The Great Barrier Reef is of vital importance to the world`s eco-systems, for supporting a third of the planet`s soft coral species and mammals like humpback whales, dolphins, sharks, dugongs, as well as sponges, molluscs, tropical reef fish and hundreds of species of birds. Myriads of coral islands, continental islands, sandbars and mangrove systems linked by huge turquoise lagoons are home to great bio-diversity but also internationally famous tourist hubs.

Today, visitors are lucky enough to be able to admire the marvels of the reef in many ways since it has become readily accessible. There is a wide range of tours that can be booked to visit Great Barrier Reef, including snorkelling, free-diving, boat tours, cruises and sailing and fishing trips in different price ranges. The Coral-Capricorn Coast offers some of the best and most accessible locations to encounter the world`s most famous coral gardens.

The tropical waters of the Great Barrier Reef are home to more than 400 varieties of corals

THE SOUTHERN GREAT BARRIER REEF

The southernmost end of the Great Barrier Reef seems like a humble fellow. It starts with small islands and tiny islets scattered in the waters of the Pacific, right between the Fraser Island and Rockhampton.

The reef becomes more obvious offshore from Gladstone – home to the Capricornia Cays National Park. The marine reserve comprises of 241 coral cays that are encircled by mere reefs and coral gardens. The national park features endangered birdlife, diverse marine eco-system and only some of the cays are open to tourism.

Snorkelling, scuba diving, whale watching, sea turtle hatching and relaxing in the coral lagoons and their powdery-white sands are things to do on, especially on the Lady Elliot, Lady Musgrave and Heron Islands.

The Capricornia Cays National Park comprises 241 coral cays that are encircled by mere reefs and coral gardens, Southern Great Barrier Reef

TOP 3 DIVING LOCATIONS IN THE SOUTHERN GREAT BARRIER REEF

  • Lady Elliot Island – a splendid island and the southernmost coral cay of the Great Barrier Reef (composed of sand and corals), eco-resort, fantastic snorkelling and diving, turtles, whales, sharks, rare seabirds. TO GET THERE: exclusively by seaplane from Bundaberg/Brisbane/Gold Coast/Hervey Bay
  • Lady Musgrave Island – the only navigable lagoon, radiant coral gardens, turtles, reefs, manta rays, rainbow fish, extraordinarily clear waters perfect for snorkelling and scuba diving, camping permitted. TO GET THERE: the only access is via boat from Seventeen Seventy
  • Heron Island – a coral cay (composed of sand and corals), encircled by 24 square km of the reef, excellent snorkelling, diving, nesting sea turtles, exotic birdlife, walking tracks, various tours (reef walking or coral submarine), gorgeous beaches and holiday resorts, the well-known ‘Protector’ shipwreck. TO GET THERE: by boat from  Gladstone marina or via seaplane from Gladstone airport
Lady Elliot Island is home to Hawksbill, Loggerhead and Green turtles (nesting season occurs between November and March)

DID YOU KNOW?

Coral Cays are low islands formed by the build-up of reef sediments. As the reef grows, hardy plants start to flourish in the sand, birds begin to settle down, and the vegetated coral is then established and becomes a mini eco-system. Fully encircled by a coral reef and shallow waters, these little isles make perfect snorkelling spots.

An aerial view of the Capricornia Cays National Park, Great Barrier Reef

THE CORAL COAST (BUNDABERG)

Back to the mainland of the marvellous Coral Coast, the Bundaberg Region presents 140 kilometres of dream sandy beaches, national parks and seaside holiday resorts. The town of Bundaberg is not only known for its rum but also it is the gateway to the Southern Great Barrier Reef and its coral cays.

Liquor tasting, Bourbon Street, Botanic Gardens, Zoo, Hall of Avion, art galleries and museums but also plenty of nature parks and reserves and marine life watching tours – all these are available to the visitors. Although the township sits on the banks of the Burnett River, its coastal suburbs offer stunning beaches and nature walks.

‘Bundy’ is a region of sand and rum!

Woodgate Beach, Bundaberg

ESSENTIAL EXPERIENCES ON THE CORAL COAST

  • Bundaberg – Rum Distillery, Bourbon Street, Botanic Gardens, Zoo, Alexandra Park,  Hinkler Hall of Avion, Regional Art Gallery
  • Bargara`s Esplanade – Mon Repos Conservation Park (turtle rookery, Nov-Jan), walking tracks
  • Woodgate Beach, Elliot Heads, Coral Cove –  camping, fishing, swimming, beach kangaroos
  • The Hummock & Mystery Craters – volcanic rocks, cone volcanoes, craters
  • Nature reserves with excellent walking tracks – Sharon Gorge Nature Park, Burrum Coast National Park, Baldwin Swamp
  • Lady Elliot Island – book a scenic flight to the southernmost coral cay of the Great Barrier Reef (composed of sand and corals), arrange an eco-tour or diving expedition and meet the local turtles, whales, sharks and other marine species
They say that ‘there is nothing more Aussie then Bundy’ – liquor tasting tours available in Bundaberg

THE CAPRICORN COAST

Stretching over 150 km of the Central Queensland coastline, Capricorn Coast is a place where the Tropics start. Predominantly, five-star holiday resorts, fabulous marinas, historical towns, bush and rainforest retreats, wildlife sanctuaries and crocodile farms mark the region. 

The towns of Gladstone, Rockhampton and Yeppoon are the most popular with tourists.

The Capricornia Cays National Park is an important marine park that comprises of 241 coral cays which are encircled by pristine reefs and coral gardens. The marine reserve features endangered birdlife, diverse marine eco-system and it is open to tourism only partially. The most visited are Heron Island, Lady Musgrave Island, Masthead Island and North West Island.

