A day on the Great Barrier Reef straight from Brisbane

Tiny Lady Elliot Island and its surrounding reef are one of Queensland's best kept secrets!

Most don't realise that it's possible to enjoy a true reef experience on a day trip without departing from Cairns or the Whitsundays.

Lady Elliot is an easy day trip for visitors located in Brisbane. In just 10 hours I was whisked from Brisbane's CBD to Lady Elliot and back via a scenic coastline flight. I managed a lagoon swim, glass bottom boat tour and snorkelling with turtles, rays and schooling fish, a relaxed lunch, reef walk and fish feeding. We left the heart of the city at 7.30am, and I was back by 6 pm.

The coastline flight was an unexpected highlight as we passed over places where I've holidayed many times from Sunshine Beach to Fraser Island.

Although I was hardly marooned, stepping foot on Lady Elliott felt a bit 'Robinson Crusoe'. It's a small, compact island that's packed with so much wildlife, wide coral beaches and natural beauty you might not want to leave.

Despite being so close to Brisbane, this region is relatively undiscovered, so there are fewer crowds, and a visit is more relaxed and personal. People come here to experience a destination that’s a little less mainstream. Where it's more about nature, reconnecting with family and friends or getting out and exploring than getting dressed for dinner.

Jacques Cousteau famously called the Southern Great Barrier Reef one of the world’s premier dive destinations. Expect to discover stunning, secluded reefs populated by a unique combination of large hard coral reefs, colourful fish and big marine life like turtles and manta rays. And the water is extraordinarily clear, even by Great Barrier Reef standards, so you’ll be left speechless by the experience of getting up close and personal with life in this stunning part of the Great Barrier Reef. Snorkelling on Lady Elliot's reef is within easy reach, right off the beach.

Here's what I saw-

Getting there

You can fly to Lady Elliot from the Gold Coast and Brisbane (via Redcliffe) for the day and enjoy five hours on the island, a tour, glass bottom boat, reef walk, lunch, buffet lunch, fish feeding, snorkel equipment, use of day guest facilities and more for $799 for an adult.

Find out more about the Southern Great Barrier Reef. 

Kerry Heaney

Disclaimer: Ed+bK travelled to Lady Elliot as a guest of Tourism Queensland and Scenic Air