28 ways to do the Great Barrier Reef without getting wet

If the thought of scuba diving freaks you out and you’re not the snorkelling type, never fear, you still can experience the iconic wonders of the Great Barrier Reef without even dipping a toe in!

Here are just a few ideas to whet your appetite:

See the reef from every depth and height

1. Freefall from 14,000 feet for a bird’s-eye view over the Great Barrier Reef, landing on Mission Beach.

2. Drive around the only suburb on the reef in a topless car or a classic Moke, spotting northern Australia’s largest colony of wild koalas on Magnetic Island. There are 25 kilometres of walking tracks to tackle on the island, which is two-thirds national park and home to 166 different species of wildlife.

Mini Moke Magnetic Island | 28 ways to do the Great Barrier Reef without getting wet3. Okay, so you might get your fingertips wet with this one. Hold ‘Greg’ the baby shark or feed a stingray in the friendly Living Reef touch pools on Daydream Island – home also to starfish, sea cucumber, clownfish and living coral.

4. Pop the question hovering over iconic Heart Reef with Air Whitsunday Seaplanes and touch down to enjoy a private picnic on the world’s most famous beach – Whitehaven. We do warn you, it will be pretty hard to ignore the allure of that turquoise water.

5. Climb atop a camel safari along Yeppoon’s endless sandy beach with views of the Keppel Island Group in the Southern Great Barrier Reef.

6. Cocoon yourself in a botanical body wrap at Daydream Island Rejuvenation Spa, with its fairytale floor-to-ceiling glass windows overlooking the reef, or go one step further and indulge in a massage smack bang in the middle of the ocean at One&Only Hayman Island.

Ocean Massage One&Only Hayman Island

7. Board a Quicksilver Cruises‘ semi-submersible boats for a peek at Agincourt Reef without the snorkel and mask. With coral spines, bommies and living colour beneath your feet, you don’t even need to change into your swimwear.

8. Twitchers, head for the granite cliffs on Keswick Island off the coast of Mackay via plane or boat, for white-bellied sea eagles and osprey circling above the reef on patrol. Hike the national park walking trails and stumble upon secluded beaches with stunning views along the way.

9. Step aboard the pink amphibious LARC! (land and sea vessel) for a sunset tour along the Eurimbula National Park coastline where Captain Cook first discovered Queensland before he sailed on to the northern Great Barrier Reef.

1770 LARC Tours

10. Wake up (early!) to the Cairns coastline – and uninterrupted views out across the jewel ocean landscape of the Great Barrier Reef – in the basket of a hot air balloon.

11. Hold on tight as you see the reef from upside down, doing loop-the-loops above the Airlie Beach lagoon in a vintage Tiger Moth Bi-Plane with Tiger Moth Adventures. The open-cockpit adventure will leave you spinning with mild aerobatic loops, rolls, and inverted stalls!

Plant those sea legs on solid ground

12. Hike within the Whitsunday Islands National Park for panoramic views to Hill Inlet. As the tide shifts, the white sand and blue hues of the inlet blend to create a breathtaking natural mosaic.

Hill Inlet | 28 ways to do the Great Barrier Reef without getting wet

13. Stroll the famous seven-kilometre Whitehaven Beach in the Whitsundays from end to end, stopping to polish your jewellery with the silica sand (or give yourself a full-body exfoliation). Yep, really.

14. Watch the jostling of a sailing regatta high and dry from the shore at either Airlie Beach, Hamilton Island or Magnetic Island during the Season of Sailing in August each year. The social scene almost outshines the races themselves, so you don’t need to go to sea to get involved.

15. There’s no chance of seasickness on a tour of Reef HQ Aquarium and their turtle rehabilitation centre in Townsville. Spend some time with fish, rays and sharks, and learn all about the conservations efforts on the reef led by governing body, The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

16. Angle a hole-in-one with a reef-side game of golf in Cooktown (Australia’s most northern course) or at Dent Island (Australia’s only 18-hole on the Great Barrier Reef) in the Whitsundays.


17. Hike Hinchinbrook Island’s gruelling four-day Thorsborne Trail off the coast between Cairns and Townsville. To help minimise impact and maintain the wilderness setting, permits are issued for a maximum of 40 people on the trail at any one time.

Live like a carefree castaway

18. Traverse the rugged peaks, forests and grasslands of the Ngaro Sea Trail from Whitsunday Island to South Molle and Hook Island by foot and kayak.

19. Hire a tinnie from Hydeaway Bay, a secret haven at the end of Dingo Beach Road near Airlie Beach, and catch your own lunch. You’ve always got Montes Reef Resort for fish and chips if you’re not lucky.

20. Learn your tack from your jib and become a bona fide sailor on a free twilight sail, regularly setting off from local yacht clubs such as the Whitsunday Sailing Club and Port Douglas Yacht Club each Wednesday.

Sailing Whitsundays

21. Keen for complete isolation? Skipper your own vessel to the Newry Islands Group off Mackay and roll out a swag under the stars. (Camping fees apply and bookings are essential.)

22. Grab your tent and water before setting off via boat or seaplane to overnight on Lady Musgrave Island, with the seabirds and turtles as your only neighbours. Access by vessel launches from the Town of 1770.

23. Kayak, walk or gallop your way along Cape Tribulation beach – the seamline of two World Heritage-listed wonders: the Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef – where you may not see another soul.

Horse Riding Cape Tribulation

24. Catch a boat from Cairns and visit the Secret Garden track, blooming with exotic flora, and the turtle rehabilitation centre on Fitzroy Island, where green and hawksbill turtles come to recuperate. Tours are held daily and need to be booked at the hotel reception.

You can’t get any closer than this

25. Explore the Whitsunday waters and islands with Salty Dog Sea Kayaking on a short or extended expedition.

26. Learn to spear fish the traditional way with the Kuku Yalanji people in the beach flats and mangrove swamps just 15 minutes north of Port Douglas with Walkabout Cultural Adventures. After you’ve caught your catch, your hosts will cook it up for you in their family home.

Spear Fishing

27. Hook your big trophy-catch aboard a charter boat and learn to spearfish and troll for spanish mackerel in the waters of the Great Barrier Reef off Mackay. If you’re not keen on boats, there are plenty of fruitful beach fishing spots to choose from around town.

28. Test your balance with a stand-up-paddle boarding session at Agnes Water or Tannum Sands on the coastline of the Southern Great Barrier Reef. Okay, we can’t guarantee you won’t get wet on this one. It’s entirely up to you!

What’s your favourite way to do the Great Barrier Reef without getting wet?

Some of the businesses listed above have been impacted by recent weather events in Queensland. Please make contact with the operator or visit their website for information regarding bookings and travel plans.