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Need help planning a week in Queensland

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We will be arriving in Sydney on the 20th of December 2011 for 2 1/2 weeks. We want to visit the GBR, rain forest and other sites that are must see's. We are a family of 2 adults, two kids (12 and 14). We have no idea where to start. Should we stay in Cairns and do day trips from there? We are a snorkeling and sailing family and want to see as much of the GBR as we can. Thinking of flying to QL on the 22nd and staying for about 6 days.
I looked on the Cairns tourist website and it is daunting with all of the recommendations.
Also, I have stayed on Hamilton Island and would prefer to skip it but am open to 2 or 3 days there.
We are spending the rest of the holiday with friends in Sydney.

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