What's New on The Great Barrier Reef in Queensland, Australia

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Exciting New Attractions, Accommodations and Experiences Debut on the World Heritage-Listed Reef

For travelers heading down under in 2020, the iconic Great Barrier Reef in Queensland, Australia, the world’s largest coral reef system and Australia's most remarkable natural and living icon, invites visitors to experience the destination in exciting and sustainable new ways. With a mecca of stunning marine life and coral cays, unparalleled diving and snorkeling opportunities, picturesque tropical islands and a range of fascinating underwater experiences, the Great Barrier Reef lives up to its designation as one of the great natural world wonders. In 2020, travelers will have the opportunity to contribute to the ongoing protection and conservation of the Reef while experiencing new sustainable tourism developments such as underwater art exhibits, citizen science programs, luxury eco-resorts, Indigenous culture, wellness expeditions and more. Below is a sampling of recent updates from the Great Barrier Reef. For additional information, please visit http://www.queensland.com.


Ngaro Underwater Sculpture Trail – The Whitsundays – Launched March 2020

In an Australian and Great Barrier Reef first, avid snorkelers, divers and marine enthusiasts will be treated to an underwater wonderland with the installation of underwater art in The Whitsundays’ Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The underwater sculptures have been installed at popular locations around The Whitsundays including Langford Reef, Blue Pearl Bay, Manta Ray Bay and Horseshoe Bay, by a variety of international and local artists including Col Henry, Adriaan Vanderlugt and Brian Robinson. These incredible sculptures will not only provide a unique new experience for travelers, but will also act as new bases for coral growth and animal shelter.

Among the six art installations include the Anthozoa by Ngaro artist Nicky Bidju Pryor, a reimagining of the tiny coral polyp, considered the life source of the Reef and rendered as the single largest underwater sculpture in the world; the Manta Ray by local artist Adriaan Vanderlugt featuring a traditional Ngaro theme of a dreamtime story on the sculpture of a Manta Ray, with a design including 74 different size circles representing the 74 islands in the Whitsundays as well as Aboriginal symbols; and the Turtle Dream by Col Henry, a sculpture of the critically endangered Hawksbill turtle, which was created with 800 hand-shaped, welded and polished individual pieces. The other sculptures include a Maori Wrasse at Blue Pearl Pay off Hayman Island, an additional Manta Ray installation depicting the vulnerable species’ migration pattern and the Bywa ‘waterspout’, rich with marine animals common to Bowen waters.

The Museum of Underwater Art (MOUA) – Townsville – Opening April 2020

Launching in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park this April, the Museum of Underwater Art (MOUA) will be the first of its kind in Australia, aiming to increase awareness of the threatened ecosystem and rehabilitate parts of the reef. The underwater museum will comprise of a series of educational sculptures that reflect reef and ocean conservation action, showcase the local Indigenous culture and provide positive environmental impacts on the Reef. The art installations will be created by the world’s leading underwater sculptor, Jason deCaires Taylor, in collaboration with a series of local and Indigenous artists.

The art will be spread across four sites within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, with the first two installations set to launch April 2020. The first artwork, “Ocean Siren”, located on the Strand in Townsville, known as Australia’s center for marine science, is an intertidal, solar-powered sculpture of an Indigenous girl that changes color to alert people of critical temperature rises, using data from the Australian Institute of Marine Science. The second is the large-scale “Coral Greenhouse” on the stunning John Brewer Reef, which will be installed just before coral spawning to provide coral larvae with a new clean surface to attach to. By the end of 2020, Palm Island will debut art that shares the stories of the local Indigenous community, accessible only with official tour guides and designed to help boost the economy from tourism. The final submerged artwork, a reef science installation, is expected to open in early 2021 at Geoffrey Bay on Magnetic Island.

