Great Barrier Reef Marine Park
Accessible from Townsville, the central section of the Great Barrier Reef offers some of the best diving sites on the east coast, from shallow lagoons, pinnacles rising from 30m to 5m from the surface, walls, swim throughs and wrecks. Located a little further off the coast, the central section has less impact from human activity. Day trips often visit Lodestone Reef, home to a variety of habitats from shallow areas with white sandy sea floor and large coral bommies (outcrops) to steep slopes with deep crevasses hosting a great diversity of fish life, including small damsels and butterfly fish to larger animals like the giant trevally and occasional reef shark. The multi-day trips mostly travel at night to maximise time on the reef, visiting a variety of locations including Wheeler Reef, with its white sandy cay and many pelagic species, Davies Reef with pinnacles rising from 30m and shallower bommies riddled with swim throughs and caves, Barra Bommie at Little Broadhurst Reef, where you can spot an octopus, and Australia’s best dive the S.S. Yongala Wreck, with the biggest diversity of large marine life around the world - Queensland gropers weighing over 300kgs, giant trevally, turtles, sea snakes, bull sharks and eagle rays just to mention a few.
Experienced divers should visit the S.S. Yongala, a 28m deep shipwreck, that sank off the coast of Ayr (just south of Townsville in the Burdekin) during a tropical cyclone in 1911. Rated one of the world’s top 10 dive wrecks, the SS Yongala is home to a captivating array of hard and soft coral and spectacular marine life including sea turtles, sea anemone and thousands of inquisitive reef fish. Dive trips to the SS Yongala depart from Townsville, Magnetic Island and Alva Beach in the Burdekin. This historic wreck will leave you with memories that last a lifetime.
Separated from the mainland only by the narrow Hinchinbrook Channel, the rugged peaks of Hinchinbrook Island National Park rise abruptly from the sea, signalling the Island’s wild nature. Hinchinbrook is home to the world renowned wilderness walk, the Thorsborne Trail. Covering 32km, the Trail follows some of Australia’s most scenic island coastline. Discover sweeping bays, sandy beaches, extensive mangroves, fragile heaths, dense forests and lofty summits - perfect for the traveller with a thirst for adventure.
Charter a boat, take your own or jump on a helicopter to unwind on Orpheus Island National Park in the Palm Group of Islands. Book into the luxury resort or set up a self-sufficient camp in one of the Island’s secluded camping areas. Snorkel off the beach in blue-green reef waters to discover a marine wonderland or look and listen for birds in the forest and on the shore. This is a true tropical island experience!
Located 65km north-west of Townsville, Palm Island is the traditional country of the Manbarra people and, more recently, home of the Bwgcolman tribal people. Palm Island’s assets are its unique Indigenous heritage and its location within the World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The pristine waters of the area make it a great fishing spot for mackerel and coral trout.
Sailing and Fishing on the Great Barrier Reef
Townsville North Queensland’s tropical weather provides the perfect environment for sailing and boating. Experienced sailors can charter a vessel to sail through the many secluded areas. If you prefer group interaction, there are plenty of day trips departing Townsville and Magnetic Island. The Great Barrier Reef is a fisherman’s paradise with some of the most succulent catches being spanish mackerel, coral trout, red emperor and sweet lip. More than one-third of the Great Barrier Reef is declared a ‘no-take zone’, so if you are looking to catch and cook, check the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s Zoning Regulations before you leave the shore.