Southern Great Barrier Reef

The Southern Great Barrier Reef is a scintillating experience of diverse islands and colourful reefs, found off the coast of Brisbane and South East Queensland.

This area of the Great Barrier Reef is one of Australia’s most iconic destinations and offers incredible experiences for all guests. The natural splendour of this stretch of reef remains undisturbed and with so much to discover, you will feel like a pioneering explorer as you sail your superyacht through these pristine waters.

Established Green Zones in the Southern Great Barrier Reef have restricted fishing which has allowed the region to protect its flourishing marine life. With the Great Barrier Reef being the world’s largest coral system, it is unsurprising that the diving conditions are exceptional here. Severance Wreck, Maori Wrasse Bommie, Spiders Ledge and Shark Pool are among the phenomenal and unique diving sites that must be experienced while in the region. The Southern Great Barrier Reef is home to astonishingly diverse marine life, including humpback whales, barramundi, and game fish such as marlin and sailfish.

Lady Elliot Island is a stunning coral cay within a short cruise or flight from Brisbane and Bundaberg. With other 20 dive sites, Lady Elliot is famed for its unspoiled coral reef and spectacular marine life. Superyachts can find perfect anchorages to explore the manta rays, migrating whales and a variety of colourful fish which inhabit the waters, while the Island also has over 105 different species of seabirds to look out for. Trips to the exquisite Lady Musgrave Lagoon and Fraser Island, the world’s largest sand island, are unbelievable experiences that simply cannot be missed.


While the reef provides infinite possibilities for marine exploration, there is certainly much to discover on the nearby mainland too. In Bundaberg, the Mon Repos Turtle Centre and Conservation Park is a breeding site for endangered loggerhead turtles. Watching egg-laying or hatching will live long in the memory. There are also vibrant city breaks, perfect for a stop off on your reef adventures. Brisbane is a thriving modern city with more than its fair share of luxury boutiques and intriguing cultural delights. Just south of Brisbane, the Gold Coast combines city glitz with beach bliss, and is the perfect place to pick up surfing or simply relax in the gorgeous climate.

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Unique Coastal Waters

The Southern Great Barrier Reef is the closest of the reef to Brisbane and South East Queensland. It offers some exceptional diving with many Green Zones which restrict fishing of those areas. There are a couple of resorts such as Lady Elliot. There are Lagoons such as Lady Musgrave and also Fitzroy Reef Lagoon. Both offer protected calm locations for anchoring.
Australia’s Southern Great Barrier Reef is one of the world’s most iconic destinations for travellers. Yet there are still parts of the reef where guests can feel like intrepid explorers, as if they were discovering places no one else has ever seen.
There are so many sights to discover and a variety of activities to engage in when visiting the Southern Great Barrier Reef. Take a tender trip to the reef where you can relax on tropical islands and swim offshore with turtles and manta rays above the amazing barrier reef coral, take the chance to see large hard coral reefs first-hand and join colourful fish and a rich variety of marine life.
With an array of activities offered in absolutely unique surroundings, the area offers some of the best cruising experiences. Commercial and private flights directly into this paradise allowing guests to be immersed in the contrasting white and turquoise colour pallet even before boarding a superyacht.

Climate

The ideal weather in the Southern Great Barrier Reef is achieved by low rainfall and average temperatures below 30 degrees Celsius. May to October represent the peak season for charter guests, with the first month of the Australian “Winter” starting in June. The sea temperature is approximately 23 degrees and the average wind speed is 8 knots. There are approximately 11 hours of sunlight per day.



The wet season in Queensland runs from November to April: when the heavens frequently open releasing warm tropical rain, and the days and nights are warmer. It is also a popular time to cruise and spend Christmas and New Year’s Eve in exceptional surroundings.

