Southern Reef Explorer

from £2237
excluding flights *
11 nights 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 Island and Heron Island
  • 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

What's Included

  • Accommodation in rooms with private bathroom
  • All breakfasts, 1 lunch, 3 dinners
  • Car rental including GPS
  • 4WD Fraser Island Explorer Tour

Full description

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 Great Barrier Reef which is filled with incredible experiences that will last a lifetime.

The Reef begins at Bundaberg and 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 on the planet to watch these gentle giants. Migrating birds take the opportunity to break their journey and nest on the islands while whales pass through these waters on their winter journey from the Antarctic to warmer northern waters and on their return.

Also consider

Explore the northern section of the Great Barrier Reef on our 14 day Northern Reef Explorer which includes stays on idyllic Lizard Island, Orpheus Island and Daydream Island.

Contact our Australia specialists now
nordic team doug kington bw
Authentic holidays for passionate travellers

Prices & Dates *

Airfares start from around £730 per person and are quoted separately to the holiday price. When enquiring, our Travel Specialists will provide the best fare possible from your preferred airline / airport.

From prices per person based on 2 sharing a room with private bathroom

Departure Duration Twin Price (pp)
01 Apr 2020 - 31 Mar 2021 11 nights £2,237

What's Included

  • Accommodation in rooms with private bathroom
  • All breakfasts, 1 lunch, 3 dinners
  • Car rental for 2 days (intermediate vehicle) - including GPS
  • Full day 4WD Fraser Island Explorer Tour
  • Return flights to Lady Elliot Island
  • Return boat transfers from Gladstone to Heron Island
  • 24 hour emergency assistance from our team during your holiday
  • No surcharge guarantee
  • Full financial protection »

What's Not Included

  • Environmental management charge - to be paid locally

Itinerary & Accommodation

Itinerary & Accommodation

Day 1: Hervey Bay

Arrive into Hervey Bay and make your own way to your accommodation.
Overnight: Oaks Resort & Spa.

Day 2: Hervey Bay

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. Alternatively during July and October you may which to join a 4 hour morning whale watching cruise instead.
Overnight: Oaks Resort & Spa.

Day 3: Hervey Bay - Lady Elliot Island

This morning make your way to Hervey Bay Airport and board your 40 minute scenic flight to Lady Elliot Island, the only coral island on the reef with an airstrip. Activities include eco-walking trails, snorkelling, scuba diving, turtle trek tours, historical tours and night explorer tours. Those exploring the eco-walking trail will visit the island's varied ecosystems including the wetlands, rainforest, coral reef and coasts where you'll 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. Breakfast and dinner included.

Days 4-6: Lady Elliot Island

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. Breakfast and dinner included.

Day 7: Lady Elliot Island - Bundaberg

Today you will travel 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. Continental breakfast included.

Day 8: Bundaberg - Heron Island

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. Breakfast included.

Days 9-11: Heron Island

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. Breakfast included.

Day 12: Heron Island - Gladstone

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.

Lady Elliott Island Eco Resort, Great Barrier Reef


Grade: Standard

Type: Hotel

Lady Elliott Island Eco Resort is a small unpretentious resort focused on providing guests with a genuine eco-tourism experience.

Discover More

Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef


Grade: Superior

Type: Unique And Boutique

Beautiful Heron Island is a natural coral cay with no day-trippers and just 109 guest rooms.

Discover More

Responsible Travel

Responsible Travel

Read on for further information on some of the working conservation projects included throughout your itinerary.

Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort
Dedicated to the preservation of the Great Barrier Reef, Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort have reduced their energy consumption and carbon emissions by introducing a combination of solar and gas technology, water desalination and various strategic behavioural adaptations on the island. In conjunction with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), Lady Elliot Island has developed the first dedicated Climate Change Trail and Tour around the island to highlight the impacts that climate change could have on a coral cay eco system.

Heron Island
Exemplifying ecotourism at its best, Heron Island Resort has been awarded an Advanced Eco-Certification by Ecotourism Australia. In addition to running their own power generator, producing potable water and treating wastewater, Heron Island Resorts also provides these services to the independent Heron Island Research Station and the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Ranger Station (QPWS). The University of Queensland’s Heron Island Research Station is a world-class research and teaching centre. 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 research. Visit the research station on a guided tour during your stay to gain a detailed insight into how the station operates and the research that is conducted there.


How to Book
Call us on 01737 214 250 to discuss your plans or
Enquire Now
Browse the website

Find a holiday idea or suggested itinerary that inspires you, then send an enquiry or call us

Personalised Quote

Your dedicated travel specialist will create a quote based on your preferences

Refine & Book

Together we’ll refine your itinerary until you’re happy and ready to book

You’re in safe hands

From the moment you book until you return home we’re here for you no matter what

You may also like

Northern Reef Explorer

from £5717
excluding flights
13 nights Year round
This independent holiday allows you to explore some of its breathtaking and pristine islands and experience for yourself this spectacular environment.
  • Wildlife
  • Independent
  • Active
  • Island Escapes

East Coast Wonders

from £2324
excluding flights
18 nights Year round
Capture some of Queensland's biggest coastal attractions on this epic East Coast self drive journey.
  • Self Drive
  • Classic Experiences

Discover Australia’s Pacific Coast

from £1690
excluding flights
10 nights Year round
The legendary Pacific Coast is home to some of mainland Australia’s most spectacular scenery.
  • Self Drive