Snorkelling in the waters of the Lady Musgrave Island (guided tours to the coral cays can be booked in Gladstone

GLADSTONE

Gladstone is a busy deep-water port set on an attractive harbour with resort islands and an active cultural scene. For being the gateway to numerous coral cays and the Great Barrier Reef, it is the major tourist hub on the Capricorn Coast with a great infrastructure.

The town takes pride in high-quality seafood, cultural events and friendly hospitality. There are three offshore islands extending alongside the shores of Gladstone – Facing, Curtis and Quion Islands that also contribute to the regional tourism.

Gladstone is a gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and numerous coral cays

ESSENTIAL EXPERIENCES ON THE CAPRICORN COAST

  • Gladstone – East Shores Water Park, Tondoon Botanic Gardens, Regional Art Gallery & Museum, wine tours, Police Creek (feeding turtles)
  • Lake Awoonga – beautiful recreational zone at the Boyne River, abundant fauna and flora, camping, swimming, fishing, boating, jet skiing, sailing, paddle boarding etc.
  • Mt Larcom – climb up to the 631 m high hill to view Gladstone from a high angle
  • Deepwater National Park – coastal reserve formed by coastal heaths and dunes, rich in wildlife and marine life, gorgeous beaches with nesting sea turtles, Deepwater Creek is ideal for fishing
  • Facing Island, Curtis Island & Quoin Island – flat sandy islands perfect for camping and recreation, coastal heaths, rainforest, dunes, salt flat
  • Lady Musgrave Island – the only navigable lagoon, radiant coral gardens, turtles, reefs, manta rays, rainbow fish, extraordinarily clear waters perfect for snorkelling and scuba diving, camping permitted
  • Heron Island – a coral cay (composed of sand and corals), encircled by 24 square km of the pure reef, excellent snorkelling, diving, nesting sea turtles, exotic birdlife, walking tracks, various tours (reef walking or coral submarine), gorgeous beaches and holiday resorts
‘The Protector’ – a shipwreck off the coast of Heron Island

ROCKHAMPTON & YEPPOON

The vegetation becomes noticeably lusher as one crosses the Tropic of Capricorn in Rockhampton. Mango, paw-paw, banana and pineapple farms will greet the visitors upon arrival.

Although the town is located inland, the magnificent Yeppoon Beach is not far away. Known as an upmarket coastal location, Yeppoon attracts holidaymakers and beach lovers from all over the world. Superb hotels, fancy restaurants, private vessels and luxurious cruises to the Coral Sea and its uninhabited islands and virgin atolls are the main attractions here.

Yeppoon Lagoon is a popular public swimming pool

ESSENTIAL EXPERIENCES IN ROCKHAMPTON & YEPPOON

  • Rockhampton – Botanic Gardens, Kershaw Gardens, Heritage Village, Rail Museum, Art Gallery
  • Mount Archer National Park – open eucalypt woodland, hiking, rock climbing, drive or climb up to the Mt Archer and enjoy the views  from the Grass Tree Lookout
  • Capricorn Caves – Cammoo Caves, Olsen`s Caves, Beanstalk, Chandelier is a series of caves and above-ground limestone formations with stalagmites and stalactites
  • Byfield National Park – outlying rain forests with eco-retreats and farm, 4WD tracks and camping areas, Water Park Creek
  • Yeppoon – Yeppoon Beach, Yeppoon Lagoon, Keppel Kraken, Cooberrie Wildlife Park, coastal walks at Spring Head Lookout, Fan Rock Lookout and Wreck Point Lookout
  • Lammermoor – popular for its clean sands and beach rock formations.
  • Capricorn Coast National Park – rocky outcrops at Bluff Rock, Statue Bay, Kemp Beach, Mulambin Beach, Double Head, Rosslyn Bay/Head
  • Kinka Beach, Emu Park & Zilzie – lovely beachfront holiday spots
  • Keppel Bay – sea kayaking, snorkelling, diving and cruises to the Keppel Islands
  • Great Keppel Island – 17 white beaches, fantastic facilities, camping permitted, water sports, outstanding fauna and flora, marine life and underwater world, shallow fringing reefs, tropical fish, turtles, sea snakes, sharks, dolphins, giant manta rays. TO GET THERE: fly from Rockhampton or take a boat from Rosslyn Bay
Sailing around the Great Keppel Island, Yeppoon

WHEN TO TRAVEL

It is very important to plan the trip thoroughly for one reason: Coral-Capricorn Coast is subject to tropical weather that seasonally brings not only sweltering heat and frequent cyclones (Nov-March) but also many dangerous sea creatures, e.g. marine stingers (Nov-April).

The best time to visit the Coral-Capricorn Coast is between May and October.

The stinger season is generally between November and March and swimming in the ocean is not recommended in the tropical parts of Australia, including the Capricorn Coast

HOW TO GET THERE

Fly from Brisbane

  • Driving distance from Brisbane to Bundaberg is 4-5 hrs
  • Driving distance from Brisbane to Gladstone is 7 hrs
  • Driving distance from Brisbane to Rockhampton is 8 hrs

Otherwise, fly from Sydney/Melbourne/Brisbane directly to Bundaberg, Gladstone or Rockhampton

  • To Lady Elliot Island – exclusively by seaplane from Bundaberg/Brisbane/Gold Coast/Hervey Bay
  • To Lady Musgrave Island – the only access is via boat from Seventeen Seventy
  • To Heron Island by boat from Gladstone marina or via seaplane from Gladstone airport
  • To Great Keppel Island  – fly from Rockhampton or take a boat from Rosslyn Bay

For all flights visit www.momondo.com  or www.skyscaner.com

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Eva Bodova

Eva Bodova

Wednesday 10 June 2020

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