A Whitsunday Great Barrier Reef day flight from Airlie Beach over Heart Reef to swim on Whitehaven Beach is the way to explore Hardy Reef.

Whitsunday Great Barrier Reef Day Flight

Stretching 2,300 km along the coastline of Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef is the largest living thing on earth. You can explore it by boat, but departing from Airlie Beach, the Air Whitsunday Panorama Tour is worth the splurge. The half-day (four-and-a-half hour) tour is bucket list stuff offering an eagle’s eye view of the Whitsunday Islands National Park and the Great Barrier Reef, with snorkelling, beachcombing and champagne of course.

First stop on the Great Barrier Reef day flight  –  Whitehaven Beach

Great Barrier Reef day flight to Hardy Reef leaves from Whitsunday Airport, located about 15 minutes from Airlie Beach. We boarded a seaplane to head out over the Great Barrier Reef to the first destination, Whitehaven Beach.  Our group was small, with only nine people, including the pilot, which is in stark contrast to the numbers on some of the boat trips which ply the same route. It was coral spawning time so the normally clear blue water was decorated with ribbons of floating algae which is all part of the reef’s renewal. Gazing out the window, the water appeared transparently aqua with gleaming white sandbanks just underneath the surface.

Whitehaven Beach

The plane cruised around Hill Inlet, showing the expanse of white sand that makes Whitehaven Beach so distinctive. It only took a few minutes, and we were down on the water landing at Whitehaven, which was just as smooth as the runway takeoff. Pilot Paul Steszewski positioned the plane close to the beach, and we stepped off the floats into knee-deep water, wading to the shore for our glass of champagne, chocolates, chips and cookies. A stroll along the blindingly white sand beach followed by a swim was too hard to resist. I could have spent all day floating in the water, but we had more on the Great Barrier Reef reef day flight list, including a look at the famous Heart Reef near Hardy Reef.

Snorkelling at Hardy Reef

Back in the plane for more of the Great Barrier Reef day flight to Hardy Reef, we cruised over more heartbreakingly beautiful reefs towards the outer edge. Then we reached Hardy Reef and the famous Heart Reef, a natural coral composition. I’m told Heart Reef has been the scene of many proposals, and if you let the pilot know before the flight, he might be able to help with a little extra time to get those words out.

Snorkelling around the coral garden at Hardy Reef revealed a world of wonderment.  Amazing corals were waving in the current, hundreds of small fish weaving in and around the formations, and larger fish cruising on the bottom looking suspiciously above, all while bathing in the warm waters of the Whitsundays. A blissful place.

Getting there

It’s two hours of swimming and viewing, but it seems like a microsecond, and you are back on the plane, waving goodbye to a very special part of the world.

The Air Whitsunday Panorama Tour costs $699 per adult.  Worth every cent in my book.

More about the Great Barrier Reef

Disclaimer:  Ed+bK travelled as a guest of Tourism Whitsunday.