In Travel

Luxury On The Reef: Australia’s First Underwater Accommodation

Imagine gazing across at schools of tropical fish, turtles and manta rays dancing in the gentle current before your eyes – not from behind a scuba mask but from the comfort and privacy of your own bedroom.

Newly-opened Reefsuites on Great Barrier Reef takes the notion of a room with a view to a whole new level – literally – and is your exclusive front-row seat to a mesmerising performance by creatures of the underwater world.

There’s no shortage of ten-out-of-ten scenery on Great Barrier Reef. The World Heritage-listed treasure off the coast of Australia’s Queensland is home to iridescent turquoise waters hugging stretches of white sandy beaches, vibrant marine life and intricate displays of coral – the world’s largest natural ecosystem.

These features make for a picture-perfect holiday backdrop. And now, visitors to the reef have access to something that provides a more intimate experience of the environment and one not previously available.

Reefsuites is Australia’s first underwater accommodation, complete with floor-to-ceiling glass walls framing bedrooms and bathrooms that dip below the water’s surface.

The brand new suites are developed by Cruise Whitsundays and general manager Shaun Cawood describes them as “combining unrivalled access to a World Heritage-listed destination with quality hospitality and a unique food and wine experience.”

“We love to give guests interactive experiences on Great Barrier Reef that will provide memories for a lifetime,” he says. “Reefsuites allows us to take this to the next level and provide a new and unique way of experiencing one of the best parts of Australia’s backyard.”

The suites feature as the centrepiece of the $8 million redevelopment of the Reefworld pontoon moored offshore at Hardy Reef; meticulously reconstructed and now re-open after 2017’s Cyclone Debbie caused extensive damage. The rebuild saw the largest natural coral transplant ever to be achieved on Great Barrier Reef. Over a week, almost 4,000 pieces of coral were sustainably removed from old moorings and replanted onto the existing reef wall to revitalize the Hardy Reef environment.

“The pontoon itself will have new interactive experiences providing education and inspiration and will shine a light on the unique natural environment in our incredible country,” Cawood says.

The memorable experiences offered from the pontoon are plentiful; ranging from scuba diving, snorkelling, a semi-submarine tour and, if you’d rather have uninterrupted views of the night sky than the underwater world, then another special overnight accommodation option may be more suited to your style.

“We’ve reinvigorated the Reefsleep experience to give guests the opportunity to sleep above-deck on our Reefworld pontoon,” Cawood says. “Custom-designed ‘Reefbeds’ comprise of queen size mattresses raised off the ground with privacy screens that can be opened up to reveal the night sky.”

Before a star-lit dinner on the pontoon’s upper deck, enjoy a glass of wine and watch the sky put on its ever-changing light show; from pastel pinks and soft oranges – like the colour of coral itself – to finally an inky blue as the stars begin to appear. Featuring on the all-inclusive menu is locally-sourced produce and a selection of fine wines.

“We have an on-board chef that will create delicious meals for guests after a day of exploring the reef,” Cawood says. “The meals feature regionally sourced produce such as beef from Queensland’s Burdekin region, fruit and vegetables from Bowen and line-caught Australian tiger prawns.”

Come daylight, the beds are converted into day lounges for maximising those warm rays and stunning views that the reef is so renowned for.

You can opt to stay here and devour more of the scrumptious food or explore your surrounds: the reef is an adventurer’s playground with scenic helicopter flights available for more heart-stopping views from great heights, the chance to swim with playful dolphins and whale watch, among much more.

But if lying low is more your thing then lazing in your Reefsuite with a good book will still provide you with a true sense of the idyllic Great Barrier Reef.

Whatever your holiday calls for, Cawood says it’s a privilege to be able to share the reef’s beauty with people from all over Australia and the world. “The reef has a remarkable diversity of corals and marine life and we’re proud to invite travellers to experience it from a completely new perspective.”

The full Reefsuite experience is now open for bookings and includes a return cruise out to the reef, all meals and beverages, a selection of marine activities and overnight accommodation.

(All images: Reefsuites / 

Published 24 October, 2019