Whitehaven Beach#3 in Best Things To Do in Great Barrier Reef
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It's the most photographed beach in all of Australia, and after one look at its white sands, you'll understand why. Stretching across more than 4 miles of Whitsunday Island's east coast, Whitehaven Beach is made up of 98 percent pure white silica. These alabaster sands prevent heat retention, meaning you won't feel like you're walking across a string of hot coals while wandering along the swirling azure shoreline.
When you're not diving or snorkeling in the stunning beryl-tinted waters, recent travelers recommend taking a short hike to the Hill Inlet lookout at Tongue Point for photo ops and panoramic vistas. But keep in mind, jellyfish are plentiful in Queensland in summer and fall, so you'll need to wear protective gear if you plan on swimming during these seasons. Past visitors also suggest using ample sunscreen with a high SPF to avoid getting burned.
The best way to get to Whitehaven Beach – which is free to visit 24 hours a day – is by boat. Power boats, luxury yachts and ferries by companies like Cruise Whitsundays and Grand Prix Yachting offer daytrips that depart daily from Shute Harbour (near Airlie Beach) or Hamilton Island. Many overnight sailing trips also make a stop at Whitehaven Beach. But if one afternoon along the ashy sands isn't enough, you can also set up camp in the eucalyptus woodland behind the beach. For more information about daytrip operators and tours, visit Tourism Whitsundays' Whitehaven Beach page.
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#1 Great Barrier Reef Diving and Snorkeling
Many visitors say the Great Barrier Reef is best seen through a scuba mask, but it's no small feat to traverse the area's dive spots. When choosing which regions to explore, consider your skill level, the amount of travel involved and the trip length in that area. Two of the most popular diving and snorkeling locales are listed below:
Hosting a kaleidoscope of fish, sea turtles and humpback whales, Cairns' reefs are teeming with wildlife. Known locally as the Outer Barrier Reef, these reefs are ideal for first-time divers and families because of the one- to three-hour travel times from Cairns' Reef Fleet Terminal. Popular spots by Cairns include Michaelmas Cay, Moore Reef, Green Island and Hastings Reef. Ocean Free, Seastar Cruises and Tusa Dive all offer a variety of half- to full-day cruises; diving and snorkeling cruise packages start at 205 Australian dollars ($152) per adult and AU$120 ($89) for each child.
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