Today’s recap is all about the third and final leg of our Australian travels, the Great Barrier Reef! (You can catch up on Sydney here and Halcyon House here.) We flew from the Gold Coast to Cairns and then drove a little over an hour to Port Douglas, the perfect jumping off point for exploring the reef as many of you recommended in the comments of this post!

We stayed at Thala Beach Nature Reserve about fifteen minutes from downtown Port Douglas and I wish we’d stayed in Port Douglas proper as it was surprisingly difficult to get an Uber in this part of the country and our hotel was a little more rustic than we’d expected. (Our treehouse room was down a steep hill that wouldn’t be suitable for many travelers and I think we overpaid for very bare bones amenities… personally next time I would skip the boutique experience and book at a well-known chain hotel in downtown Port Douglas. Always want to keep it real with you guys on travel recs!)

sailaway great barrier reef snorkeling on design darling

9seed st. tropez ruffle mini dress on design darling

scalloped swimsuit  //  rick rack cover-up

sailaway great barrier reef snorkeling

design darling australia

sailaway outer reef snorkeling

The morning of our final day in Australia, we were picked up by Sailaway for an all-day sailboat and snorkeling excursion through the Great Barrier Reef. We booked the outer reef excursion to the Mackay and Undine Coral Cays and paid $385 (USD) for the two of us and it was worth every penny! Neither of us had ever snorkeled before and this wound up being the most magical day of our trip! The boat itself was beautiful and the views both above and below the water were incredible. The tour company provided wetsuits, snorkel masks, flippers, and pool noodles which were actually so helpful as we snorkeled two times for over an hour each time! The guides were incredible knowledgable and made the whole experience totally approachable for participants of all levels.

sailaway great barrier reef snorkeling tour

sailaway great barrier reef snorkeling boat

design darling great barrier reef snorkeling

The coral reefs and fish were truly like something out of a movie. I had to keep reminding myself that we were actually there in person, swimming mere feet above these incredible sights, and not just watching an episode of Planet Earth. I wish I had better words to describe it but I really think the Great Barrier Reef is something that must be seen to be believed! I would highly, highly recommend putting it on your bucket list. We would love to go back someday and explore a different part — recommendations welcome!






I know will someone will ask about camera equipment so here it is! We used my Canon 5D Mark III with a 35mm f/1.4 lens for all the boat, outfit, and scenic shots and bought a GoPro Her0 7 for the underwater photos. Will took all the GoPro photos and found it pretty easy to get the hang of. Obviously the photo quality is nowhere close to a DSLR camera but I’m so happy we have underwater photos to remember this part of the trip!

sailaway great barrier reef snorkeling rainbow

barbados restaurant port douglas on design darling

It rained a little after our second snorkeling adventure but on the sail back to Port Douglas we were treated with the most spectacular rainbow over the water! When we got back to the marina we grabbed a quick bite at a delicious restaurant called Barbados overlooking the water and I couldn’t think of a dreamier end to this beautiful trip. Officially considering our first anniversary trip (ahem, taken closer to our eighteen month anniversary) one for the books!

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  1. If you’re interested in snorkeling a reef in a more accessible location, consider Belize! We snorkeled in Ambergirs Caye and it was as amazing as you describe, with the bonus of being much closer to visit. Your pictures are lovely.

  2. Omg girl this is bringing back all the memories! I visited the Great Barrier Reef & Port Douglas in 2008 when I studied abroad outside of Brisbane. It’s such a magical place!! It looks like you guys had the best time. Can’t wait to check out your other Australia recaps!!

    Amanda @ Cupcake N Dreams