23 stunning photos of the Great Barrier Reef, which was just named the world’s best vacation spot

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The reef is home to over 1,500 species of fish, but that’s just one of its many attractions.
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Looking for an exotic, once-in-a-lifetime getaway? Australia’s Great Barrier Reef might be just the place.

Famous for its unparalleled natural diversity, the Great Barrier Reef is one of the seven wonders of the natural world, and it’s the only living thing on Earth that’s visible from space.

Adding to its many accolades, the Great Barrier Reef was recently named the world’s best place to visit in a ranking by US News and World Report. The ranking was based on a methodology that combined travelers’ opinions with expert analysis. They considered 250 vacation destinations to make the final list.

These breathtaking photos will show why the Great Barrier Reef earned the top spot.


The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system. It’s composed of more than 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands, and it stretches over 1,400 miles. That’s almost the length of the entire East Coast of the US.

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It runs along the coast of Queensland in Northeastern Australia, beginning at the tip of Cape York Peninsula and extending down to Bundaberg.

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Part of what makes the Great Barrier Reef the world’s premiere travel destination is the endless list of unique activities that visitors to the region can take part in.

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Of course, scuba diving and snorkeling are the most popular activities with tourists. Though the reef has suffered some from the effects of climate change, it boasts unparalleled ecological diversity, and much of it is hidden below the water’s surface.

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Source: Associated Press


For non-swimmers, these magnificent wonders are also visible from glass-bottom boats.

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Beyond aquatic excursions, though, the Capricorn Coast and the greater Queensland region boast a tremendous variety of things to do.

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Scenic helicopter tours offer a bird’s eye perspective — it’s the best way to fully appreciate just how vast the Great Barrier Reef really is.

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Hot air balloons offer the same aerial views, but at a slower pace. Passengers can take in the majesty of Tropical Northern Queensland at sunrise.

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Day trips to the islands in the Great Barrier Reef area combine the best of both worlds: there are plenty of opportunities to swim and snorkel among the underwater wildlife, but visitors can also experience the beauty of tropical rain forests and sandy beaches.

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For sailing aficionados, the open waters of Queensland’s Capricorn Coast make for perfect conditions. Catamarans and other small boats can be rented by the day, or large boats with their own crews can be hired for overnight or multi-day cruises.

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Adrenaline seekers can also get their thrill. White-water rafting down North Queensland’s Tully River requires no previous experience, and takes rafters through a World Heritage-listed rain forest.

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No trip to Australia would be complete without seeing some of the larger creatures that call the continent home. At Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures, guests can see crocodiles up-close, meet koalas, and stroll the rainforest boardwalk to spot other flora and fauna.

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The Skyrail Rainforest Cableway helps visitors to discover Australia’s rain forests through yet another lens, gliding just above the canopy.

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An area rich in history and heritage, North Queensland also offers one-of-a-kind dining, shopping and cultural experiences.

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At Flames of the Forest, guests can enjoy the best of Australian food and wine beneath ancient rainforest trees. The sounds of the forest at night and the use of thousands of candles as lighting only enhance the enchantment.

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Not far from the North Queensland coast, Kuranda village is a great place to learn about the indigenous community of the region. It has been home to the Djabugay Aboriginal people for more than 10,000 years, and their vibrant culture continues to thrive.

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Kuranda is also world-famous for its markets. Stalls are open every day of the year, and offer a wide range of Aboriginal artifacts, handmade leather goods, jewelry, and art pieces.

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For travelers looking for luxury, Hervey Bay is a top destination. The Great Barrier Reef is just off the coast from this beach-side town, and many of its high-end hotels are located right on the Pacific Ocean, like the Akama Resort.

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With cuisine influences from all over the world and unlimited access to fresh seafood, there’s no excuse for eating poorly near the Great Barrier Reef. Taking advantage of the location, some of the region’s best restaurants are on boats.

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Beachside restaurants are also abundant, offering top-of-the-line dining with unparalleled ocean vistas. Bommie, a restaurant on Hamilton Island, plays into the theme with sail-shaped tables. Menu highlights include seafood risotto, kangaroo fillet, and blood-peach soufflé.

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From food, to culture, to nature and wildlife, the Great Barrier Reef region has it all.

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Its rich diversity of ecosystems mix with vibrant towns and cities to produce a vacation destination that’s unlike any other.

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Whether you’re a family looking to satisfy multiple age groups, an individual seeking thrill and adventure, or a bunch of friends wanting to relax in a tropical paradise, the Great Barrier Reef is waiting for you.

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