Destination Highlights

A sensational stretch of the Queensland Coast – Fraser Island, Hervey Bay, Bundaberg and the Southern Great Barrier Reef – has long been “under the radar” for explorers. Located slightly north of the Sunshine Coast, and a few hours drive from state capital Brisbane, these pleasant cruising waters are best-known for the world’s largest sand island, and as an amazing post-natal playground for humpback whales and their young calves. Here too is Mon Repos, an important Pacific breeding site for endangered loggerhead turtles, plus flatbacks, greens and leatherbacks. Park rangers allow small groups to watch eggs being laid, and later hatched. Recently the Florida-based International Game Fishing Association (IGFA) reported an extraordinary spot where anglers can cast for marlin and sailfish, in Platypus Bay on Fraser Island. Tuna, mackerel and trevally abound, as do wild barramundi, threadfin salmon and mangrove jack in the Great Sandy Straits. Rarer species include huge herrings, Mary River cod and giant Gataker prawns. Driving 4WDs along a vast 120 km ocean beach, seeing enormous satinay and brush box trees growing in sand, encountering the last pure packs of Australia’s wild dingoes, and learning a little of the indigenous Butchulla people are some other options on World Heritage-listed Fraser Island.

Diving

With dive sites named such as Severance Wreck, Maori Wrasse Bommie, Spiders Ledge, or Shark Pool, the underwater world around this part of the Great Barrier Reef offers options for all levels. The reef is the largest coral system on Earth!

Day ONE

TGuests can fly in to the gorgeous airport located on Lady Elliot Island, transferred from Brisbane’s International Airport (80 min flight), Hervey Bay/Fraser Coast (40 min flight), Bundaberg (30 min flight) or directly with a private jet charter.
Named in 1816 by the Master of a cargo vessel, Lady Elliot Island is a coral cay located at the southern tip of Australia’s iconic Great Barrier Reef (north of Fraser Island). The island is regarded as one of the best snorkelling and diving destinations in Australia (it is host to no less than 20 dive sites), and is famous for its unspoilt coral reef and the amazing array of spectacular marine life! Lady Elliot is known the world over as the home of the majestic manta ray and to date, researchers have identified more than 700 individual rays living and thriving in the surrounding waters. Snorkelling and glass bottom kayak adventures are highly recommended. The island is home to nesting turtles, manta rays, migrating whales, resident and visiting bird populations among the natural and abundant reef life. Brilliantly coloured fish, starfish, sea cucumbers, crabs, anemones, urchins and turtles grazing on outcrops are all unveiled in an instant as you pop your face down into the exceptionally clear lagoon.
Lady Elliot Island has the second-highest diversity of bird species on the Great Barrier Reef and there are 105 different species of seabirds, land birds and shorebirds who choose this island to nest. Since 2010, Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort also offers complimentary nursery tours for guests. To protect the environment, the island was the first island to ban plastic water bottles on its premises. This afternoon, travel to Lady Musgrave Island and anchor in the lagoon.



Day TWO (Lady Musgrave Lagoon)

Explore the extensive lagoon on Lady Musgrave, with excellent diving both inside and outside of the protected waters. It is a unique island among the Great Barrier Reef. Set on 3,000 acres of living reef with a protected lagoon, it makes it a perfect spot for snorkelling. Lady Musgrave Island is referred to as “Wallaginji” by the local Aboriginal community, which means “beautiful reef”.
An underwater oasis is waiting to be discovered as you pop on your snorkel and mask to reveal one of the Great Barrier Reef’s biggest swimming pools. The protected lagoon is truly unique and has formed this coral cay island home to a rich underwater wildlife. Keep an eye out for leopard and whitetip reef sharks that play in the waters surrounding the island – these are friendly animals only feeding on reef fishes and crustaceans! Stroll ashore for an island walk and take in the abundant flora and fauna unique to this location. Play castaway among its aviary and rookery character all in one. This afternoon, let your guide take you to a very special dive site. The diving at Lady Musgrave is mostly Reef Diving, and a little more shallow down to 15-18m on the outer edges. The lagoon is massive, the entrance is a marvel as you enter, the sides of the reef come up to drying at low tide, and drops off to 5m. The entrance is very tight and a sight to see itself. The island and southern section is all a green zone, however the lagoon and northern sides are all open to fishing.
We overnight at anchor in the lagoon.

