Bucket List: Flying over the Great Barrier Reef & Whitehaven Beach

Bucket List: Flying over the Great Barrier Reef & Whitehaven Beach

Seeing the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) was at the top of my bucket list. It was probably in the top 3 honestly. I remember watching Steve Irwin’s shows when I was younger and dreaming of going there and seeing it for myself. RIP Mr. Irwin.

When trying to decide if I should snorkel in the GBR or do a scenic flight over it, I couldn’t choose. So I did both! It was expensive, but I knew I was probably only going to go to Australia once in my life. That and the fact that the Great Barrier Reef isn’t always going to be around unfortunately. It was worth the splurge for sure.

The next decision I had was whether to fly over the GBR or Whitehaven Beach. In my research, I stumbled upon GSL Aviation, who offered a Reef and Island Scenic Flight that highlights both! Done deal. Sold.

I also got some personal recommendations to go with this company after I had already booked with them, so I felt really good about my decision. Word of mouth is the best advertising right? Oh, and GSL aviation offers planes with guaranteed window seats, which is super important when doing a scenic flight, obviously. C’mon, no one wants the middle seat!

I chose the 60-minute Reef and Island Scenic Flight, far longer than most scenic flights. If I was going to do it, I was going to get the full experience!

The morning started bright and early with a free shuttle pickup from my hotel. After a short safety briefing, we soared above Airlie Beach and made our way to the Great Barrier Reef. Rewind a few days earlier when I snorkelled the outer Great Barrier Reef. I hate to say this, but I was a bit disappointed. I guess I was expecting it to be more colorful. Most the pics you see of it are super photoshopped I guess. It’s sad but the bleaching of coral is a real thing and you definitely can see it for yourself.

flying over the Great Barrier Reef

Trying to fight the glare to get a shot was quite difficult!

Aerial shots are my ultimate favorite and flying over the Great Barrier Reef and seeing it from above was a completely different experience. You can really visualize the bold blue/green colors and see how enormous it really is. Did you know that the Great Barrier Reef is the largest organic structure on earth and is visible from OUTER SPACE? It’s so much easier to grasp that concept when you see it from above!

flying over the Great Barrier Reef

Well, I only saw a small section of it on this flight, but it was incredible! My dream of the Great Barrier Reef had been revived.

No need for a drone when you basically see through a drone’s eyes from above. We had many different viewpoints and plenty of time to really experience it.

flying over the Great Barrier Reef

We flew over the infamous heart Reef, but unfortunately I fumbled with switching cameras and didn’t get the best shot. It was also very sunny and the glare on the windows was quite bad that day. I tried. 

But in case you want to see a better shot, here is a great one from their Instagram!

On our way back, we flew over the idyllic Whitehaven Beach. I ended up going to Whitehaven Beach the next day but seeing it from above was so much better to tell you the truth! You can really appreciate the swirly patterns of pure white silica sand and turquoise waters from above and it will leave you in awe.

flying over the Great Barrier Reef

GSL Aviation also offers transfers to Hamilton Island and they can get you there in just 10 minutes! Or you can combine the transfer with a one hour scenic flight over the GBR and Whitehaven, which I would definitely consider if I was staying on Hamilton Island. The ferry tickets are SUPER expensive to get there, so this option is actually a great value.

For example, a one-way ferry ticket is about $52 USD and the transfer flight is around $75 USD. It’s even cheaper if you do the transfer plus scenic flight!

They also do helicopter tours if that’s what you fancy. Oh, and they operate in Cairns as well. So if you’re up that way and want to see the Reef from above, holla at them!

Tips:

  • I was trying to switch between snap chatting on my phone, taking GoPro shots and videos, and using my wide angle camera lens with my Sony. It was too much and I often missed shots because I was trying to do too much. Stick to one camera and be ready!
  • touch your camera up to glass to prevent glare from the window.

Flying over the Great Barrier Reef is a must do activity when visiting Australia. It was one of the highlights of my entire trip!

PIN for Later ♥

flying over the Great Barrier Reef

Disclaimer: I received a media discount on my scenic flight. However, my opinions are my own and I am in no way obligated to write a positive review. I would never sell out like that! I had the best time and would highly recommend GSL Aviation.

Visiting Whitehaven Beach in One Day

Visiting Whitehaven Beach in One Day

With 74 islands in the Whitsundays, it might seem hard to choose which one to visit. For me, the decision was a no-brainer. Voted as one of the top 10 most beautiful beaches in the world, Whitehaven Beach was the main reason I added The Whitsundays into my 13 day Australia adventure. Famous for its heaven-like white silica sand and turquoise swirl patterns, it’s no secret why Whitehaven Beach is the most photographed beach in all of Australia.

With only 2 full days to explore the Whitsundays, I knew I wanted to spend an entire day on this Whitehaven Beach. Overnight sailing is super popular in the Whitsundays, and had I had more time I would have considered this option. However, visiting Whitehaven Beach in a single day is possible and a great option if you’re short on time.

I took a full day cruise to Whitehaven Beach with Cruise Whitsundays, who offer a full-day day tour called Whitehaven Beach, Snorkelling, Hill Inlet & Lookout. I picked this tour mainly because it offers more time on Whitehaven Beach than any other tour, as well as the near perfect reviews it received on Trip Advisor.

