Great Barrier Reef aerials

8 ways to sleep on the Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef may never sleep, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to.

There’re plenty of ways to get some shuteye without feeling like you’re missing out on the best part of the world’s largest living organism.

Just as not all stars belong in the sky (hello, starfish), not all things on the Great Barrier Reef happen below the water’s rippling surface either. Instead, you’ll find plenty of action by checking out (and checking into) this World Heritage-listed wonder for the night.

From swags to luxury linens, these are the only booking details you need for sleeping on the reef:

1. Your own pontoon palace out at sea

Spend the night in postcode paradise for your next trip to Tropical North Queensland or the Whitsundays, and fall asleep to the calming sounds of the Great Barrier Reef.

From Cairns, join the Sunlover by Starlight experience 26 nautical miles off the coast of Cairns, for the opportunity for some one-on-one time with this natural icon.

Among the company of just 17 other people, you’ll have the Sunlover pontoon to yourself between 3:30pm and 11am for a private reef show after dark.

In the Whitsundays, Reefworld by Cruise Whitsundays, adds a little more exclusivity, with space for you and just eight other people on their Hardy Reef base, 40 nautical miles from shore.

Make no mistake, you won’t fall asleep in a hurry as the reef landscape changes to night mode and the coloured coral and thousands of fish species put on a show.

After a full buffet dinner with unbeatable views, take a dive of a different sort into your deluxe swag to get some sleep in preparation for your private morning snorkel safari and glass-bottom boat ride before the day-trippers arrive.

2. Get up close and personal on a liveaboard

If your idea of holiday heaven translates to being rocked to sleep by a boat, then pack your wetsuit and sense of adventure for a liveaboard experience like this one.

Sure, the raw appeal of liveaboards is adventure more than accommodation, so expect to be diving the best spots on the reef with a salty-dog crew.

Pro Dive Cairns offers a range of options with its three-day, two-nights Outer Reef Liveaboard. You’ll sleep atop a premium, purpose-built, multi-million dollar dive vessel, sharing a bunk bed with a fellow diver or one of the two double cabins, sharing on-board amenities, while your days will be spent participating in nine day-dives and two at night.

If bunking in a tiny room isn’t quite your thing and you’re not prepared to give up all your creature comforts, then a night on one of Aroona Luxury Boat Charter’s 70ft yachts will give you a choice of the flexible master suite, VIP suite or guest room all including ensuites.

They also offer gourmet food, privacy, and more itinerary options than you’ll know what to do with, including customisable-itineraries, making it a little more luxe than one for just for your average sailor.

3. Sleep in luxury at an island resort

Trust us, the thought of being alone on a tropical island gains new meaning when you’re surrounded by azure sea, served cocktails, and can chow down on food prepared by award-winning chefs, all within five square Hamilton Island kilometres.

Hamilton Island is one of the Whitsundays’ most popular island resorts for good reason – covering everything from the luxury of qualia or Hamilton Island Palm Bungalows.

Each comes with the same sapphire blue view worthy of its own spot on the Pantone colour wheel. If you’re kicking it island side, check out these things to do at this resort playground.

4. Camp with a hint of extravagance

Glamping is not only camping’s more luxurious cousin, but one of the most comfortable ways to spend a weekend with the reef.

It’s hotel comfort meets nature’s beauty, all tied up in a neat little bell tent.

When it comes to Great Barrier Reef glamping, look no further than panoramic views of Wilson Island and Keswick Island to find camping plus comfort (and none of those pesky air mattresses).

Keswick Glamping is just a short stroll away from Basil Bay, hidden away in a leafy hillside escape on this privately-owned island off Mackay.

The glamping facilities are within the island’s campground (so you can show campers what they’re missing) and you’ll arrive to find a timber-decked safari tent with your bed set up and awaiting your arrival.

Wilson Island ups the glamping game as you enjoy the ocean sounds from your private deck and hammock, and then fall asleep beneath the stars inside their designer tents.

What’s more, you won’t have to use the ocean to shower (we’ve all been there) because each tent has a private shower and dressing area in the shared washhouse.

5. DIY to discover your date with destiny


Photo by @reubennutt

What if we told you that you could be the master and the commander of your own Great Barrier Reef adventure?

If your ears have pricked up, then start planning a “bareboating” adventure. Bareboating is basically the IKEA, build-your-own-adventure of the sailing world, where you can hire a yacht or catamaran and charter your own way around The Whitsundays on your own time.

Select your crew of family and friends, buy yourself a captain’s hat and pay attention to the map marked with the destinations of your choice.

Your boat is your hotel, equipped with all the facilities you need, and your treasure is any one of the many pristine beaches you’ll find on your adventure.

Don’t consider yourself a seadog? Don’t worry, you can book yourself in for a sailing lesson before you pack the duffle and set sail – or better yet, hire yourself a skipper for the trip. Get the facts with this guide.

6. See the deep blue, by going green at an eco-resort

Leave the city smog behind for an eco-friendly escape.

If you’re conscious of your footprint, and we’re not just talking about the kind you leave in the sand, then travel to the Southern Great Barrier Reef and make Lady Elliot Island your address for the night.

Sitting in a Marine National Park ‘Green Zone’, this coral cay is one of the best options for those wanting to fully immerse themselves in nature and get off the grid.

The island has it’s own hybrid solar power station, leaving little to no footprint of its own.

The accommodation is made up of 41 eco cabins, all footsteps from the beach, and clearly set up by people who value adventure more than their accommodation for the night.

7. Live like a rock star, hire an island

Pumpkin Island

Photo by @_markfitz

Always dreamed of living like the rich and famous and owning your own island? Well now you can – or at least, you can hire an island and pretend you own it, for little more than an overseas airfare.

Introducing Pumpkin Island, in the Southern Great Barrier Reef, where you can sleep up to 34 people for less than $3000.

Whether you want a quiet sleep-out as a couple, then sign the cheque for $2730 per night and get yourself to this destination just 14kms from Yeppoon.

With seven self-catering eco-friendly units, which are powered by wind and solar panels, Pumpkin Island offers plenty of accommodation options, while hammocks, swinging chairs and lounges scatted over the island fill in the gaps between bed and nap times.

8. For a national park with benefits

Welcome Bay Fitzroy Island

Photo by Katie Purling

If you’ve read any of these posts, you’ll know there’s no better way to get back to nature than pitching a tent in a national park.

But throw in 4.5-star resort facilities on your tent’s doorstep and you can see why we’re so eager to promote the pint-sized Fitzroy Island as one of the best places to spend a night between the sheets on the reef.

The Fitzroy Island Council Campground is situated right next to the beach, no more than five minutes from the island’s jetty, allowing you to fall asleep to the soothing sounds of crashing waves and singing birds – and all for less than the price of a movie ticket.

From the campground, you’ll be able to explore walks through the tropical-rainforest-meets-Coral-Coast setting, check out the Turtle Rehabilitation Centre and enjoy the resort’s bar and restaurant. Oh yes, you heard right. Espresso martini, anyone?

Of course, if you run out of ways to explore this island paradise after snorkelling, diving, trekking and sailing don’t forget to check out this blog.

Have you slept on the reef?