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Organized boat tours from the Queensland mainland are the only way to visit the Great Barrier Reef. Cairns is the number-one point of departure, but boats also leave from Mackay, Airlie Beach, Townsville, and Port Douglas. Boats also run between the Whitsunday Islands. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority website has helpful advice on how to choose a tour operator, and lists which companies are ecotourism-certified.
The daily ferries Spirit of Tasmania I and II take 10 hours to connect Melbourne with Devonport on Tasmania's north coast. Make reservations as early as possible, particularly during the busy December and January school holidays.
Sealink Ferries transport passengers and vehicles between Cape Jervis on the South Australian coastline south of Adelaide, and Penneshaw on Kangaroo Island.
You can find out about ferry and cruise schedules for these and other scenic rides at most state tourism offices and on their websites. All operators accept major credit cards and cash.
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (07/4750–0700. www.gbrmpa.gov.au.)
Sealink Ferries (13–1301. www.sealink.com.au.)
Spirit of Tasmania (1800/634–906. www.spiritoftasmania.com.au.)