Sleeping under the stars on the Great Barrier Reef

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great barrier reef Whitsundays

Exciting news everyone, in one week exactly I’ll be boarding a plane back to Australia! And no, I’m not getting deported from New Zealand as I originally feared, rather I am embarking on an awesome new adventure in Tropical North Queensland, one of my favorite regions!

I can’t wait!

But more on that later, while I have been getting ready I found myself reminiscing about the first time I was in the Whitsundays, and I realized I haven’t even told the full story of my favorite activity on my blog. For shame!

great barrier reef Whitsundays

great barrier reef Whitsundays

While it’s hard for me to pinpoint an exact moment when I fell in love with Queensland, I have a feeling visiting the Great Barrier Reef had something to do with it. Surprise Surprise.

Cairns is generally well-known as the entrance to the Great Barrier Reef, but did you know that you can also go via Airlie Beach in the Whitsundays?

Two for one!

But wait, are you ready for the best part?

great barrier reef Whitsundays

great barrier reef Whitsundays

great barrier reef Whitsundays

Not only can you go out to the Great Barrier Reef via the beautiful Whitsunday Islands, you can also spend the night on the reef with Cruise Whitsundays?

Yeah, that’s a thing. Who knew?

Most people head out as a day trip from Airlie Beach or one of the islands, but it’s a bit of a secret that you can actually stay the night on one of the floating pontoons. Experiences like these are what I live for when traveling and I hold on with both hands whenever I get the chance to see it for myself.

great barrier reef Whitsundays

great barrier reef Whitsundays

Even though it’s been a year since I was in Queensland, I can still remember being kinda bummed out the morning I caught the big boat out to the Reef. It was totally overcast and the sea was churning something fierce, with waves so big the froth was hitting the second story windows of the ship.

By the time we were halfway, about half the boat had their face in bags. Ick.

Though thankfully I skipped my morning coffee and had a seasickness pill before getting onboard. I learned long ago that dairy and coffee make me seasick, so I was fine, pulling on my headphones and staring out at the waves praying for sunshine.

great barrier reef Whitsundays

great barrier reef Whitsundays

I don’t know how it happened but by the time we arrived at the Reefworld pontoon on the reef, a floating barge where all of the activities are based from, it was blue skies, sunshine and calm seas. How does that happen?

The afternoon was amazing, I started out with a massage on the top deck, had a fab seafood lunch before catching a little boat over to a floating dock where I got to take a helicopter flight over the reef. Trust me, if you splurge on something, it should be that. Getting to see the reef from the skies is unforgettable.

Especially as there is even a little reef shaped like a heart. Cheesy as hell but who cares?

great barrier reef Whitsundays

great barrier reef Whitsundays

great barrier reef Whitsundays

Of course I spent as much time in the water as I could, how could you not when it’s clear blue and glows turquoise? I did my very first intro scuba dive, which got me totally hooked and inspired me to come back a few months later and get my PADI open water in the Whitsundays.

As the often wore on, all of the day-trippers headed back to land leaving me, the crew and two other women to spend the night out on the reef. We had the place to ourselves, it was amazing!

After a fab dinner with a beautiful sunset, we tucked into our swags early to gaze at the stars. Swags are single-man tents on the roof of the pontoon. Of course as soon as I fell asleep with it wide open, it poured rain, luckily stopping after a little while leaving us to count stars under a clear night sky with the sound of the ocean lapping at the side of the pontoon.

great barrier reef Whitsundays

great barrier reef Whitsundays

Occasionally you’d hear a splash of something big having dinner near the pontoon during the night and the soft call of sea birds nearby but otherwise I slept soundly and was up with the sun in time for a hot breakfast.

Basically it was like glamping in the ocean; this I can get behind!

Gazing at the top deck in the morning, I realized I was super lucky because apparently the birds decided to have an EPI game of target practice during the night on the now literal poop deck and my swag narrowly avoided demolition. Ick! (I should add there are not normally birds out there but there had been a big cyclone the week before throwing them off their regular migration patterns).

great barrier reef Whitsundays

great barrier reef Whitsundays

We also had the place to ourselves all morning before a new round of day trippers arrived, in which we totally took advantage and snorkeled for hours and finally getting to visit with a sea turtle!

He was missing a fin so I named him Buster, you know, because he was a bit busted up. End of story.

Do you dream of visiting the Great Barrier Reef one day? Would you sleep out there knowing you had the chance? 

great barrier reef Whitsundays

Many thanks to TEQ for hosting me in Australia, like always I’m keeping it real, all opinions are my own, like you could expect less from me.

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118 Comments on “Sleeping under the stars on the Great Barrier Reef

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  1. What a great post, and your pictures (as always) are beautiful. I liked the info on spending the night on one of the pontoons, and also the tip about splurging for a helicopter ride to see the Reef from the air.

    You created some nice memories, Liz. Good for you.

  2. Amazing! These photos of you with the turtle are killing me! 🙂 Soo beautiful!!

    A photo like that is one of my big dreams. When I had the chance I was unlucky because my gopro got pretty wet and died one day before i met the turtle. You did a good job!

    Thank you for sharing!

  3. Stay clear of the birds they may have refined their accuracy over the year. You have a great job doing what you enjoy and sharing with the world.

    On a different note, have you every tried Black and White photography? Check out Alsel Adams photos. He was a master of B&K landscapes and produced some stunning prints. He made big bucks selling them before color and there still in demand today.

    The BI number I omitted before is 1941.

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