- Type: Sightseeing, Tours
- Time to Spend: 2 hours to Half Day
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After getting a fish-eye view of the reef, experience a bird's perspective with an air tour. According to recent travelers, soaring above the chain of islands and rainforests is a must-have experience. And with the abundant variety of carriers and tour packages available, there are plenty of high-flying adventures to choose from.
You'll find a bevy of operators stationed around the Great Barrier Reef. GBR Helicopters offers scenic flights from Cairns and Port Douglas. But if you're based farther south near Airlie Beach, you can book a flight with Air Whitsunday or GSL Aviation for trips to Whitehaven Beach and the Whitsunday Islands National Park. Tours provided by Hamilton Island Air — which depart from Great Barrier Reef airport — are ideal for travelers staying on Hamilton Island.
Care to hover high above the Atherton Tablelands (also known as the Cairns Highlands) instead? Sign up for a hot air balloon ride with Hot Air Cairns. You'll set out at dawn from Mareeba (about 40 miles southwest of Cairns) and watch the sun rise over Queensland's Great Dividing Range, which separates the east coast from the inland. Tickets for adults start at $230 AUD ($217 USD) and include coach bus transfers to and from your Cairns accommodations.
Tour lengths and prices vary by company, but can range from 10 minute scenic flights to half-day excursions, with island stopovers and boat cruises. Keep in mind that fares can also vary widely by company and your chosen package; rates range from $79 AUD per person (about $74 USD) to $999 per person AUD (about $938 USD). Before booking your air expedition, consult with your hotel's concierge — they may offer their own packages at a reduced price. Though the aerial view doesn't come cheap, recent visitors attest that this once-in-a-lifetime experience is worth the coin. "To fly over the Great Barrier Reef was an experience we will never forget but then to land in the middle of the reef on a seaplane to hop out and snorkel is a whole other experience in itself," one TripAdvisor reviewer gushed.