Day THREE (Fitzroy Reef)

Waking up to admire the least-travelled and least-spoilt part of the Great Barrier Reef. Take the size of 18-times Sydney, or the whole of Central Park in New York, fill it with water six to ten metres deep, wall the whole lot with superb coral and sea life and you have 838 acres forming Fitzroy Reef lagoon!

Fitzroy Reef is close to the southernmost part of the Reef, off the coast from the seaside towns of Agnes Water and 1770, and its beauty resides in the protection it offers, to superyachts and marine life.
The only naturally formed, all tidal entrance Lagoon on the Southern Great Barrier Reef, it boasts a diverse range of spectacular corals and bommies – perfect for snorkelling and scuba diving. Marine life that calls Fitzroy Reef Lagoon home include Manta rays, Bull rays, Eagle rays, the Lagoon ray with its iridescent blue spots and also the black blotched stingray, Dolphins (bottlenose, common and spinner), Turtles (Loggerhead, Green and Hawksbill) and up to 1,000 different species of small colourful fish. Guests can expect to see nearly one million individual fish while snorkelling the bommies of Fitzroy! Buried within the depths of the casuarina and pandanus palms that blanket the island, you’ll find sulphur-crested cockatoos, kingfisher birds, and emerald doves. Beyond birds, wildlife warriors should tour the Turtle Rehabilitation Centre, a volunteer-operated organisation on the island dedicated to recuperating sick and injured turtles.

Day FOUR (Heron Island)

At this World Heritage-listed Marine National Park, all flora and fauna are protected, so the island is a nature lover’s paradise, where the emphasis is on enjoying natural beauty. Stress is replaced by adventure, and your time is filled with discovery. World-famous for its fantastic scuba diving and snorkelling, experience some of Australia’s best dive spots – more than 20 dive sites are available, only minutes from the beach. Heron Island offers many activities such as guided island and reef walks, research station tours, semi-submersible cruises and star gazing. An amazing array of animal and birdlife can be discovered throughout the year, such as the delightful Green and Loggerhead Turtles that nest on the island between October and March, with hatchlings emerging between December to April.



The University of Queensland’s Heron Island Research Station is a world-class research and teaching facility: the largest island-based research station in the Southern Hemisphere with a rich history pre-dating its construction in 1951. The facility is utilised by over 60 institutions, domestic and international, as part of educational programs, workshops and of course as a base from which to conduct ground-breaking discoveries. Private tours are run daily by station staff, providing detailed insight into operations and projects.

Day FIVE (Hervey Bay & Fraser Island)

Fraser Island is the world’s largest sand island, stretching for 123km and spanning 166,000 hectares. Follow in the footsteps of the royals and visit Fraser Island to be dwarfed by the ancient, gravity-defying rainforests growing out of only sand, and to explore the freshwater lakes and spectaculars sand formations of one of the most incredible islands on earth. World Heritage-listed, the island offers cool towering rainforests to walk through; over 100 freshwater lakes to swim including the iconic Lake MacKenzie, huge sand blows to climb, and an amazing 120km beach highway which you can 4WDrive by yourself if you feel called to step ashore for a few hours.
Lake Mackenzie is a ‘perched’ lake, which means it contains only rainwater, no groundwater, is not fed by streams and does not flow to the ocean. The sand and organic matter at the base of the lake form an impervious layer, preventing rainwater from draining away.
There is no place like Hervey Bay for breathtaking, up close and personal encounter with majestic humpback whales. The stunning intimacy of a moment with these gentle giants will leave you with amazing memories you won’t capture anywhere else.
Return at Hervey Bay late afternoon, where we say our goodbyes to the amazing Captain and Crew and disembark.

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