5 OF AUSTRALIA’S BEST CORAL REEFS OUTSIDE NORTH QUEENSLAND
North Queensland is home to Australia’s famous Great Barrier Reef and this is, without a doubt, a dream destination for those looking to explore the elusive world beneath the water. What you may not realise is that there are other magical reefs around the country which may be even closer to your own backyard. Here are five of our favourites:
QLD: Flinders Reef
This sub-tropical reef is home to more species of coral than any single reef within the Great Barrier Reef region. The diverse range of marine life includes manta rays, turtles and sharks in addition to over 175 species of fish. Flinders Reef has a turtle cleaning station where you can see sea turtles resting on the corals while they are cleaned by surgeonfish and cleaner wrasse. Located in the Moreton Bay Marine Park, just out of Brisbane, it’s the perfect location for a day trip or a weekend getaway. If staying on Moreton Island, check out Tangatours for a glass bottom boat cruise or snorkelling and diving tours.
QLD: Sunshine Coast Reefs
For divers, a short boat ride from Mooloolaba will provide a selection of coral reefs that are known to be some of the healthiest reef systems in Queensland. The hard and soft corals are teeming with sea life including nudibranchs, turtles, manta rays and a colourful selection of tropical fish. These reefs are an easy day trip from Brisbane and Sunreef Mooloolaba offer an ECO certified diving trip suitable for divers of all levels.
NSW: Lorde Howe Island
UNESCO World Heritage listed Lorde Howe Island is only a two-hour flight from Sydney and lies in the centre of five major ocean currents, which have created a truly unique coral reef ecosystem. The reef is home to tropical species at their southern limit and cold-water species at their northern limit combining the best of both worlds. Many of the 500 fish species found here are endemic to the island so you won’t see them anywhere else.
WA: Rottnest Island
The reefs surrounding Rottnest Island rely on warm waters brought down by the Leeuwin current which have also carried tropical coral spawn down to the area, creating a southern coral reef. The 25 species of coral are home to a diverse array of marine life including 135 fish species, nudibranchs and tropical water visitors such as green sea turtles. Rottnest Island is located 20km offshore and can easily be reached by ferry as a daytrip. Visit Rottnest Express or Rottnest Island Authority to find out more about the island, as well as ECO certified tours of the coral reef.
WA: Ningaloo Reef
The World Heritage listed Ningaloo Marine Park is one of the most biologically diverse marine environments on the planet, stretching 300km across. A huge drawcard to this area is that it’s the only place in Australia where you can swim with whale sharks, the largest species of fish in the world. Other sea life that frequent the area include sea turtles and manta rays, as well as over 500 species of fish. Unlike many other coral reefs, areas of the Ningaloo can be reached right off the beach, making it easily accessible to all. The shallow edges of the reef provide perfect snorkelling conditions for people of all ages and mobility. There are many ways to enjoy the Ningaloo Reef and no shortage of ECO certified tour operators to ensure your trip is one which contributes to the protection of the reef in the long-term. See here for our list of Ningaloo operators.
What alternative reefs have you discovered around Australia? We’d love to hear about them!
[Cover photo: Tanga Tours]