Outer Reef, Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the world’s biggest natural wonder and the largest complex coral reef system on the entire planet.

Outer Reef

It’s made up of almost 3,000 individual reefs that sprawl out over an area of 344,400 square kilometres, including 900 paradise islands in its clutches.

Whilst the Great Barrier Reef is a popular hotspot for tourists, drawing in millions of visitors every year who are fascinated by the underwater world and the marine life that calls this part of the world home, the Outer Reef is a lesser-visited phenomenon.

Not because it doesn’t hold as much intrigue. In fact, some might say it holds more intrigue, as it’s perched right on the edge of the Great Barrier Reef.

What is an Outer Reef?

The Outer Reef marks the point where the complex coral system meets the great, wide ocean – the edge of the wall. Now you can probably see why the Outer Reef is one of the lesser-visited parts of the Great Barrier Reef. It is isolated from the mainland and takes a few hours on to get to from the Queensland shore.

What you’ll find near the Outer Reef

Whereas the main body of the Great Barrier Reef is pretty uniformed in its layout, with similar corals and a landscape that’s both picturesque and welcoming, the Outer Reef offers a complete experience, peppered with deep gullies that bore into the outer wall of the reef itself. Here, you’ll find heavy-duty corals that can withstand the drop-in depth and temperature and the wilder surroundings near the wide expanse of the ocean. The reef in this section grows from the ocean floor, instead of a land base region.

As well as this, though, you can also expect to see some of the typical colourful coral species that are so well-known throughout the rest of the Great Barrier Reef. On average, the outer reef contains harder coral, a large number of the same fish species, and a range of the larger marine animals. They offer protection for the plethora of marine life that lives undisturbed this far out.

The Pros and Cons

If you are looking for a full day out to immerse yourself in the natural underwater wonderland, the outer reef is for you. With a wide collection of wildlife, you can spread out away from the group and discover some unforgettable sights. Due to the outer reef not having as much runoff from the islands as the fringe reef possesses, the visibility is usually a lot better.

However, its unspoilt location is all due to its large distant away from the mainland. This can be both a pro and con for visitors, with the out reef being quite an effort to get to. Travelling with an experienced Reef Company is the only way to see this wondrous place and see and enjoy the very best the Great Barrier Reef has to offer. If travelling for long periods on a boat isn’t ideal for you, the outer reef trip might turn your day into a disaster. However, for some, it is worth it, with the area a lot less packed with tourist, but still bursting with wildlife.

What to do once you are there

  • Snorkelling


    Snorkelling is undoubtably the most popular activity along the Great Barrier reef, no matter where you go. It’s quite a easy breezy activity, suitable for any age and level of fitness, with even those just starting off with swimming lessons able to pick it up easily. Simply swim on the surface of the water and gaze down below to the underwater world. With creatures whizzing below you and colourful coral lighting up the sapphire water. With goggles, a breathing tube, and a pair of flippers, you can discover more things can you could of ever have imagined in the outer reef.

  • Scuba Diving

    Go a little deeper into the deep blue for an even more exhilarating adventure. It is the nest step up from snorkelling, but instead of the breath tube, you strap a whole tank of oxygen to your back. This allows you to stay down at the sea floor without having to venture up to the top a pesky breathing break. Instead, you remain in the underwater world, seeing the coral and marine life up close and personal, simply floating and swimming along the ocean floor slowly. Due to the flippers, even the most unsure swimmer can scuba dive, with majority of the Great Barrier Reef tours offering a beginner’s scuba dive.

  • Glass-Bottom Boat

    Sick of the saltwater? You don’t have to dive down below to see the iconic sea world of the reef. With the Glass bottom boat tour offering a great alterative to snorkelling and scuba diving. Featuring a small boat, with a completely clear floor, made completely out of glass. This gives visitors a window in the reef below them, seeing fish and other marine life whizzing below them as they slowly cruise along the surface.

  • Helicopter Flight

    Instead of travelling below the water’s surface, see the bird’s eye view of the reef! Roaming around the clouds to see the spectacular site of the Great Barrier Reef from above. If you are unsure about how much you will actually get to see from this high up, don’t fret, as the Great Barrier Reef is so distinguished, it can even be seen from space. Some of these epic reef spots can only be seen by helicopter, so it is truly a once in a lifetime experience.

  • Boom Netting

    For those after an adrenaline pumping activity, hop in for a boom netting adventure. Essentially a large net attached to the end of the tour boat. Simply hop in, with the water coming up to your waist, and hold on tight. The boat will then take off, speeding through the water to create a natural bubbling spa treatment. Here you can see the tropical islands, and marine life as you whiz past, giving you sights both above and below the water.

Related article: Facts about the Great Barrier Reef

Other tourist attraction: