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A map linking all of northern Queensland's coastal ports and offshore resorts from the Whitsundays to as far north as Lizard Island would look like a lace-up boot 1,600 km (1,000 mi) long. However, you'd only see less than half the reef, which extends south as far as Lady Elliot Island and as far north as the roadless wilderness of Cape York and the shores of Papua New Guinea.
If you're visiting the reef only briefly, it's easiest and most economical to day-trip from the mainland. Some reef-island resorts are accessible by boat; many others can be reached only by plane, and both airfare and lodging rates can be expensive. Day trips depart from major coastal cities including Cairns, Port Douglas, Townsville, and Airlie Beach. Some island resorts, such as Hamilton, let you visit and use their facilities for the day—then return you to the mainland to continue your travels.
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