Northern Great Barrier Reef
From Cape York to Hinchinbrook

Map of the Great Barrier Reef

The Northern Great Barrier Reef is an amazing part of one of Australia’s most amazing locations, impressive in both its grandeur and its minute details. The far north is wild and remote.

The Great Barrier Reef itself spans most of the east coast of Queensland, from north of the tip of Cape York, to just south of Bundaberg, and is a massive 300,000 square kilometres in size. The area, scattered with beautiful islands and idyllic coral cays full of wildlife, is made up of more than 3000 reefs which range in size from 1 hectare to over 10,000 hectares.

Lockhart river beach - northern barrier reef

But let’s explore the Great Barrier Reef in it’s three main sections: starting with the Northern Great Barrier Reef (below) and then the Central and Southern sections of the reef – each very unique and distinct experiences.

Cape York Peninsula Region

Cape York Peninsula at the tip of the northern Great Barrier Reef is a sparsely populated, relatively untouched wilderness area, its rugged coastline pointing towards New Guinea with the eastern side of Cape York fringed by the coral gardens of the Great Barrier Reef.

Driftwood on beach of Lizard Island

Lizard Island (pictured above) is a National Park with 24 sandy beaches and a lagoon. The reef in this region is spotted with many unspoiled islands, with only a few island resorts such as the luxurious resort on Lizard Island located 240 kilometres north of Cairns (about a 1 hour flight from Cairns) and 27 kilometres off the coast of North Queensland.

Lizard Island Resort (pictured below) has been designed to be in harmony with the natural beauty of the island and its surrounding ocean waters. Enjoy resort experiences available throughout your stay, including snorkelling, stand up paddle boarding and clear view sea kayaks.

Explore the beautiful Great Barrier Reef surrounding Lizard Island, including trips to the inner reef, outer reef, night diving!

Lizard Island Resort

Further north from Lizard Island is one of northern Great Barrier Reef’s truly hidden treasures; Haggerstone Island (pictured below) is a remote island getaway, 600 kilometres north of Cairns, where an escape back to nature is guaranteed.

Haggerstone offers an unparalleled adventure with individually designed lodges that blend seamlessly along the island foreshore – this is not your typical island resort!

Haggerstone Island

Spread sparingly along the islands long beach, the beach front villas (pictured below) offer absolute privacy and stunning ocean views. Embracing Papua New Guinea / African design, each generous, open-plan villa features a private deck, tropical garden, offering first row seats of the best entertainment – nature itself.

Barefoot Beach hut on Haggerstone Island

The scenery along Cape York’s coast is as spectacular as the reef itself, like Cape Melville National Park, a remote, rugged and diverse park with wild coastal views and impressive geological formations and wildlife.

Cooktown (pictured below) is the northernmost town on the east coast of Australia, located at the mouth of the Endeavour River and is a popular tourist destination. People visiting the town enjoy the historical connections, the delightful tropical environment, and use it as an access point to the Great Barrier Reef, the Lakefield National Park, and for fishing.


Cairns Region

Cairns is a regional city located about 1700 km north of Brisbane, between the Coral Sea and the Great Dividing Range.

This northern Great Barrier Reef city is a popular travel destination for foreign tourists because of its access to the Cairns International Airport, its tropical climate, its proximity to many attractions, and its the only place in the world where two World Heritage areas exist side-by-side.

One of the mainland features of this region is the Daintree National Park with its Skyrail (pictured below) showcasing, just metres above the rainforest canopy, 7.5 kms of the impressive, ancient wet tropics park.

Having been preserved while the broader region evolved over millions of years, the Cape Tribulation/Daintree region is recognised throughout the world as a major centre of plant and animal diversity.

Cairns Skyrail rainforest cableway

Approximately 80 kms north of Cairns, Port Douglas is home to some of Tropical northern Great Barrier Reef’s most exclusive resorts and a world class marina. From the marina, reef operators travel daily to the Low Isles, Agincourt Reef and further away to sites up north like the Cod Hole near Lizard Island.

Heading down the coast, from Port Douglas past Cairns, the reef attractions include Green Island and Fitzroy Island (both popular places for day trippers), Frankland Island and The Bernard Islands.

Further south, off the coast of Mission Beach (pictured below) and Tully, are the Family Islands.

Mission Beach

Surrounded by coral reefs, tidal flats and sandy beaches, the Family Islands are a chain of stunningly scenic continental islands, extending approximately 14km in length off the coast of Mission Beach.

Dunk Island is probably the best known of all of Great Barrier Reef’s tropical islands and is the largest of the Family Islands. Dunk Island (pictured below) is situated about 4.5 km offshore from Mission Beach and is covered by a 730 ha National Park and an airstrip, resort, 18 hole course & farm situated in the north-west side of the island covering the remaining 240 ha.

Dunk Island

South from Dunk Island is the privately owned island resort, Bedarra Island. An island of pure indulgence, Bedarra Island Resort (pictured below) is one of Australia’s most exclusive resorts, a private tropical haven. Bedarra and Dunk Islands are surrounded by other smaller islands, the “children” in the Family Island group. Some of these islands are national parks, and can be accessed for camping and bush walking.

Bedarra Island Resort

Just off the coast of Cardwell, Hinchinbrook Island is the largest island National Park in Australia, with its only permanent lodging on the island, located at Cape Richards at the northernmost tip. All located on the eastern side, the beaches of Hinchinbrook Island are spectacular.

Continue to the central region of the Great Barrier Reef.

Great Barrier Reef Experiences

There are plenty of things to experience on Great Barrier Reef.

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