Marine Biologist for Day + Astronomer for a Night Program by Sunlover Reef Cruises – Launched December 2019

For travelers looking to play their part in helping the reef, Sunlover Reef Cruises has just launched the first Great Barrier Reef day and night citizen science program – Marine Biologist for a Day + Astronomer for a Night. The program encompasses a guided snorkel safari, where participants will record health observations on the reef including identifying marine creatures, analyzing coral health and looking for signs of environmental impacts. The data collected is then inputted directly to the “Eye on the Reef” program run by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA). Reef enthusiasts are also educated on the various sea creatures that inhabit Moore Reef, the environmental aspects that impact the reef and how they can lower their carbon footprint in their everyday lives. For the night time portion, which is hosted by marine experts, participants will sleep in deluxe swags on the Moore Reef Marine Base to view the stars and learn about the constellations and other astronomical features of the Southern Hemisphere. This combined program is available for groups of 10+ for $624 per person. The Marine Biologist for a Day and Astronomer for a Night (an add-on to the company’s Sunlover By Starlight program) can also be booked separately.


Reefsuites, Cruise Whitsundays – Whitsundays – Opened December 2019

Cruise Whitsundays recently launched Australia’s first underwater accommodations on the Great Barrier Reef. The two Reefsuites, which include a premium king and a twin single, feature floor-to-ceiling, panoramic views of tropical marine life including tropical fish, turtles and manta rays. The Reefsuites are the centrepiece of the $8 million sustainable redevelopment of the Reefworld pontoon. The full Reefsuite experience is priced at $749 per person, based on double occupancy, and includes a return scenic cruise out to the reef, all meals and beverages including a spectacular dining experience under the stars, a selection of marine activities including a private guided snorkeling tour and a semi-submarine tour, and overnight accommodation in one of the two private, underwater suites.

Flynn by the Crystalbrook Collection, Cairns – March 31, 2020

The sustainable hotel brand Crystalbrook Collection will open their newest five-star hotel, Flynn, referred to as the ‘social butterfly’ of the collection on March 31. Situated opposite the Cairns Esplanade boardwalk, Flynn features two glass pools overlooking the Coral Sea, 311 stylish rooms and suites, three levels of restaurants and bars, the Eléme Day Spa, a 24-hour gym, and meeting spaces for up to 120 people. The Flynn embraces Crystalbrook Collection’s mantra of ‘responsible luxury’, embracing environmental change to enhance, not compromise, the quality of guest experiences.

Lady Musgrave Island Underwater Accommodations – Lady Musgrave Island – July 2020

Lady Musgrave Island has recently announced Great Barrier Reef observatory and underwater accommodation as part of a new multi-level pontoon development, which will create a whole new way for visitors to experience the island and the region. The three-level pontoon will provide underwater accommodation for up to 24 people with 360-degree views of the reef, an underwater observatory with UV lighting so visitors can experience the reef at night, as well as upper decks for diving, snorkelling and glass bottom boat tours. The pontoon is expected to draw an additional 16,000 visitors to the region every year and drive more than $1.8 million in visitor expenditure.

Coral Sea Marina Resort Renovations – Stage One completed December 2019

The iconic Airlie Beach Coral Sea Marina Resort in The Whitsundays, which recently underwent a rebrand when they merged with Abell Point Marina, has just completed stage one of their extensive renovations with additional stages planned throughout 2020. The first stage, completed December 2019, focused on the hotel’s external and common spaces including a new pool area, poolside restaurant, fitness room, lobby, reception and arrival plaza, and an expanded private beach. Room renovations began in February 2020 and are expected to be completed in stages. The renovations will cap off the rebranding process for the resort and the marina, making it a premier Australian tourism destination once complete.

About Tourism and Events Queensland
Tourism and Events Queensland (TEQ) is a statutory body of the Queensland Government and the state's lead marketing, destination and experience development and major events agency.
In partnership with government, regional tourism organizations, industry and commercial stakeholders, we aim to build Queensland's tourism and events industry to foster innovation, drive industry growth and boost visitor expenditure.

TEQ is a consumer-led experienced-focused and destination-delivered organization that connects people and places like never before through innovation and collaboration with the tourism and events industry.

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Emma Silverman
Tourism and Events Queensland

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Tourism and Events Queensland
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