Highlights From A Great Barrier Reef Scenic Flight

My obsession with Australia can be traced back to my college years: summers spent working in a photo lab, saving all my earnings for my year studying abroad in Sydney. When I wasn’t waiting on customers or developing film (yep, this was back in the days of film cameras), I’d be hiding in the back of the lab engrossed in my Eyewitness Guide to Australia. I’ve since become a Lonely Planet/Rough Guides girl, but what Eyewitness lacks in useful, practical information it makes up for in sheer quantity of imagery. I didn’t care about the logistics of planning a trip at the time – I just wanted to look at all the beautiful places that existed in the country I’d soon be calling home.

There was one image I’ve had engrained in my mind ever since then: an aerial view of the Great Barrier Reef, with one segment that looked like a heart – the aptly named Heart Reef.

Great Barrier Reef scenic flight

I never managed to make it there during my year studying abroad. My travels took me to the Outback more than they did the Reef, and when I did hit the east coast I opted to snorkel on Lady Elliot Island instead of heading north to the heart of the reef. It ended up being one of the best experiences of my life, despite being at the expense of my long-harbored dream of flying over the reef.

So I knew when I embarked on my second Australian stint, it had to happen. I wasted no time in booking a Great Barrier Reef scenic flight with GSL Aviation and, a week after arriving in Australia, I soon found myself soaring over the Whitsundays and the surrounding reef. This is what a dream come true looks like:

wpid9004-reef-scenic-flight.jpg

Scenic flight over the Great Barrier Reef

Hill Inlet, Whitsundays

Aerial view of Hill Inlet.

Great Barrier Reef scenic flight

Whitehaven Beach.
Great Barrier Reef scenic flight

Great Barrier Reef scenic flight

Great Barrier Reef scenic flight

Heart Reef.
Great Barrier Reef scenic flight

Great Barrier Reef scenic flight

Great Barrier Reef scenic flight

Sitting shotgun on the plane.
Great Barrier Reef scenic flight

Pro Tip: Shoot with a long lens to avoid the glare on the plane window. Also: bring a water bottle on the flight – it gets HOT in there!

Thank you to GSL Aviation for providing me with a discount on their Reef & Island flight! Note that all opinions expressed here and elsewhere on this blog are my unbiased own, and are uninfluenced by any gifts or incentives I may receive.

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Great Barrier Reef scenic flight

Frugal Facts

As of December 2014 —
A 30 minute Island Explorer flight costs $99, and a 60 minute Reef & Island flight costs $199 with GSL Aviation from Airlie Beach.

Lindsay Buckley is the photographer and travel blogger behind Frugal Frolicker. She's a New Yorker currently based in Sydney, Australia, documenting outdoor travel experiences Down Under and beyond. Follow along with Lindsay's travel photography on Facebook and Instagram, and be sure to sign up for the monthly Frugal Frolicker newsletter!

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  • Anne

    OMG these pictures. I die.
    Though I’d love to have you in SF (someday!) and I’m so thrilled for this next stage in Australia for you. And I am obsessed with following along through your gorgeous photos!
    Happy New Year, girl!

    • lindsaypunk

      Thanks, girl! I’m still not over it either! This country is too easy to create beautiful photos in. And don’t worry – SF isn’t going anywhere! I’m only allowed a year in Aussie, so eventually I’ve gotta leave :P

  • Yeah, my 15 minute helicopter flight remains one of the highlights of my trip to Australia, but we didn’t flight over a large area. Your photos are gorgeous ! Glad you made a dream come true today !

    • lindsaypunk

      Thanks, Olivia! It goes by so fast, doesn’t it? Yet it’s so incredible that it leaves visual imprints in your mind once it’s over. I hope they’ll always be there, available for recall at any time! :)

  • I want to go to Australia now. Soooo beautiful :D

    • lindsaypunk

      Well then my work here is done! :P

  • Holy cow these shots are incredible!! This part of Australia is so high on my list!

    • lindsaypunk

      Aw thanks Amanda! Rightfully so – it was high on mine as well! Well worth the effort and cost, for sure :D

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