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Where to stay on the Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is expansive. Stretching from Bundaberg to the Torres Strait with 900 continental islands and coral cays in between, finding where to stay on the Great Barrier Reef can be quite the task.

Do you head south for nesting turtles, to Townsville for fantastic diving, the Whitsundays for 74 islands, or further north to Cairns for tropical wonders and the oldest living rainforest on Earth as your pre-reef appetiser?

Then you still need to find where to rest your head – and we’re here to help. Visit this post first to find out what Reef-region is perfect for you. Then continue reading below for a wrap of the accommodation options along the 2,300 kilometres of wonder that is the Great Barrier Reef.

Tropical North Queensland

Green Island | Where to stay on the Great Barrier Reef

Green Island

If you read this heading and conjure pictures of white sand and palm-lined beaches, you’ve already got the Tropical North Queensland picture. This region stretches from Mission Beach in the south to Torres Strait in the north, which means you’ve got plenty of room (1140km to be precise) to move.

Once you’ve decided where to stay, head over to this post to discover which reef trip is perfect for you.

Pullman Reef Hotel Casino, Cairns

Looking for a hotel that can cocoon you after a long day on the reef? Pullman Reef Hotel Casino is ready and waiting on the Cairns marina.

No need for a car for this Cairns holiday. You’ll be walking distance to your reef trip’s departure point, have delicious restaurants at your doorstep and access to these things to see and do in Cairns.

Now that you’ve settled on Cairns, step over here to prepare yourself for your stay.

Thala Beach Nature Reserve, Port Douglas

Why settle for one World Heritage-listed wonder when you can have two? For double the UNESCO-worthy benefits, check into Thala Beach Nature Reserve, nestled between Cairns and Port Douglas.

You’ll have views of both the reef and rainforest from your bungalow, which you’ll find dotted across the property’s 145 acres.

Thala’s location and sensitive design (not to mention the dining options) has afforded this eco-property a membership to the National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World. It’s the perfect spot for a digital detox.

When you’re not on the Great Barrier Reef, test out the complimentary in-house activities including nature and wildlife walks, stargazing or a tour of the onsite coconut plantation.

Green Island Resort, Cairns

Prove that good things come in small packages with a stay on the smallest island on the Great Barrier Reef, Green Island.

Size truly doesn’t matter. At just 15 hectares, Green Island packs more than what first meets the eye: world-class snorkelling, hiking, multiple restaurants and all of these things to see and do.

Looking for more Tropical North Queensland Great Barrier Reef hotels?

Townsville

Orpheus Island_Where to stay on the Great Barrier Reef

Orpheus Island

Aside from over 320 days of sunshine each year, Townsville is home to stunning sections of the Reef, island resorts and importantly, the brains behind so much of the Great Barrier Reef research including James Cook University and Reef HQ.

Orpheus Island, Townsville

How would you like to stay on the reef at an exclusive island catering for just 28 people?

Drop your pin on Orpheus Island Lodge, a 30 minute helicopter journey from Townsville to its blip on the Coral Sea’s map. Here you’ll find 14 rooms and 11km of coastline where you can step straight out of bed and onto a patch of reef you probably won’t have to share.

Forget looking at a menu during your stay. Executive Chef Sam Moore and his team will customise everything to your tastes. Forget looking at your wallet in general: Orpheus is all-inclusive, with no surprises, down to the dinghys for island exploring.

The Ville, Townsville

Want to see what $44 million will do to a hotel’s look and feel? Check into The Ville in Townsville’s CBD.

You won’t miss the fact you’re not island-side when you have access to what Townsville has to offer. We’re talking The Strand promenade, Reef HQ Aquarium and all of these places to eat and drink.

In case you need more convincing, we’ll leave these three little words here: swim up bar. Check it out for yourself, over in this post.

Looking for a little more? 

The Whitsundays

When there’s 74 island-wonders in The Whitsundays, it’s ok to feel a little overwhelmed. Choosing where to stay is like picking your favourite child.

If you’ve read our island accommodation guide and our mainland accommodation guide and are still splitting hairs, here’s our top picks to narrow things down.

Reef View Hotel, Hamilton Island

If you thought Hamilton Island was just for people on honeymoon-budgets, think again.

Reef View Hotel offers the Hamilton Island hotel experience at a fraction of the qualia price tag.

You’ll find a view from every room, but it’s worth splurging for the Coral Sea facing room to never miss a sunset over Catseye Beach.

What appeals most about Reef View is how contained it is. You won’t be left wondering where you need to go for breakfast, lunch or dinner when all of Hamilton Island’s 20+ dining options are within arm’s reach. Good news for families, too: kids under 12 stay and eat for free.

Mantra Boathouse Apartments, Airlie Beach

Mantra Boathouse Apartments don’t let you forget you’re staying right on the water. Each room has taken its design cues from the marina that’s outside your window.

Built for families, each apartment comes in a two- or three-bedroom configuration – with a full size kitchen to ensure self-catering for the brood is a cinch.

The Port of Airlie Marina is right outside your window, cutting down miles between your stay on Airlie Beach and accessing the Great Barrier Reef.

When you’re not out one of these Whitsundays reef experiences, you can busy yourself with onsite facilities including swimming pool, tennis court and a children’s playground.

For more Great Barrier Reef hotels in the Whitsundays:

Southern Great Barrier Reef

Pumpkin Island | Where to stay on the Great Barrier Reef

Pumpkin Island

In case you missed this post, the thing that separates our Great Barrier Reef from all others in the world is the fact it’s got five precincts that can’t be conquered in a day. Enter the Southern Great Barrier Reef, the gateway for what’s to follow.

Starting from Bundaberg and sprawling up the coastline to Capricorn, this part of the reef is the very spot that captivated Sir David Attenborough himself. Dive into its water wonderland with our favourite Great Barrier Reef hotels and resorts.

Lagoons 1770

Stay on the reef in Queensland’s best-kept suburb secret, Seventeen Seventy.

While we don’t anticipate you’ll be spending much time inside Lagoons 1770, if you do, you’ll be pleased to find a lagoon pool with private access from your very own sundeck.

Outside the confines of the resort, you’ll have front-row seats to the reef and unparalleled access to Lady Musgrave Island and, a bit further afield, Lady Elliot Island.

From Lagoons 1770 you can also visit Agnes Water Beach to catch the most northern breaking wave on the coast – perfect for surfing.

Pumpkin Island

Part of the Keppel Group of islands, you’ll be hard-pressed to get much closer to the Great Barrier Reef action on the first and only carbon positive (inhabited) island in Australia.

You won’t need to share this experience with hordes of visitors either. It’s just you and 34 guests across seven units. Or, book the whole thing for yourself like a rock star.

Pumpkin Island packs plenty of fun into its six hectares – from wildlife watching, and fishing to snorkelling the reef, with coral gardens beginning steps from where your balcony stops.

If you need more convincing, step over here for everything you need to know about Pumpkin Island.

For more Southern Great Barrier Reef hotels and accommodation: