Southern Reef Explorer

Great Barrier Reef
from £2235 11 nights | Year round Exc. flights See price details
  • Departs:
  • Year round


Experience the many jewels of the beautiful southern Great Barrier Reef on this independent itinerary from Hervey Bay to Heron Island. About 12,000 years in the making, the Great Barrier Reef is one of the richest and most complex ecosystems in the world. The Southern Great Barrier Reef is protected as part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, with stunning continental islands and unparalleled coral cays.


  • Explore the outer islands of the Great Barrier Reef including Lady Elliot and Heron islands
  • snorkel with turtles and enjoy reef walking and scenic boat trips
  • discover 20 different dive sites off Heron Island
  • encounter humpback whales from Hervey Bay

The Reef begins at Bundaberg. Islands such as Lady Elliot (accessible from Bundaberg), Lady Musgrave (from Seventeen Seventy), Heron and Wilson (from Gladstone) and Great Keppel (from Rosslyn Bay on the Capricorn Coast) are jewels in the Southern Great Barrier Reef. Most of them are coral cays and the magnificent coral displays are just a step away into the water off the beach.

Cool clear waters provide excellent underwater visibility for viewing of all kinds of marine life. The Southern Great Barrier Reef is renowned for its turtle population whether they are on the islands or at world famous Mon Repos Beach near Bundaberg. Giant Manta Rays glide through the water making this area one of the best in the planet to watch these gentle giants. Migrating birds take the opportunity to break their journey and nest on the islands. Whales pass through these waters on their winter journey from the Antarctic to warmer northern waters and on their return.

The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s only natural feature that can be seen from outer space. Enjoy a 12-day holiday to this majestic part of the GBR which is filled with incredible experiences that will last a lifetime.

Also consider

Explore the northern section of the Great Barrier Reef on our 14-night Northern Reef Explorer from Cairns to the pristine Whitsundays, including stays on idyllic Lizard Island and Hamilton Island.

Contact our Australia experts now

Itinerary & Accommodation

Day 1: Brisbane - Hervey Bay
On arrival at Brisbane international airport transfer to the domestic terminal for your flight to Hervey Bay. On arrival please make your own way to your accommodation.
Overnight: Villa Cavour
Day 2: Hervey Bay (B,L)
One of Queensland's best natural holiday destinations, Hervey Bay offers the world's closest whale watching encounters with humpback whales as well as easy access to World Heritage Listed Fraser Island, the world's largest sand island and Lady Elliot Island, the first coral cay on World Heritage Listed Great Barrier Reef. Hervey Bay's safe sheltered waters make it an aquatic paradise perfect for year round swimming, diving, sailing, water sports and fishing. Dotted along the Hervey Bay Esplanade are cosmopolitan and alfresco cafes, shops, parklands, and a vibrant marina.

