Magnetic Island Race Week photo by @photobohemian

12 Great Barrier Reef Events to plan your next trip around

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 are 12 Great Barrier Reef Events that you need to add to your social calendar now.

Accept the challenge – Endurance & Sport Events

1. Hamilton Island Endurance Series

When: Multiple dates – Stamford Financial Hamilton Hilly Marathon, 5 May 2019 | Great Whitehaven Beach Run, 23 June 2019 | Whitehaven Beach Ocean Swim – November 2019 | Hamilton Island Triathlon – November 2019
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 to a holiday as well by participating in one of these Hamilton Island Endurance Series events:

  • The Stamford Financial Hamilton Hilly Marathon, a diverse terrain 21km route with challenging uphill and downhill sections and focus-distracting views.
  • You won’t find a better-looking run in the world after completing the Great Whitehaven Beach Run. Choose from a half marathon, 10km or 5km run along the silica sands of Whitehaven Beach.
  • Return in November for the Whitehaven Beach Ocean Swim for the 2km and 750m ocean swim meet and for the Hamilton Island Triathlon!

2. McDonald’s Townsville Running Festival

Townsville Running Festival 2018
When: 4th August 2019
Where: Townsville
What: Pick your race number and get to the starting line at the Jezzine Barracks on the Strand. Follow the coastline to complete the city loop or the pallarenda loop in the Townsville Marathon or join the morning 5km fun run and enjoy the festivities.

3. Townsville Triathlon Festival

Townsville Triathlon Festival
When: August 2019
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 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.

4. Tropical Journeys Great Barrier Reef Marathon

Great Barrier Reef Marathon When: October 2019
Where: Port Douglas, Tropical North Queensland
What: Challenge yourself with a number of running events set against gorgeous scenery during the Tropical Journeys 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!

5. Great Barrier Reef Swim – Heron Island

Great Barrier Reef Swim 2018
When: November 2019
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 clownfish who want 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 g’day to the marine wildlife.

Set sail on the Reef
6. Airlie Beach Race Week Festival of Sailing
Airlie Beach Race Week Festival of Sailing 2018

When: 8-15 August 2019
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.

7. Hamilton Island Race Week

AUDI Hamilton Island Race Week
When: 17 August 2019
Where: Hamilton Island, The Whitsundays
What:  Directly after Airlie Beach Race Week, report to Hamilton Island for  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 its fringing reef.

8. Sealink Magnetic Island Race Week

When: 29 August – 4 September 2019
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

9. Whitsunday Reef Festival

whitsundayreeffestivalWhen: 1-4 August 2019
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 special events like the popular Comedy Gala and Frocktails fashion show.

10. Palm Cove Reef Feast

When: October 2019
Where: Palm Cove, Tropical North Queensland
What: Eat your way through the four-day party that is the annual Palm Cove Reef Feast, where local chefs create imaginative tastes and meals using local produce, including the freshest seafood from the Great Barrier Reef.

11. Cairns Amateurs


When: 12-14 September 2019
Where: CairnsTropical North Queensland
What: Originally designed to bring city and country together, this epic three-day event has expanded over the years into one of Australia’s premier spring horse racing carnivals. Throw in fashion, glamour, food and a line-up of entertainment, this carnival gives any horse racing fan a reason to visit Cairns.

12. Port Douglas Carnivale

Port Douglas Carnivale 2018
When: May 2019
Where: Port Douglas, Tropical North Queensland
What: The Port Douglas Carnivale has been celebrating life in the tropics for over 21 years and 2018 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 babysitter for the shocking and slightly sexy La Soiree at the Wonderland Spiegeltent.

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

This post was originally published in October 2017 and updated 17 October 2018.