Activity: Great Barrier Reef Cruise, Hamilton Island – Hardy’s Reef, Whitsunday Islands, Australia


This post is one chapter on our trip to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, Melbourne with The Great Ocean Road, exploring The Yarra Valley and the beaches of The Gold Coast via Qantas First Class. This trip was booked using Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

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Activity: Great Barrier Reef Cruise Whitsundays, Hamilton Island – Hardy’s Reef, Whitsunday’s Island, Australia

On day three at Hamilton Island, we were up very early for our Great Barrier Reef tour, hitting breakfast at 6:45 AM. We self drove ourselves in the golf cart down to the Cruise Whitsundays dock. 

We took the Cruise Whitsunday’s boat out where we opted to sit outside for the first part of the trip. It was bright and sunny and being on the top deck, there was a little bit of wind. There was lots of great hardware in the port as we headed out for the day.

I caught this plane on approach to HTI as it passed over the vessel.

The ride was mostly sheltered from the passage through the Whitsunday Islands. There is some spectacular scenery along the way within the Whitsunday Islands. 

We also passed by Hayman Resort. We had initially considered staying at Hayman, but were put off by the $600+/- USD transfer fee. This made doing activities harder so we just opted for Qualia and being close to the action on Hamilton Island instead.

When we got out into the open sea, the ride got considerably rougher. I was very glad that I had taken some Gravol Ginger as many people around me were in the process of getting sick. The Cruise Whitsundays staff did a great job of passing out bags and making sure people were given ice cube chips in order to calm the motion sickness. Truth be told, I was very happy not to have to ride the boat back with the knowledge that we were returning by helicopter. We were able to get some peek a boo view of whales 

Spending the Day at Cruise Whitsunday’s Hardy’s Reef Pontoon:

We arrived to the Great Barrier Reef location of the day “Hardy’s Reef”. It was my first trip to the Outer Reef and Cruise Whitsunday had a large scale operation set up with a permanent structure on the edge of the reef. The pontoon had day beds, underwater viewing platforms, walled changing areas out of the wind, stringer suit rinsing stations and all.

Since it was included in the day experience, we went on the underwater submarine tour. This was a boat with underwater windows that travelled the length of the reef. We had a turtle sighting and a few colorful fishes. It wasn’t anything to write home about and nothing like what we’d seen in the Maldives or some other locations. 

Snorkelling on Hardy’s Reef:

We then set out for a snorkel from the pontoon. In one of the most supervised and structured snorkeling experiences ever, there were staff out in boats lifeguarding (and maybe shark watching?), roped off areas and marked zones for snorkeling. The area immediately under the pontoon was a drop off and there was plenty of ability and opportunity to dive downwards up to 15 meters below the surface.

There weren’t many fish on the reef where we were. However, the major highlight of our snorkel was a Cruise Whitsunday’s diver who had located a large Napoleon Wrasse who seemed to be intent on hanging out and getting kisses from the diver. It was a terrific experience and really neat to be up close to one of these gorgeous fish. Photos courtesy of our Go Pro…

After a longish 30 minute snorkel, we got dry and headed back on to the boat for lunch. In the rush in the morning, we forgot to pack towels but we dried off pretty quickly despite it only being 21 degrees. Lunch was “prepare your own” ham sandwiches along with a whole assortment of self serve salads (potato salad, coleslaw, Caesar salad) along with giant tiger shrimps which the Chinese families were stacking up on like they were going out of style. 

Our Day with Cruise Whitsunday’s Great Barrier Reef Tour:

Overall, it was a neat adventure out to the pontoon that was complimented by the beautiful Napoleon Wrasse. Cruise Whitsunday’s took care of every anticipated need consistent with a reliable medium scale tour operator. We’d easily book with them again.


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