Alas, we are in our final Honeymoon Series blog post, and if you’ve made it this far, you’re the best <3. I promise that I have saved the best for last! When initially starting our research on New Zealand and Australia, and decided that we 100% needed to see the Great Barrier Reef. It’s one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World and is something that’s always been on both of our bucket lists. We spent a lot of time researching the best place to stay for easy access to the reef, so I hope that you’ll find this post helpful if the GBR is on your bucket list as well!
From Sydney airport, we flew direct to Hamilton Island Airport (HTI), which was about a 3-hour flight. Hamilton Island is a small island off the coast of Northeastern Australia and is known as the “gateway to the Great Barrier Reef.” It’s basically the closest, most reasonably priced place to stay near the reef. Hamilton Island is part of the beautiful Whitsunday Islands in the Coral Sea, and flying into the HTI airport was seriously unreal. There are islands every direction you look, full of lush greenery and white sandy beaches. Stepping off the airplane, I was met with the most delicious, fresh, warm air. We were so ready for some island time after being in big-city-Sydney for the previous few days! We stayed on beautiful Hamilton Island for 5 days, 4 nights, and we sincerely loved every minute of our time here. We stayed at this awesome airbnb (would 110% recommend!) that included the most beautiful views, access to laundry facilities, a full kitchen, and our own buggy (aka golf cart). Since there are no cars on the island, a buggy is a must to be able to get around the island easily!
There are SO MANY things to do when you’re staying on Hamilton Island. We simply didn’t have time to see and do everything we wanted to, but here are some of our favorite things we did:
And, here we are to the main attraction and our reason for visiting Hamilton Island… the Great Barrier Reef! When deciding between a boat trip (2-3 hours one way) or helicopter flight (30 minutes) to the reef, we took into consideration cost, time, and enjoy-ability of the overall experience. We opted for the “Hamilton Island Air Reef Discovery Fly Both Ways by Helicopter” tour so that we could see the spectacular views from above, didn’t have to deal with any potential sea sickness from the long boat ride over, have a shorter trip (60 minutes in the sky round-trip, compared to 5-6 hours via boat), and could also have adequate time to snorkel in the reef. This was hands down the best excursion we’ve ever been on while traveling!
We departed from the Hamilton Island airport, and we were able to easily drive our buggy over here. The overall helicopter ride was pretty smooth, just a little turbulence here and there, but our pilot made us feel safe and comfortable and gave us so much invaluable information about the islands and the reef. On our 30-minute flight to the reef we also flew over many of the Whitsunday Islands and the famous Whitehaven Beach (which we visited and I’ve written about it further below). As we approved the reef itself, our pilot identified the very large coral reef wall that separates the ocean from the reef. I was absolutely amazed! The colors and patterns of the reef from the sky were simply astonishing. My eyes could barely recognize what I was even looking at as we flew over the intricate, interconnected, turquoise blue reefs. No joke, I had tears in my eyes flying over the reef itself because of how overwhelmingly beautiful it was.
Click here to be linked to the tour we went on. Would 200% recommend! It was worth every penny.
After about a 30-minute ride, our helicopter landed in the middle of the ocean/reef on that super tiny platform pictured above. It was definitely a little freaky landing on such a small platform, but we totally trusted our pilot! A small dingy boat then picked us up from the platform and took us to Reefworld, where we would be able to snorkel in the reef. The folks at Reefworld got us all settled into our snorkel gear, and then we had an hour to go out and explore the reefs. The water was pleasant and warm, and while a little choppy on the day we visited, it was still so clear and we were able to see many different types of colorful coral and fish! I was telling Diego the only regret I have about this trip was not investing in a better underwater camera. As you can see from the pictures above, they’re pretty grainy and not nearly as pretty as what we were able to see in person. But, at the same time, he reminded me that it’s better to just be in the moment and enjoy the memories, rather than trying to perfectly capture each moment. Such a smart guy he is, and a great reminder to us all in the digital age of social media.
There are over 1,500 different species of fish in the GBR, including the Finding Nemo clownfish. The Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest living structure, made up of 2,900 individual reefs. It’s nearly 1,400 miles long, and astronauts can see parts of the reef from outer space. After seeing it in person, *now* I understand why this is one of the 7 natural wonders of the world.
Unfortunately, as you’ve likely heard, climate change is largely impacting the Great Barrier Reef and the amount of wildlife here. Warmer ocean temperatures are putting stress on the coral and this can lead to “coral bleaching” or the coral dying. We learned that everything in the reef is interconnected, and it’s so important that we all do our part to lessen the effects of climate change to help protect this (and many other) beautiful parts of our world. We wanted to make it out to the reef before too much of our lives passed us by and while it’s still alive and thriving (and hopefully will be for generations and generations to come!). And, I am so very glad that we did.
While the beaches on Hamilton Island were absolutely beautiful, many folks on the island mentioned to us that we *needed* to make the trip out to Whitehaven Beach. Whitehaven Beach is a beach only open to daily visitors (no one is allowed to stay on this island and there are no accommodations here), and you can only access it via boat or seaplane. When searching around for tours, we decided on the “Cruise Whitsunday Whitehaven Beach Half Day Cruise,” because we didn’t want to spend a full day away. This was about a 4-hour trip in total, with a 30-minute boat trip there, about 2-hours to spend on the beach, and a 30-minute return trip home. The 7km beach itself is 98% pure white silica, which gives it a beautiful, translucent white color. The sand on the beach was so clean that it literally squeaked when we walked on it! And the water here was the most clear and warm water I’ve ever swam in. It felt like we were swimming in the world’s biggest - and most beautiful - bath tub. And, I was all for it!
Click here to be linked to the tour we went on. Would also highly recommend, and once again, it was worth every penny!
Ohh, dear honeymoon. YOU WERE AMAZING. We did the darn thing and are home safe and sound. We are so grateful for this beautiful trip to New Zealand and Australia, and we made memories that we will cherish for the rest of our lives together. Now, we're off to plan our next grand adventure!
WANDER BEYOND THE CITY LINES...
As much as I love to explore L.A., it's good for the soul to getaway every now & then. Join me as I escape from the city to explore new locations, both locally and globally!
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