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Great Barrier Reef: when and where to go??

Old Mar 13th, 2006, 07:45 AM
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Great Barrier Reef: when and where to go??

I'm from Canada and will be living in Canberra with my small family for 9 months, from early April through late December.

We'd like to visit the Great Barrier Reef for a good week during our stay. My daughter will be in school in Canberra so we're mostly free during school holidays:
* The last two weeks of April
* The middle two weeks of July, or
* The first two weeks of October.

When would be the best time to go? I've heard that the box jellyfish may still be around in mid-late April, but in July when they are gone, the ocean temperature is too cold for easy swimming without a wetsuit. Is this true? When would you go, if you had this choice.

Too, where would you go? We're looking for someplace nice, on the beach, family oriented (e.g., other kids around and a good pool as well as a beach - our daughter is 10 yrs old), and not too far from an airport. Not budget level but not 5-star either - if our vacation were a car, we'd like a Honda, not a BMW nor a Hyundai. We've heard good things about Port Douglas, the Club Med (though they tend to be expensive) and the Whitsunday Islands...

Finally, if we don't go in April, where should we visit near Canberra then? (Jervis Bay? The Snowy Mountains?)

Thanks alot for any advice you can give us - this will be our first time down under. Tom
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Old Mar 13th, 2006, 01:48 PM
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For northern GBR (Cairns, Port Ddouglas) would definitely pick early October. Its after the prevailing winter SE trade winds stop, and before the humidity associated with wet season starts to build up. July is nearly always windy and can make a reef trip bumpy and unpleasant. April can be both wet and windy, sometimes one can be lucky, but with the very late start to this year's wet season (now) wouldn't be surprised if it continues through to April. Box jelly fish could easily still be around in April on coast, OK for reef.

For family beach accommodation have a look at Trinity Beach, north of Cairns. Its only 15-20 mins from airport and about the same into Cairns city. Tours pick up at accommodation or nearby.
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Old Mar 13th, 2006, 03:41 PM
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Tom1 - Pat as always has given excellent advice. Tom, you say that you would like to visit the GBR for a week of your stay, do you mean you want to visit the reef every day for 7 days?. Most people tend to visit 1 or 2 days, then visit other attractions in the vicinity.
If you stayed at Trinity Beach in far north Queensland, you would probably need a rental car, to visit other attractions, much cheaper than doing organised tours each day.
Tom, the GBR extends a long way up & down the coastline of Queensland. Near Cairns, it is closer to the mainland, and down south, a bit further out.
Have you thought of staying on an island, that is family orientated, and possibly go 1 or 2 trips to the outer barrier reef.
As for Canberra in april, I would probably think the South Coast of NSW, would be your best bet. The Snowy Mtns option, might be okay for bushwalking or trout fishing.
If you do a driving trip in April, on the south coast, make a point of visiting Jervis Bay, Hyams Beach, the National Park, perhaps even Narooma, and Batemans Bay.
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Old Mar 14th, 2006, 09:01 AM
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Tom, call Greg and Daintree Air out of the Cairns airport. He will take you out on his plane to Lizard Island, then pack a lunch and give you one on one snokeling experience. Should not be missed. !!!Deb
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Old Mar 14th, 2006, 12:06 PM
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Thanks very much for all your advice - very much appreciated!

(Anyone have good suggestions for resorts with great pools and a fair number of children, in the 3-4 star range and on the beach, in the Whitsunday Island/north of Cairns(Trinity beach...) or Port Douglas area??)

Thanks again! Tom
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Old Mar 14th, 2006, 03:46 PM
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Tom - in the Whitsunday region, you have numerous island resorts, eg. Hayman, South Molle, Long Island, Hamilton Island, Lindeman Island, Daydream Island, etc.
and there are plenty of Cruise Boats that take people from Airlie Beach & also the Island resorts out to the outer Barrier Reef for diving & snorkelling, and back in time for dinner & drinks.
As to which island resort cater more so for children, I can't help you, as my children are all adults now, and my wife & I tend to go to the island resorts which cater for adults & no children.
My favourite island would have to be Brampton Island, which is reached by boat or plane from Mackay, and is south of Airlie Beach/whitsunday region. The reason that I like Brampton Island, is that it situated away from the Whitsundays, which tends to get "loved to death" by by visitors and backpackers. Also not many sailing or commercial boats visit Brampton, hence the great feeling of being a "little bit isolated".
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Old Mar 14th, 2006, 04:30 PM
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We lived in Canberra for 3 years and always looked forward to a nice warm weather vacation during the July school holidays. We went to Port Douglas twice and to Darwin once during the July break. We've been back to Australia from the US twice since then, both times in the July - August time period and we went back to PD both times.
The weather at PD has always been gorgeous during the winter. We have worn wetsuits on trips to the reef, mainly because we were in the water for extended periods of time and also because they help with buoyancy. However, on the beach, we never felt the need for a wetsuit just to play in the water. It can get windy, but if you are there for a week, you will have the option to choose the day you go out to the reef and you can look for a calmer day. (The boat operators will have weather forecasts available and will book you for the best conditions if you ask.)
While I imagine conditions would be better in October as opposed to July, July is still pretty wonderful in PD. One final caveat--it can get very foggy in Canberra in winter, so try to get the first flight in the morning. Often, the airport will get socked in with fog in winter and later flights are delayed or cancelled.
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Old Mar 26th, 2006, 07:36 AM
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Hi Tom for accomodation you may want to check out The Oasis in Palm Cove.
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Old Mar 26th, 2006, 09:22 PM
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For pat_woolford specifically, and for the others in this thread.

Pat, I see you mentioned the damage on various islands south of Cairns - most of which I remember. Do you have a similar assessment of what happened with Orpheus Island? I was on Orpheus a number of years ago and now have the opportunity to do a revisit there probably in October. Thanx to all. This dialog is VERY helpful! --mark--
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Old Mar 26th, 2006, 11:12 PM
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hi markbook, no damage to Orpheus Island. Townsville is well south of area which took main brunt of cyclone, where there is devastation and Cairns north enough to escape.

There's not as much reef damage as could be expected, even in area which took brunt of cyclone. Cyclone Larry came in quickly and crossed the reef within hours, before destructive waves had time to develop.
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Old Mar 27th, 2006, 09:30 PM
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Tom as deb mentioned contact Greg at

We traveled with him last year by air to Lizard Island. He is a wealth of knowledge on Australia.

We spoke to him last week after the storm. He was flying journalists through areas damaged by the cyclone.
Im certain he would be happy to help out with any questions on the GBR.

blakes444 is offline  
Old Mar 28th, 2006, 02:36 AM
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No need to bother Greg, or any other local pilot. The question I answered here was about Orpheus Island which was out of the cyclone's damage area.

I live less than 100km from the badly affected areas of Innisfail, Babinda, Silkwood, El Arish, Mission Beach, Tablelands, etc and I'm not going to get in the car and join the procession of gawkers at other's misfortune. Our local paper, radio and TV have detailed information on affected areas, and most of the above are still out of phone contact. Orpheus Island isn't, they're answering their phone.

markbook, Dunk and Bedarra Islands have taken a real slamming. Great chunks of rainforest uprooted, it'll be a while until they're back in business.

also spare a thought for the inland outback areas affected by this cyclone, Burketown and area has the worst flooding in 100 years, cattle drowning everywhere, roads impassable and people running out of food and essentials which now has to be airlifted and dropped.

Can only admire the people of Cairns and Townsville who have responded so generously and immediately to this disaster with generators, food, clothing, accommodation and voluntary work from tradesmen.
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