This morning join a full day 4WD tour of Fraser Island departing from Hervey Bay. Fraser island is a place of exceptional beauty, with its long uninterrupted white beaches flanked by strikingly coloured sand cliffs, and over 100 freshwater lakes, all ringed by white sandy beaches. Ancient rainforests grow in sand along the banks of fast-flowing, crystal-clear creeks. Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world. Alternately during July - October you may which to join a 4 hour morning whale watching cruise instead.
Overnight: Villa Cavour
Day 3: Hervey Bay - Bundaberg - Lady Elliot Island (B,D)
This morning make your way to Bundaberg Airport and board your 25 minute scenic flight to Lady Elliot Island, the only coral island on the Reef with an airstrip. Activities include reef walking, snorkelling, scuba diving, turtle tours, and historical and night walks. Reefwalkers will discover brightly coloured starfish, sea urchins, clams and corals exposed at high tide. Scuba divers may come face to face with a manta ray or moray eel and snorkelers with giant rainbow-coloured parrot fish or coral trout.
Overnight: Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort
Days 4-6: Lady Elliot Island (B,D)
Time at leisure to immerse yourself in many of Lady Elliot Island’s superb marine experiences. The island is world-famous for its manta rays – take the opportunity to swim with them in their wonderful habitat. In the summer months, turtles come ashore to lay their eggs. Some eight weeks later, tiny turtle hatchlings make their dash for the sea. Keen whale watchers will see many sightings of pods of Humpback whales passing close-by on their annual migration.
Overnight: Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort
Day 7: Lady Elliot Island - Bundaberg (B)
Travel back to Bundaberg by scenic flight. On arrival collect an intermediate rental vehicle at Bundaberg airport. This evening will be a real highlight as you drive to Mon Repos on Bundaberg’s coastline. Here you will find the largest and most accessible mainland loggerhead turtle rookery in the South Pacific. There has been a steady increase in turtle numbers over the years due to local conservation efforts (entry fee not included). Loggerhead, Flatback and Green turtles come ashore from November to February and it is an amazing sight to see these huge creatures heaving their way up the beach to find a safe spot to dig a nest and lay their eggs. Some six to eight weeks later the tiny hatchlings may be seen emerging from their sandy nests to head down to the sea (early January until late March).
Overnight: Kelly’s Beach Resort (Eco Villa room only)
Day 8: Bundaberg - Gladstone - Heron Island (B)
This morning make your way to Gladstone (journey time approximately 2 hours) and enjoy some sightseeing in the city. Gladstone offers good seafood restaurants and a variety of accommodation. Boyne Island Tannum Sands and Turkey Beach are unspoilt coastal towns south of Gladstone. You may wish to drop off your rental car in Gladstone prior to your journey to Heron Island.

This afternoon please make your way to Gladstone Marina and board your scenic boat cruise to Heron Island. Known as nature’s wonderland, Heron Island is 2 million years old and is a true coral cay located right on the Great Barrier Reef. It has long been a favourite for divers and snorkelers looking to immerse themselves in a truly natural island with sensational marine life. A breeding ground for mutton birds and black noddy terns, Heron Island is also home to green and loggerhead turtles. These can be seen on their migratory route during the months of December to April. You can also enjoy world class diving and snorkelling on Heron Island at one of the 20 different dive sites off the island.
Overnight: Heron Island Resort
Days 9-11: Heron Island (B)
Time at leisure to explore the wonders of Heron Island. Enjoy some of the many complimentary experiences on offer at Heron Island Resort, including interpretive reef walks, birdlife walks, snorkelling lessons, turtle nesting viewing (at peak nesting times) or stargazing.
Overnight: Heron Island Resort
Day 12: Heron Island - Gladstone (B)
Journey back to Gladstone today on a scenic boat cruise. Today your holiday adventure to the stunning Great Barrier Reef ends. Depart under your own arrangements.

B - Breakfast
L - Lunch
D - Dinner

Accommodation Options

Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef

  • Grade: Superior Full board
  • Type: Unique and Boutique

An Exclusive Island on the Great Barrier Reef.

Lady Elliott Island Eco Resort, Great Barrier Reef

  • Grade: Standard Half Board
  • Type: Hotel

Lady Elliott Island is the closest Great Barrier Reef Is…


A variety of accommodation options are included in this holiday, some of which are listed above. For further details, please contact us.

Prices & Dates

Prices from £ per person

 Twin  Single 
 £2,235  £3,310

Price Includes
Return boat transfers from Gladstone to Heron Island ● Return flights to Lady Elliot Island ● 11 Nights’ accommodation ● Meals - 11 breakfasts, 1 lunch & 4 dinners ● Full day 4WD Fraser Island Explorer Tour ● 2 days Avis intermediate car rental, Standard rate cover

Price Excludes
International and domestic mainland flights and airport taxes ● Additional meals not specified above ● Personal travel insurance ● Environmental Management Charge in Great Barrier Reef Marine Park ● Gratuities & items of a personal nature

* Please note: Between July and October a whale watching excursion is available to replace the 4WD full day explorer tour of Fraser Island (day 2). Please enquire with one of our travel specialists for further information.

How to book

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So that we may send you a personalised quote and confirmation of availability, please click on the link below and complete our Enquiry form. One of our Travel Specialists will then be in touch to complete your booking or answer any further questions you might have.

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