Agoda.com offers great value deals at the Great Barrier Reef
Situated off the coastline of Queensland – Australia's “Sunshine State" – the Great Barrier Reef is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, comprising more than 2,900 coral reefs and 900 islands. The reef is home to an estimated 1,500 tropical fish species, with humpback and minke whales, seals, turtles, and dolphins also part of this diverse and delicate ecosystem. The reef is one of the world's most idyllic tropical destinations, the turquoise waters and pristine beaches drawing family vacationers, honeymooners, and pro-divers alike.
Visitors to the Great Barrier Reef can explore the coral and cays via daytrip from the mainland – Cairns and Airlie Beach are two major launch points for such tours – or from “live-aboard" boats suited to divers. For travelers who prefer seclusion and exclusivity, staying at an island resort in the Great Barrier Reef will deliver the most tailored and memorable experience.
The reef stretches from Bundaberg in Queensland's south to just north of the Cape York peninsular – Australia's northernmost point – and there are scores of islands from which travelers can base their adventures. Accommodation ranges from fun-filled family resort to eco-stay to designer retreat with facilities and activities to suit all types of holiday-makers.
Right now, Agoda.com has some exclusive promotional rates at some of the Great Barrier Reef's best island resorts. Following is a quick guide to these islands and what sort of travelers they're best suited to.
ABOUT: Orpheus is one of the Great Barrier Reef's best-preserved islands, its 1,300 hectares protected as national parkland and home to OIRS, a research station that studies reef ecology. The park and its flora and fauna are one of the main attractions of Orpheus (aside from the teeming coral reef just offshore) and it's best suited to visitors that value seclusion, privacy, and nature-based activities.
AMBIENCE: Quiet, remote and serene.
HIGHLIGHTS: Australian native woodland and rainforest, echidnas, bandicoots, bottlebrush shrubs, Green Tree Frogs, Green Turtles, and more. Orpheus is also home to one of the reef's most diverse coral systems, with more than 1,000 fish species, 340 species of coral, and Giant Clams.
THE RESORT: Orpheus Island Resort is an exclusive property that accepts a maximum of 42 guests at a time, with children under 15 not permitted. This luxury resort's humble beginnings as a handful of rustic huts lives on in its unpretentious attitude, though service and amenities are unfailingly five-star. The seven-course degustation menu has garnered international praise and the resort is widely considered the Great Barrier Reef's most exclusive.
AGODA PROMOTION: Stay minimum 2 nights and enjoy a 25 percent discount. Rate includes all food and beverages. Promotion valid until January 8, 2011. Must book before November 25, 2010.
ABOUT: Daydream is one of the Whitsunday Islands, and one of the reef's most kid-friendly. One of the Great Barrier Reef's most accessible and affordable islands, it's only 30 minutes by catamaran from Airlie Beach on the mainland, making it a popular destination for day-trippers. The island is also popular with sailing aficionados.
AMBIENCE: Lively, casual, and family-friendly.
HIGHLIGHTS: At the Living Reef aquarium visitors can learn about and touch some of the reef's inhabitants, such as baby sharks and stingrays. Sunlovers Beach is a great place for snorkeling and diving. Local wildlife like wallaroos (a type of kangaroo) and goannas frequently wander through resort areas – a real treat for animal lovers.
RESORT: Daydream Island Resort is a full-service family resort offering a broad range of activities from coconut bowls to shark feeding to bingo and trivia nights. Crocodile safaris and reef cruises are offered and inexperienced divers can get training onsite. The range of activities on offer makes Daydream Island a good choice for families with young children and those who enjoy sailing and water sports. The beachfront open air cinema is a particular highlight.
AGODA PROMOTION: Book at least 2 nights at Daydream Island Resort and save 30 percent.
ABOUT: Another of the Whitsundays, Hayman is one of the Great Barrier Reef's most famous islands. The Whitsunday Islands receive hundreds of thousands of visitors a year, and Hayman is one of the most popular, being one of the first to host a resort – the only one on the island. Hayman is suited to travelers who want to experience the Great Barrier Reef with all the benefits of a luxury resort environment.
AMBIENCE: Relaxed and stylish. Families welcome.
HIGHLIGHTS: White sand beaches, night dives, golf, and bushwalks through woodland trails. At low tide, it's possible to walk to the surrounding coral reef.
THE RESORT: Hayman Resort is a modern five-star property perfect for travelers seeking a full-service vacation with a boutique feel. The resort has won numerous awards and undergone several upgrades since opening in the 1950s and offers an extensive range of activities, six restaurants, a designer shopping arcade, and a comprehensive spa. Luxurious beach villas will open in December 2010.
AGODA PROMOTION: Book at least 28 days in advance and enjoy a 25 percent discount.
ABOUT: Hamilton is the largest of Whitsunday's inhabited islands. It hosts a yacht club, a commercial airport, and six resorts, plus some residential homes. The majority of Hamilton's bushland and mangroves are protected as national parks and contain walking trails and lookouts. Beaches are the classic idyllic combination of white sand and calm turquoise waters.
AMBIENCE: Lively in the resort areas, relaxed in the national park.
HIGHLIGHTS: Scenic hiking trails that give visitors the chance to spot wallabies, goannas (lizards), cockatoos, kookaburras, and more Australian wildlife. Whitehaven Beach – a stunning seven-kilometer sandy stretch that was recently voted one of the world's most eco-friendly beaches by cnn.com. Many restaurants on Hamilton allow children to eat for free. At Hamilton Island Wildlife Park visitors can cuddle a koala.
RESORTS: The Reef View Hotel is a traditional high-rise structure with almost 400 rooms, all facing the Coral Sea. Children up to 12 stay and eat for free. The Beach Club is a luxurious boutique hotel on Catseye Beach with 57 contemporary-styled rooms and absolute beach frontage. Persons under the age of 18 are not permitted. Qualia, positioned on the quiet northern tip of the island, offers 59 spacious luxury pavilions and guests are given golf buggies to get around in.
AGODA PROMOTION: Pay 4/Stay 5 nights at Reef View Hotel from February 1 to March 31 2011.
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