19 Interesting & Fun facts about the Great Barrier Reef

Visiting Australia’s most famous natural landmark soon? Discover the best fun facts about the Great Barrier Reef!

Located in Queensland, the Great Barrier Reef is one of the most fascinating places on Earth.

It’s a must-see for anyone travelling to Australia! Not only there are plenty of interesting facts about the Great Barrier Reef but it’s also a great place for outdoor lovers!

In this article, you will discover the most awesome Great Barrier Reef facts!


fun facts great barrier reef


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1. It’s the largest living organism on earth

The Great Barrier Reef is 2,300 km long and home to almost 3,000 species, making it the largest living organism on the planet! As much as you may try to picture how big the Great Barrier Reef is, you will need to go see it by yourself to understand it!
It goes all the way up the Queensland coast!

Not only is it the largest living organism on earth but it’s also the largest coral reef in the world!


2. It’s home to the largest fossil in the world

Amazingly enough, the Great Barrier Reef is both the largest living organism and fossil on the planet! The oldest coral fossil at the Great Barrier reef is over 500,000 years old!

The newer corals (that we can see now) are “only” about 6,000 years old.


3. The Great Barrier Reef became a marine park in 1975 marine park

The reef is home to a lot of species and is very important for the environment. In order to protect it, it became a marine park in 1975 and is now looked after by Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, along with Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service.

At the time, it was the biggest of the kind in the world!


4. The Great Barrier Reef is massive

great barrier reef scenic flight

The actual size of the Great Barrier Reef is 344,400km2. To give you an idea of how big that is, it’s the same size than New Zealand and Tasmania combined.


5. It’s home to thousands of species

There are several theories about how many species live on the Great Barrier Reef. It’s commonly acknowledged that there are thousands of species living in the reef. According to National Geographic, there would be 1,800 species of fish.

The reality of it though, is that there probably are millions of species. Most of the organisms living in the Great Barrier Reef have still to be discovered!


6. 50% of the reef disappeared in the past 30 years

According to the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), half of the Great Barrier Reef disappeared in the past 3 decades. This is due to global warming and can have a disastrous effect on our lives.

Coral reefs are home to over 25% of the fish species in the world. If the reef goes, so will the fish. This is will be a problem for everyone!

Coral bleaching is also becoming a bigger issue.

If you’d like to help save the reef, you can do so by adopting an eco-friendly way to visit the Great Barrier Reef or becoming a citizen of the reef.


7. There are many legends about the Great Barrier Reef

Australia’s aboriginal culture is absolutely fascinating and so are the legends about the Great Barrier Reef.

The traditional owners of the region, the Yindinji clan has been perpetuating the story of how the Great Barrier Reef came to life for thousands of years.

According to them, two brothers were sent out fishing. They were under the instruction of not killing a sacred fish. One of them did anyway which triggered the anger of the elements. Lava was sent from the sky to the water which caused the level of the ocean to rise, destroying everything on the coast and creating what we know now as the Great Barrier Reef.


8. Western science theory about the creation of the Great Barrier Reef is confirming the aboriginal stories

Of course, western science would never confirm the actual story but does for the geological side of the events described by the traditional owners. According to modern science, it is a sudden rise in the level of the ocean, flooding the land that resorted in the Great Barrier Reef.


9. The Great Barrier Reef is way deeper in the ocean that you may think

Most of the reefs are about 35 meters deep, making it a paradise for scuba divers. However, it goes so much deeper than that! The reef is 2,000m deep in some places. This is way more than we (as humans) can go to.

If you’d like to know more about this, you should watch the Great Barrier Reef documentary with David Attenborough. They go onto a “bubble” submarine deeper than anybody ever did before!


10. Most species in the Great Barrier Reef are still unknown

As previously mentioned, there are so many species living in the reef! We discover new ones every day and actually think that most of them are still unknown to humans!


11. It’s home to the heart reef

heart reef great barrier reef

The Great Barrier Reef is home to one of the most romantic natural landmarks in the world: the heart reef.

The heart reef is 17 m wide and can be seen from the sky. In order to see it, you need to go on a scenic flight from Airlie Beach or Hamilton Island.


12. It’s Australia’s most popular tourist attraction

There are so many beautiful places in Australia but the Great Barrier Reef is definitely the most famous. It attracts over 2 million tourists per year!


13. The Great Barrier Reef is home to deadly marine animals

With that many species living in the reef and the fact that we are in Australia, it’s only normal that you will find some deadly animals.

Even though there are hundreds of sharks at the Great Barrier Reef, they are usually harmless to humans. The deadliest animal is actually an octopus: the blue-ringed octopus.

That having been said, don’t worry, it’s pretty safe to go snorkelling or diving at the Great Barrier Reef. Just make sure you are going with an organised tour, from Airlie Beach, Cairns or Port Douglas for example.


14. The Great Barrier Reef is a UNESCO world heritage site

The GBR is an amazing place and it was added to the list of UNESCO world heritage in 1981.


15. The Great Barrier Reef is beautiful from the water and the sky!

great barrier reef scenic flight

There are only a few places in the world that features that much beauty in so many different ways.

There are several ways to experience the Great Barrier Reef. From the sky, you will discover how big and beautiful the reefs are. They look like underwater mini islands. It’s breath-taking!

Then, if you go snorkelling or diving, you will discover how magnificent and colourful coral can be!

Seeing the Great Barrier Reef under and above water are two completely different and complementary experiences.


16. It’s Nemo’s home!

clownfish great barrier reef nemo

Calling all Disney fans for this one! If you’ve seen “Finding Nemo” you might know that he was born at the Great Barrier Reef. The movie then features other famous Australian landmarks in Sydney but it all starts at the GBR.

Another interesting fact about the Great Barrier Reef and Nemo, there are plenty of clownfish there. If you go snorkelling or scuba diving, you will definitely see some!


17. There are 600 islands in the Great Barrier Reef

whitsunday islands scenic flight

The amazing thing about the Great Barrier Reef is that it’s not just about the coral. There is also a huge number of islands. The most famous ones are the Whitsunday Islands and its stunning beaches such as Whitehaven Beach or Catseye Beach on Hamilton Island.

Between the islands and the reef, going on holiday on the east coast is definitely an amazing experience!

whitehaven beach from airlie beach


18. Captain Cook discovered the Great Barrier Reef in 1770

If you are a bit familiar with the history of Australia, you may know that it was discovered and claimed as a British colony by Captain cook in 1770.

Before getting to shores in what is now known as the town of 1770, he first ran into the Great Barrier Reef!


19. Losing the reef would have an impact on everyone!

The Great Barrier Reef truly is an incredible place. It’s unique! For so many reasons! It’s very important for us to protect it. Whether you live in Australia or not, we all need to look after the reef! The reason for that is that the Great Barrier Reef is important for the entire world!

The reef protects the coastline, is an inhabit for many species, purify the water… and plenty more!

Losing the reef also means that whales migration along the Australian coast would cease to exist and about a quarter of the marine species would die.


There is no place like the Great Barrier Reef. It’s so beautiful and fascinating.

I hope you enjoyed these fun facts about the GBR and it will make you want to experience it during your travels in Australia.


You may also be interested in:

83 Fascinating, Fun and Interesting facts about Australia

Airlie Beach Scenic Flight Review

Summertime Whitsundays Review

Airlie Beach Skydive Review

Best Whitsundays day trips

How to see the Great Barrier Reef in Australia

Things to do in Airlie Beach

Things to do in Hamilton Island

Australia Travel Guide

Man-made landmarks in Australia


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fun facts about Great Barrier Reef