15 Great Barrier Reef Events to plan your next trip around

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Are you trying to plan your next trip to the Great Barrier Reef and unsure where to start? Why not maximise your trip by tying in one of these awesome events from our Great Barrier Reef events calendar?

Whether you’re looking to challenge yourself with an endurance event, looking to get your sea-legs at a sailing event or just wanting to party, here’s 15 Great Barrier Reef Events that you need to add to your social calendar now.

Accept the challenge – Endurance & Sport Events

Hamilton Island Endurance Series

Great Whitehaven Beach Run | Great Barrier Reef Events

When: Multiple dates – Stamford Financial Hamilton Hilly Marathon, 30 April 2017 | Great Whitehaven Beach Run, 18 June 2017 | Fujifilm Whitehaven Beach Ocean Swim – 12 November 2017
Where: Hamilton IslandWhitehaven Beach, The Whitsundays
What: If getting fit and healthy was your New Year’s resolution, why not plan to also treat yourself with a holiday as well by participating in one of these Hamilton Island Endurance Series events:

Great Barrier Reef Masters Games


When: 25-28 May 2017
Where: Cairns, Tropical North Queensland
What: Held every two years, the Great Barrier Masters Games allows athletes from Australia, Oceania and South East Asia to bring their competitive sides to the tropical paradise that is Cairns. With 20 individual and team sports including Athletics, Swimming through to Beach Volleyball and Mountain Biking there will be plenty of sporting action to participate in along with a packed social program to keep everyone entertained.

Cairns Airport Adventure Festival

When: 5-13 June 2017
Where: Palm Cove, Tropical North Queensland
What: Pack your gear, sense of adventure and head to Tropical North Queensland for the gruelling full-distance triathlon Cairns Airport IRONMAN Asia-Pacific Championship Cairns – the main event of the nine-day multisport Cairns Airport Adventure Festival. Other events that you’ll need to refuel your tank for include RRR Mountain Bike Challenge, Hekili Great Barrier Reef Ocean Challenge, Quicksilver Reef Swim – Green Island, Cairns Post Bright Night Run and the child-friendly triathlon – McDonalds IRONKIDS Cairns.

Intersport Townsville Triathlon Festival


When: 18-20 August 2017
Where: The Strand, Townsville North Queensland
What: In Townsville ‘the Big Weekend’ of sport is far from sitting inside watching back-to-back Rugby League. The Intersport Townsville Triathlon Festival promises a program that is action-packed with nine events over three massive days including the Olympic Distance Triathlon, 1km Ocean Swim and Kids Try, proving this festival truly delivers something active for everyone.

2017 UCI MTB World Championship Cairns

UCI Mountain Bike Championships Cairns | Top 12 Events In 2017

When: 5-10 September 2017
Where: Smithfield, Tropical North Queensland
What: The Cairns-based Smithfield Mountain Bike Park is the highest profile rainforest trail system on the planet and as the grand finale host of the UCI MTB World Championship Cairns it promises to attract the world’s best riders to crank it up a notch on this extreme course. Watch for extreme action and stick around for the festival atmosphere.

Great Barrier Reef Marathon

Great Barrier Reef Marathon

When: 22 October 2017
Where: Port Douglas, Tropical North Queensland
What: Challenge yourself with a number of running events set against gorgeous scenery during the Great Barrier Reef Marathon. Ease in by taking on one of the shorter, flat runs or if you’re up for it, you could tackle the 74km JCU Ultra Marathon through Mowbray and Kuranda National Parks. There will be hills and creeks to navigate! Fun!

Great Barrier Reef Swim – Heron Island

Great Barrier Reef Swim | Top 10 Great Barrier Reef events

When: 4-8 November 2017
Where: Heron Island, Southern Great Barrier Reef
What: For ocean swimmers, Heron Island offers a unique event that comes with its own set of challenges. Imagine swimming on the Southern Great Barrier Reef and trying to not get distracted by the clownfish that wants to say hello! Don’t worry, once the swim races and swim coaching clinics of the Great Barrier Reef Swim are complete you’ll have plenty of time to snorkel back around and say hello to the marine wildlife.

