Sleeping on a pontoon on the Great Barrier Reef is old news. Now, you can stay underwater and sleep with the fishes with your own floor-to-ceiling view of the action. It’s like a giant screen with rolling footage of sea creatures swimming in the shifting light.
The two Reefsuites at the brand-new $10 million 540-square-metre Reefworld pontoon at Hardy Reef, 40 nautical miles from Queensland’s Airlie Beach, are a comfortable and private way to view the reef life. (There are also 12 Reefsleep swags on the top deck if you’d prefer to sleep under the stars.)
The glass-fronted, air-conditioned suite is four metres below the main deck (accessible via stairs) and features a glass panel in the floor – watch for surprise creatures swimming beneath – and its king-size bed can be split into singles. There’s an ensuite with the same floor-to-ceiling windows and robes and amenities are supplied. Travelling with the kids? The dividing wall between the two suites can even slide open to create one family room.
In daylight, the room is bathed in the blue glow of the water as schools of baitfish battle the current and yellow-tailed fusiliers make cameos. At night, you can control lights outside that draw sealife towards the glass. Agile giant trevallies dart after tiny flickering fish and you might get a shock at the size of a giant Queensland grouper – it’s certainly much bigger than you.
Can people see inside? Yes, if snorkellers are truly committed to ducking down to inspect the suites. Close the electric blinds if you’re concerned.
A Cruise Whitsundays ship departs daily to the Reefworld pontoon; the fare is included in your overnight rate and you can board the 300-passenger catamaran on its daily journey from Airlie Beach or on its stops to pick up daytrippers and guests from Daydream Island or Hamilton Island (Qantas flies to Hamilton Island from Sydney and Melbourne). It’s about two hours from Hamilton through the Whitsunday Passage and about three hours from Airlie; the boat leaves early and arrives back late so factor in a night’s accommodation either side. Guests can also travel to the pontoon by helicopter; contact Hamilton Island Air for details.
With coral just a few kicks of a flipper away, snorkelling and diving are of course the drawcards here. Take a guided snorkel – it’s worth it for the knowledgeable guides pointing out things you might miss – or an introductory or certified scuba dive.
Because the visiting Cruise Whitsundays boat holds so many daytrippers, the pontoon can be bustling with snorkellers, divers and diners (a buffet lunch is served on board). But the real beauty of being an overnight guest here is when the crowds have gone. The waters turn tranquil once again and you might spot a turtle, reef shark or manta ray all of your own.
If you’d rather keep dry, Reefworld has an underwater viewing window and operates its own semi-submersible, which drives along the reef for easy sealife viewing. Or you can take a scenic helicopter flight that includes an aerial view of Instagram staple Heart Reef.
Meals and drinks are included in the rate and the spread is plentiful and a good step above the offerings you might expect this far from land.
Drinks and canapés are a must as you watch the sun go down followed by dinner that might include steak, reef fish, salad and grilled vegies. There’s a special thrill to feasting at a long table under fairylights in a warm Queensland breeze, as well as waking up to calm dawn waters, eggs to order and a trusty coffee machine. Although the wine list isn’t extensive, your glass will be freely topped up (cocktails and spirits are extra).
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