club and then kick back and relax at Catseye Beach.

For traveler tips, more things to do, and other tourist information, read Hamilton Island vacation tool .

Do a combination of car, ferry, and flight from Fraser Island to Hamilton Island in 9 hours. Alternatively, you can do a combination of car, ferry, and bus. Traveling from Fraser Island in December, plan for a bit warmer nights in Hamilton Island, with lows around 28°C. Wrap up your sightseeing on the 13th (Thu) early enough to ride a ferry to Airlie Beach.

Things to do in Hamilton Island

Outdoors Wildlife Beaches
Find places to stay Dec 11 — 13:
Highlights from your plan
Scuba & Snorkeling
Hamilton Island Golf Club ©
Hamilton Island Golf Club
Hamilton Island Art Gallery ©
Hamilton Island Art Gallery

4
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.
You'll enjoy a bit of beach vacationing at Horseshoe Bay and Grays Bay. Step out of the city life by going to Kayaking & Canoeing and Cumberland Charter Yachts. Change things up with a short trip to Mother Beddock Rock in Bowen (about 1h 20 min away). And it doesn't end there: get a dose of the wild on a nature and wildlife tour, look for gifts at Into The Blue Gallery, choose your vessel at Charter Yachts Australia, and contemplate the waterfront views at Heart Reef.

To find maps, traveler tips, other places to visit, and tourist information, go to the Airlie Beach trip builder .

You can ride a ferry from Hamilton Island to Airlie Beach in an hour. Expect a daytime high around 34°C in December, and nighttime lows around 28°C. Finish up your sightseeing early on the 17th (Mon) so you can catcht the bus to Townsville.

Things to do in Airlie Beach

Outdoors Tours Wildlife

Side Trip

Bowen
Find places to stay Dec 13 — 17:
Highlights from your plan
Kayaking & Canoeing
Horseshoe Bay ©
Horseshoe Bay
Nature & Wildlife Tours

3
nights
Townsville

Townsville ©
Tucked snugly beneath a steep, craggy mount--known as Castle Hill--the vibrant city of Townsville is as picturesque as its backdrop.
You'll explore the less-touristy side of things at Billabong Sanctuary and The Strand. Get outdoors at Museum of Tropical Queensland and Castle Hill. There's lots more to do: browse the exhibits of Umbrella Studio Contemporary Arts, take in the architecture and atmosphere at St James Cathedral, make a trip to Jezzine Barracks, and view the masterpieces at Perc Tucker Regional Gallery.

To find where to stay, photos, other places to visit, and other tourist information, refer to the Townsville road trip planning app .

You can take a bus from Airlie Beach to Townsville in 4 hours. Alternatively, you can drive; or do a combination of bus and train. Expect a daytime high around 37°C in December, and nighttime lows around 28°C. Cap off your sightseeing on the 20th (Thu) early enough to catch the ferry to Magnetic Island.

Things to do in Townsville

Parks Shopping Museums
Find places to stay Dec 17 — 20:
Highlights from your plan
Billabong Sanctuary ©
Billabong Sanctuary
The Strand ©
The Strand
Museum of Tropical Queensland ©
Museum of Tropical Queensland

2
nights
Magnetic Island

Start off your visit on the 21st (Fri): take a memorable tour with Big Mama Sailing, then browse the eclectic array of goods at Horseshoe Bay Markets, and then step off the mainland to explore Magnetic Island Forts Walk. Keep things going the next day: take an in-depth tour of Magnetic Island Museum, then take a tour by water with Boat Tours & Water Sports, and then enjoy the sand and surf at Geoffrey Bay.

For other places to visit, traveler tips, photos, and more tourist information, use the Magnetic Island route builder app .

Magnetic Island is very close to Townsville. Expect a daytime high around 37°C in December, and nighttime lows around 28°C. Wrap up your sightseeing on the 22nd (Sat) to allow time to travel to Mission Beach.

Things to do in Magnetic Island

Outdoors Tours Wildlife
Find places to stay Dec 20 — 22:
Highlights from your plan
Fishing Charters & Tours
Geoffrey Bay ©
Geoffrey Bay
Horseshoe Bay Markets ©
Horseshoe Bay Markets

2
nights
Mission Beach

Mission Beach ©
Gracing the coast along the Coral Sea, Mission Beach is a collection of villages that merged into one city.
Kick off your visit on the 23rd (Sun): cross one thing off your bucket list with a skydiving experience, view the masterpieces at Helen Wiltshire Gallery, and then kick back and relax at Mission Beach. Keep things going the next day: enjoy the sand and surf at Etty Bay and then take a tour by water with Boat Tours & Water Sports.

To find photos, traveler tips, ratings, and more tourist information, read our Mission Beach holiday maker .

You can do a combination of ferry and car from Magnetic Island to Mission Beach in 3.5 hours. Other options are to do a combination of ferry and bus; or do a combination of ferry, train, and bus. Wrap up your sightseeing on the 24th (Mon) early enough to drive to Cairns.

Things to do in Mission Beach

Outdoors Tours Beaches

Side Trip

Etty Bay
Find places to stay Dec 22 — 24:
Highlights from your plan
Mission Beach ©
Mission Beach
Skydiving
Etty Bay ©
Etty Bay

4
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.
Give yourself a bit of retail therapy at Rusty's Market and Tanks Arts Centre. You'll discover tucked-away gems like Balloon Rides and Muddy's Playground. There's still lots to do: identify plant and animal life at Atherton Tablelands, look for gifts at Australian Leather Company, view the masterpieces at Doongal Aboriginal Art, and relax in the rural setting at Gallo DairyLand.

To see photos, maps, other places to visit, and other tourist information, use the Cairns vacation planner.

You can drive from Mission Beach to Cairns in 2 hours. Another option is to take a bus. December in Cairns sees daily highs of 36°C and lows of 26°C at night. Finish your sightseeing early on the 28th (Fri) so you can drive to Port Douglas.

Things to do in Cairns

Outdoors Tours Adventure

Side Trip

Tanks Arts Centre
Find places to stay Dec 24 — 28:
Highlights from your plan
Balloon Rides
River Rafting & Tubing
Shark Diving

4
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.
Take a break from the city and head to Agincourt Reef and Mowbray National Park. Discover out-of-the-way places like Opal Reef and Sunday Market Port Douglas. Explore the numerous day-trip ideas around Port Douglas: Palm Cove (Kayaking & Canoeing & Spas & Wellness). Next up on the itinerary: look for gifts at With Sugar, take in the exciting artwork at Ngarru Gallery, don't miss a visit to St Mary’s by The Sea chapel, and browse the exhibits of Des Spencer Galleries.

For ratings, where to stay, traveler tips, and other tourist information, refer to the Port Douglas itinerary planning site .

Getting from Cairns to Port Douglas by car takes about 1.5 hours. Other options: take a bus; or take a shuttle. Expect a daytime high around 36°C in December, and nighttime lows around 26°C. Finish your sightseeing early on the 1st (Tue) so you can travel back home.

Things to do in Port Douglas

Wildlife Parks Nature

Side Trip

Palm Cove
Find places to stay Dec 28 — Jan 1:
Highlights from your plan
Agincourt Reef ©
Agincourt Reef
Opal Reef ©
Opal Reef
Mowbray National Park ©
Mowbray National Park

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