Experience Australia’s tropical islands like you never have before on a new Cosmos tour.
White beaches, sparkling coves, aquamarine water and a plethora of sea creatures has made the Great Barrier Reef a big-ticket item for international tourists ever since actor Paul Hogan’s offer to throw another “shrimp on the barbie” in the ’80s. But plenty of Australians still need to explore the reef, which is why Cosmos has created a 10-day escorted Tropical Island Discovery tour catering specifically to Aussies. Here’s the low-down:
Brisbane & Noosa
Kick off your Queensland holiday in the state’s capital, Brisbane, getting to know your fellow Aussies over a welcome beer or two. Leave the city behind the following morning and head to the Sunshine Coast’s seaside playground, Noosa.
Hit the beachfront Parade, go surfing, get your shopping fix along Hastings Street and grab an ice-cream as you relax into holiday mode. For lunch, check out Peter Kuruvita’s Noosa Beach House.
It’s a fleeting visit to Noosa but you won’t mind once you step foot on Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world. Fraser is the first island stop on this escorted tropical tour and you’ve got the next three nights here to really chill out. Rest assured, you won’t want to leave.
There’s plenty to do on Fraser, starting with a wildlife-watching cruise where you could spot whales, dolphins and turtles. You’ll then be privy to a bush tucker demonstration before heading off to explore solo. A popular activity – and great option for keen photographers – is hiking to the top of Indian Head. Afterwards, chill out at Mercure Kingfisher Bay Resort, the premium accommodation on the island.
Day four sees you ticking off four-wheel-driving, one of the most popular Fraser pastimes. You won’t need to worry about the logistics of hiring a 4WD as you’ll be on a tour that takes in top sites such as Wanggoolba Creek, the Champagne Pools, rainforest of Pile Valley and coloured sand cliffs known as the Pinnacles. The rest of the day is spent at leisure, meaning you have time to take a dip in Lake McKenzie, a freshwater swimming spot surrounded by sand so fine it’s said you can clean your jewellery with it.
Back on the mainland, you’ll be heading north to Bundaberg Rum Distillery to learn about the history of Bundy and enjoy a tasting. Then it’s onto a ferry to Great Keppel Island where you’ll really feel like you’re in the Tropics. A local guide will show you around; make sure you ask about top sunset-watching spots.
You’re now on island time, so enjoy a relaxing morning (perhaps a pre-breakfast snorkel or paddleboard) before visiting the historic Leeke Homestead built in the 1920s. Other enticing activities include glass-bottom boat tours and jet-skiing.
Sarina & Airlie Beach
Take a momentary break from island life and continue up the East Coast to the cane plantation Sarina Sugar Shed, where you’ll join a tour of the mill and distillery. Next up is Airlie Beach, one of Queensland’s epicentres of fun. As the gateway to the Whitsundays, there’s a tonne of things to do in this palm-fringed town. Our pick is taking a dip in the free Airlie Beach Lagoon and enjoying a mojito at Fish D’vine. If you’re up for some rowdiness, head to one of the pubs on the main street after dinner.
We all know how popular the Great Barrier Reef is, but the “outer” reef is often left to intrepid Aussies, and that’s why it’s a highlight of this unique guided tour of Queensland’s islands.
A scenic cruise through the Whitsundays to the outer reef will whet your appetite to see more, so don your swimmers and mask and snorkel and explore this underwater world. You’ll also want to take advantage of optional activities such as guided snorkelling safaris, scuba diving and helicopter flights, the chance to ride in a semi-submarine and visit an underwater observatory.
Reef sleep extra
The Great Barrier Reef is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, and you’ll be kicking yourself if you don’t lap it up by staying overnight on the water. The beauty of this tour extra is that you’ll get to stay on to enjoy a unique Reefsleep once all the day-trippers head back to the mainland. This is an exclusive experience and one to cherish for years. Wind down with a sunset drink, enjoy a dinner of fresh local produce and then, when it’s snooze time, slip into your cosy Reefbed (read: fancy swags) on the pontoon’s top level. Fall asleep to the sound of the ocean, under a bazillion stars.
Jump back in the water as the sun rises to watch the reef wake up. Snorkel, swim or return to the observatory, and later lap up one of the best breakfast locations in Australia.
Airlie Beach goodbyes
You’ll need to say goodbye to the reef eventually and travel back to Airlie, where you can celebrate your Tropical Island Discovery over cocktails at a favourite watering hole. Trust us, the choice is endless.
Tropical Island Discovery is great for Australians eager to get to know the Great Barrier Reef. It’s made with Aussies in mind, so you’ll feel like you’re hanging with mates.
– Cosmos tours are all Covid-safe, with measures such as pre-trip health screenings, social distancing, and regular temperature checks. Learn more here.
– You may be sharing your experience with other travellers but rest assured these tours are aimed at like-minded Aussies, so expect to make plenty of friends.
– The itinerary allows for free time so you can make your own discoveries and enjoy some downtime, too.
– Guests can cancel their tour and get a full refund up to 30 days before departure with the free inclusion of Travel Protection with SafetyNet insurance.
– Meals include breakfast daily, four lunches and two dinners.
– For the Reefsleep, pack an overnight bag with necessities such as toiletries, a change of clothes, swimwear, sunscreen and your camera.The upgrade to Reefsleep has shared facilities.
Experience the Great Barrier Reef like a local on this Tropical Island Discovery or pick from five more great Cosmos itineraries.
Tropical Island Discovery at a glance
Day 1 Arrive Brisbane: Welcome drink and meeting.
Day 2 Brisbane – Noosa – Fraser Island: Explore Noosa; travel to Fraser Island.
Day 3 Fraser Island: Wildlife-watching cruise; bush tucker demonstration; afternoon at leisure.
Day 4 Fraser Island: 4WD island tour to Champagne Pools, Pile Valley rainforest and more; remainder of the day at leisure.
Day 5 Fraser Island – Bundaberg – Great Keppel Island: Return to the mainland and tour Bundaberg Rum Distillery; catch a ferry to Great Keppel Island; short tour of the island; enjoy a night off.
Day 6 Great Keppel Island: Free morning; afternoon visit to Leeke Homestead.
Day 7 Great Keppel Island – Sarina – Airlie Beach: Return to mainland; guided tour of Sarina Sugar Shed; arrive in Airlie Beach; evening to explore on your own.
Day 8 Airlie Beach – Great Barrier Reef: Scenic cruise through the Whitsundays to the Outer Great Barrier Reef; swim, snorkel, ride in a semi-submarine and more. You can upgrade your tour to include an exclusive Reefsleep experience, or head back to Airlie.
Day 9 Great Barrier Reef – Airlie Beach: If you upgraded, you’ll have free time on the reef and an afternoon cruise back to Airlie Beach. Non-reef sleepers have a free day in town. Farewell drink with Cosmos Tour Director and group.
Day 10 Airlie Beach: Breakfast before departing.
*Get the CosmosGO mobile app for more trip info.