Below is a map of the full-day itinerary courtesy of Cruise Whitsundays.

Cruise Whitsundays

Morning Pick up and Briefing

The cruise leaves bright and early from Airlie Beach at 7am and returns at 6:20pm. It’s a long day action packed with fun stuff to do, so make sure to get a good night’s sleep! There’s also an option to get picked up at Daydream Island or Hamilton Island if that’s where you’re staying.

The ride over to Whitsunday Island is pretty long at around 2 hours, but the seats were very plush and comfy. Complementary coffee and tea are available on the first floor.

During the long ride you will be introduced to the crew members, who are personally assigned to each group to give them a briefing of the day of what to expect. I really liked the personalized attention, something I’m not used to when going on a tour.

Our guide Jack was AWESOME from the start. He had so much charisma and was very interactive with everyone. He even remembered ALL our names in a matter of minutes. Jack was born to be a tour guide and his passion for it made the tour so much more memorable. Jack made the tour. Period.

Hill Inlet & Lookout 

We arrived to Whitehaven Beach to drop some of the passengers off who weren’t doing the full day cruise and we hopped onto a little speed boat to head to Hill Inlet. Not all the cruises go to the Hill Inlet and I’m sure many are disappointed to learn this, so no matter what tour you do make sure it includes the Hill Inlet!

Whitehaven Beach

Getting dropped off to walk up the Hill Inlet lookout. We saw a lemon shark right near those bushes in the water!

Whitehaven Beach Hill Inlet

We jumped off onto the soft silica sand and followed Jack up the path to the lookout. We stopped along the way a few times as he taught us a little about the surrounding plant life. He also pointed out a few huge spiders resting in their webs that I wish I never saw. My worst nightmare.

Whitehaven Beach Hill Inlet

Completely unedited iPhone pano of Whitehaven Beach

It was an easy 15 minute walk up to the lookout where we had about 20 minutes of free time to enjoy the scenery and take photos. The Hill Inlet gives you the best view of Whitehaven Beach. The view you see in all the photos of the turquoise and white swirly patterns. There’s nowhere else in the world like it and this was the highlight of the tour for me.

Whitehaven Beach

We were told that the pattern of swirls change about every 4 hours, so you’ll never take the same photo as someone else. I only wish we were there longer so we could see it in different lights.

Free Time on Whitehaven Beach and BBQ Lunch 

After the spectacular views on the Hill Inlet we were dropped off on the idyllic Whitehaven Beach. We were given about 2 hours to walk the beach, play in the water, and eat lunch. They offer free stinger suits as well as half dome tents to provide shade from the sun.

Note: the sun is very HOT in this part of Australia and because the silica sand is very reflective, you’re at increased risk for burns. Make sure to drink lots of water and keep reapplying sunscreen. I actually ended up getting heat exhaustion/dehydration from being outside all day and the recovery was painful. I was basically sick for the next 7 days of my trip with a pounding headache, night sweats, and fatigue.

Whitehaven Beach

For lunch they brought actual grills and set them up under a tarp to cook for us, which I thought was pretty cool. Lunch consisted of salad, beef, chicken, sausage, and pasta salad. The meat was a little dry and not as tasty as I expected seeing as they were cooking it fresh right in front of us. I also couldn’t eat half the stuff they served due to my gluten allergy so I can’t comment on the other food. The food I tried was just okay.

Snorkelling

There were only a few passengers who chose the full day option, so it was really nice to have only a small group to snorkel. We boarded a small speed boat once again for the 5 minute ride around the corner where we were dropped off to snorkel.

Whitehaven Beach snorkeling

I kid you not, out of all the snorkelling I did in Australia, including the Outer Great Barrier Reef, this was the BEST snorkelling! The combination of colorful coral and heaps of fish blew me away. I was NOT expecting this to be the best snorkelling in Australia. Another great reason to do the full day tour!

Whitehaven Beach snorkeling

WhiteHaven Beach Final Relaxation 

After the amazing snorkelling we were dropped back off at Whitehaven Beach. We were given almost 2 more hours of leisurely time to relax and do what we pleased. I really liked the fact we were given so much free time, something you usually don’t get when doing a tour.

Whitehaven Beach

I had plenty of time to play with my GoPro and take some cool shots without being rushed for once.

Whitehaven Beach GoPro

Unedited GoPro shot. How pretty is this place?

Unfortunately, I think this was the beginning of the heat exhaustion/dehydration for me. I spent way too much time in the sun and I paid the price. Spend some time in the shade if you can, learn from my mistakes!

Overall Impressions

Whitehaven Beach is undeniably one of the most beautiful beached in the entire world. Spending an entire day exploring the beach, the Hill Inlet, and snorkelling was the perfect way to experience one of the prettiest parts of Australia. I was extremely pleased with Cruise Whitsundays in terms of their professionalism, the activities on offer, the jovial and fun tour guides, the cleanliness of the boats, and the the overall itinerary. I would cruise with them again in a heartbeat!

PIN for later♥

Whitehaven Beach cruise

Disclaimer: I was a guest of Cruise Whitsundays on this tour. My opinions, however, remain my own and I am in no way obligated to write a positive review. I highly enjoyed my cruise and would definitely recommend this tour! ♥

Have you ever been to Whitehaven Beach? Did you do an overnight cruise or a day trip? Which would you recommend?