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  • Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef
    Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef
  • Lady Eliot Island, Great Barrier Reef Lady Eliot Island, Great Barrier Reef
    Lady Eliot Island, Great Barrier Reef
  • Clown Fish, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia Clown Fish, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia
    Clown Fish, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia
  • Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia
    Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia
  • Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia
    Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia

Where to stay on the Great Barrier Reef

Best Hotels on the Great Barrier Reef

Article content

29 December 2015 by Daniel Wright

As one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, Australia's Great Barrier Reef holds a spot on every traveller's bucket list. One of the world's largest UNESCO World Heritage sites, this coral reef ecosystem supports almost 6,000 species of life, including fish, mollusc and, of course, coral.

People have always been fascinated by both the stunning beauty and sheer abundance of marine life on the reef, visiting in order to witness the whitetip reef sharks, spinner dolphins, dugongs, green sea turtles and tropical fish that grace the waters. Above sea level, over 40 species of birds breed here, including black noddies, ospreys and buff-banded rails. We've picked our favourite itineraries for the Great Barrier Reef, choosing options to cater for coral and marine life, for utter seclusion, families, couples and for nature and eco-lovers.

Lizard Island

Best for: Coral and marine life

The northern most island resort on the Great Barrier Reef, Lizard Island has more than 1,000 hectares of national parkland and 24 powdery white sand beaches, which can be accessed by private, motorised dinghies. Privately owned and with a warm and friendly atmosphere, there are just 40 rooms, suites and villas, all of which command stunning views across the turquoise waters of Sunset Beach and Anchor Bay.

Top tip: Lizard Island is one of the only reef islands where guests can snorkel directly from the beach into the coral gardens. Divers can also take a full day Outer Reef Trip to the Cod Hole dive, one of the top ten dive sites in the world.

Orpheus Island

Best for: Seclusion

Orpheus Island is a secluded jungle hideaway in the far north of Queensland, 80km north of Townsville. The island stretches 11km of immaculate turquoise coastline and sits amidst the magical waters of the Great Barrier Reef. It is also home to a National Park and surrounded by a world-listed Marine Park, and the 28 guests can enjoy guided scuba and snorkelling expeditions on a custom-built dive boat and explore the pristine coves and reefs, home to more than 1000 species of fish.

Top tip: The island’s signature dining experience Dining with the Tides is an intimate dinner for two on the pier. Pre-designing the six-course menu with the culinary team the night before, couples can relax and enjoy a spectacular feast while the sun sets over the Coral Sea.

Qualia, Hamilton Island

Best for: Romance

Qualia sits on the northernmost point of Hamilton Island, the only island in the Whitsundays with its own commercial airport. This wonderfully romantic and exclusive adults-only resort has 60 elegant one-bedroom pavilions and a Beach House spread among eucalyptus trees and brilliantly positioned to capture the idyllic views of the emerald waters.

Top tip: Couples can take to the skies and experience the reef from above with Hamilton Island’s Reef Comber Seaplane adventure. This seaplane journey takes in the island itself, the renowned Whitehaven Beach – a 7km stretch of pristine sands and vibrant waters – and a bird’s eye view of the sheer size and scale of the reef’s coral garden, including the iconic Heart Reef.

Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort

Best for: Nature and eco-lovers

Lady Elliot Island is the southernmost coral cay of the Great Barrier Reef and sits within a highly protected ‘Green Zone’. A sanctuary for more than 1,200 species of marine life, the island is renowned for its abundance of manta rays, turtles and unspoilt coral reef which can be explored straight off the beach. There are glass bottom boat excursions, guided snorkelling safaris, guided reef walks, turtle snorkelling, diving with manta rays and humpback whale spotting. The eco-resort is home to 41 guest rooms comprising of eco-cabins and two-bedroom island suites.

Top tip: Lady Elliot Island is one of the ‘top five’ locations in the world to go diving with manta rays. Guests can experience special dives with the alfredi species of manta which can be found feeding around the island. May to June is the best time for seeing them, when the water is warm and the visibility is good.

One&Only Hayman Island (closed until late 2018)

Best for: Luxury family holidays

The Tropical Cyclone Debbie in 2017 had a major impact on World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef's Hayman Island, meaning this resort is temporarily closed. It's due to reopen in late 2018. The wonderfully luxurious resort maintains a high-octane glamour but with a natural feel, and among the staff are a host of wildlife experts and marine biologists to take guests out into the surrounding forest and coral reefs surrounding the island. As well as endless snorkelling and diving opportunities, there are secluded beaches to visit, water sports to experience, not to mention relaxing in the luxurious spa and iconic swimming pool.

Top tip: It is one of the only luxury resort islands to cater for kids under 12 and has amazing facilities for all ages. The supervised KidsOnly Club caters for children aged 11 and under and the teens’ club for 12 to 17 year-olds. Activities on offer include reef ranger outings, fish feeding, beach games and nature walks. There are also four tennis courts, two squash courts, a basketball court, and a large fitness centre.

Top itineraries:

Below are a selection of itineraries and places to stay on the Great Barrier Reef. We can arrange a tailor-made stay at any of these islands or resorts listed above – to speak with one of our tailor-made specialists for expert advice, please contact us today.

Related offers

Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef: Palm Cove, Daintree and Lizard Island

14-day tailor-made holiday from £4,805 pp incl. flights

Visit the ancient rainforests of Queensland’s Daintree, relax on Palm Cove and unwind on Lizard Island, a remote hideaway on the Great Barrier Reef.

The Pavilion Living Area, Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef

Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef

Contemporary lodge

Consistently ranked as one of the top 10 resorts in the world, Lizard Island is a spectacular and secluded island escape that is the ultimate in understated luxury.

Orpheus island resort pool

Orpheus Island Resort, Northern Great Barrier Reef


This secluded island resort accommodates just 28 guests in a collection of luxury rooms and suites and offers excellent opportunities to explore some of the most famous waters in the world.

Hayman Island by InterContinental

InterContinental Hayman Island Resort, Whitsundays

Contemporary resort

Enjoy five-star island luxury within touching distance of one of the world’s greatest natural wonders. It's all paired with the best in gourmet dining, relaxing spa treatments and a full spread of immersive adventures.

Hamo Day Room

Qualia, Great Barrier Reef


Situated on the northern tip of Hamilton Island in Queensland’s idyllic Whitsundays, qualia is one of Australia’s finest luxury resorts. You don’t have to take our word for it – in 2012 it was voted the Best Resort in the World in the Condé Nast Traveller Reader’s Choice Awards.


Lady Elliot Island, Southern Great Barrier Reef


The unpretentious 41-room resort on tiny Lady Elliot Island provides one of the Great Barrier Reef’s most genuine eco-tourism experiences, where the spectacular nature of the place takes centre stage.

Swimming Pool

Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef


With no day-trippers or in-room TV sets and excellent dive sites, guests can make the most of Heron Island’s beaches, reefs and abundant wildlife.

Why book with Wexas Travel?

At Wexas, we specialise in bespoke travel experiences. Our itineraries are just samples of what we can arrange, and can be changed depending on your precise needs, finances and ideas by our experienced destination specialists.

Contact one of our consultants on 020 7590 0610 to discuss how we can tailor your holiday.

Learn why Wexas is the leader in creating luxury holidays. What is tailor-made travel?

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