Sail Away – Queensland’s Season of Sailing

Airlie Beach Race Week

Airlie Beach Race Week | Top 10 Great Barrier Reef events

When: 10-17 August 2017
Where: Airlie Beach, The Whitsundays
What:  Every week of the year, Airlie Beach has its friendly, fun in the sun vibe down pat but during Airlie Beach Race Week you can expect that vibe to be maxed out! This is a colourful week of sailing all day and party all week with a non-stop entertainment program including headline musical acts, long lunches and a chock-a-block full social calendar that’s not to be missed.

AUDI Hamilton Island Race Week


When: 19-26 August 2017
Where: Hamilton Island, The Whitsundays
What:  Directly after Airlie Beach Race Week, report to Hamilton Island for Audi Hamilton Island Race Week for more sailing action with a foodie and fashion edge. Experience all the action aboard a luxury yacht or from the Yacht Club champagne bar and take the chance to explore the island and it’s fringing reef.

Sealink Magnetic Island Race Week

Magnetic Island Race Week | Top 10 Great Barrier Reef events

When: 31 August – 5 September 2017
Where: Magnetic Island, Townsville North Queensland
What: More sailing! This time in sunny Townsville. For the non-sailors, Sealink Magnetic Island Race Week has a social calendar of fun activities to help you explore every inch of Magnetic Island while the sailors do their thing.

Celebrate the Reef – Festivals & Carnivals

Captain Cook 1770 Festival

Captain Cook 1770 Festival | Great Barrier Reef Events

When: 19-21 May 2017
Where: Town of 1770, Gladstone on the Southern Great Barrier Reef
What: Want to know what Captain Cook was thinking after his ship, The Endeavour, ran aground on a Great Barrier Reef shoal? The highlight of the Captain Cook 1770 Festival is the re-enactment of Cook’s landing at 1770 to undertake ship repairs. Check out the markets, family-friendly activities, fireworks and this super cute coastal town while you’re at it.

Port Douglas Carnivale

When: 26-28 May 2017
Where: Port Douglas, Tropical North Queensland
What: The Port Douglas Carnivale has been celebrating life in the tropics for over 20 years and 2017 will be no different. The carnival program is jammed with cultural events including the popular Family Beach Day and Carnivale “Wonders of the Reef” Street Parade and make sure you secure a baby-sitter for the shocking and slightly sexy La Soiree at the Wonderland Spiegeltent.

Whitsunday Reef Festival

When: 3-6 August 2017
Where: Airlie Beach, The Whitsundays
What: Living in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef is worth spending four-days in celebration – don’t you think?! The Whitsundays answer to this is the Whitsunday Reef Festival. Airlie’s famous main street closes for the weekend to host two massive street parties featuring live entertainment plus you’ll get to enjoy the regions warm winter days while taking in specialty events like the popular Comedy Gala and Frocktails fashion show.

Mackay Airport Beach Horse Racing Festival

Mackay Beach Horse Racing Festival | Great Barrier Reef Events

When: 19 August 2017
Where: Mackay Harbour Beach, The Mackay Region
What: Here in Queensland we have a quirky habit of hosting our horse racing events outside of the traditional tracks in favour of something a bit more exciting (and picturesque). The Mackay Airport Beach Horse Racing Festival is the coastal answer to the famous Birdsville Races in Outback Queensland. Other than a beach wedding there aren’t a lot of other reasons out there to frock up for a day at the beach!

Palm Cove Reef Feast

When: 5 October 2017
Where: Palm Cove, Tropical North Queensland
What: Foodie lovers will devour this event. The Palm Cove Reef Feast is a celebration of local cuisine prepared by local chefs inspired by beautiful outdoor locations around Palm Cove. Imagine yourself noshing on fresh seafood under the stars with jazz on the jetty.  And if the food’s not enough to tempt you, you’ll be frothing at the mouth for beer tasting at the TNQ Beer Awards.

What’s your favourite event on the Great Barrier Reef?

  • Dean Philpot

    Kaylah – Thanks ever so much for creating this post, I have came back a couple of times now. I really enjoy this list and hope to attend many of these events and more when I move down under in the near future to pursue my passion of working with coral reefs :-)