Explore the Great Barrier Reef with Finding Dory

Finding Dory

The wait for Finding Dory is over! The exciting sequel to Finding Nemo is now in cinemas. The film begins about 900 kilometres from Brisbane in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef. Set a year after the conclusion of Finding Nemo, Finding Dory follows the forgetful Blue Tang, voiced by Ellen DeGeneres, in a quest to find her family. Marlin and Nemo join Dory, and together they meet many new friends along the way.

Finding Dory once again puts our wonderful state Queensland on the map. The Great Barrier Reef is one of the seven natural wonders of the world and I had the opportunity explore the region recently with my daughter. As the plane came into view of Hamilton Island I felt grateful for the opportunity to raise my children in a beautiful country filled with natural treasures. The longer I parent, the more I value exploring and experiencing my home country. Finding Dory is a highly enjoyable film, and more than that, it provides an opportunity to open conversations about Australian landmarks, reefs and the natural world. Below are five ways Brisbane families can explore the real life inspiration behind the movie.

1. Research Sea Animals

Research the Great Barrier Reef online as a family. Each person could nominate his or her favourite Finding Dory character to investigate. Look for images, videos and information about the animals in the wild.

  • Dory: Pacific Blue Tang
  • Nemo and Marlin: Percula Clownfish
  • Bailey: Beluga Whale
  • Crush: Green Sea Turtle
  • Becky: Common Loon
  • Hank: Giant Pacific Octopus
  • Destiny: Whale Shark
  • Fluke and Rudder: California Sea Lions
  • Mr. Ray: Spotted Eagle Ray
  • Cute Otters: Sea Otters

2. Read Books

Borrow or buy books about coral reefs. Below is a selection:

Books about coral reefs

1. Coral Reef – 24 hours by DK: Follow the cycle of life from the animal’s point of view in this unique book. Great for all ages

2. Coral Reefs by Gail Gibbons: A resource often used by teachers, this book is packed with facts about coral the creatures that live there. Ages 5-9

3. The Mystery on the Great Barrier Reef (part of the Around the World in 80 Mysteries series): Set in Australia, Christine (10) and Grant (7) experience a lot of surprises as they travel with their grandmother through the Outback, Queensland, and finally to the Great Barrier Reef. Ages 8-10

4. Reef Life – A Guide to Tropical Marine Life by Brandon Cole: On Amazon’s best seller list, this book contains over 1000 stunning photographs children and adults will enjoy. Enjoyable for all ages

5. Over in the Ocean – In a Coral Reef by Marianne Berkes: Musical words and gorgeous illustrations make this book lovely to read and engaging for little ones. Ages 3-6

6. Coral the Reef Fairy by Daisy Meadows (part of the Green Fairies series): Rachel and Kirsty join the Reef Fairy on a magical underwater journey to save the reef. Ages 5-10

3. Create Craft

  • Make a mobile for the bedroom. Simply cut out images of Dory, Nemo and Marlin and hang with string from a coat hanger.
  • Shape different coloured play dough to make your own coral reef.
  • Create a coral reef diorama from a shoebox.
  • Search online for printable colouring pages of reef fish or Finding Dory characters.
  • Visit RememberTheReef.com and print the activity learning sheets.

4. Watch a Documentary

David Attenborough’s Great Barrier Reef explores the Earth’s largest living structure in stunning detail. A worthwhile family activity that ties in the wonder of the coral reef featured in Finding Dory.

5. Visit the reef

We’re lucky here in Queensland to be close to the reef. QantasLink flies directly from Brisbane to Hamilton Island seven times a week, and in less than two hours, you’ll be in the heart of the reef. Below is a quick guide to a family friendly Hamilton Island.

Where Families Can Stay

There are three accommodation options for families at Hamilton Island.

  • Reef View Hotel: Family rooms cater for up to 6 persons. This four star hotel has all the luxuries you would expect of a quality hotel with family friendly options. Many families stay here for the central location, views and facilities.
  • Palm Bungalows: Ideal for families with up to two children.
  • Holiday Home: Hire a holiday home for your family of any size. There’s a range of homes available to rent, from 1 bedroom properties to 5 bedroom homes.

View from our room at Reef View Hotel

Reef View Hotel - Hamilton Island

Fun Things to Do

Hamilton Island is a great spot for a family friendly holiday. You can find the full range of family-friendly activities listed here. Below are highlights.

Buggy exploring: Hiring a buggy is a fun way to explore the island.

Snorkel the Reef: A half-day snorkel with Explore is a good option for families. I’ve done snorkelling a few times with my children, and recommend ages 8-10 and older. Snorkelling is an incredible experience everyone will talk about for years to come. Below are some snaps I took of a section of the reef we visited. See if you can spot some of the coral and fish correlations to Finding Dory scenes.

Finding Dory and the Great Barrier Reef

© Disney Pixar / © Brisbane Kids

Finding Dory and the Great Barrier Reef

© Disney Pixar / © Brisbane Kids

Finding Dory and the Great Barrier Reef

© Disney Pixar / © Brisbane Kids

Water Sport

Catseye Beach is a perfect spot for family fun. There’s swimming, sand play, paddle boarding, kayaking and a range of other activities. Some accommodation options have the non-motor water sport activities included in the package.

My daughter enjoying her first kayak experience

Hamilton Island - Kayaking


There are many glorious pools on Hamilton Island. The Bougainvillea and Main Pool are good spots to chill and play close to Catseye beach. If you’re looking for a pool with a view (great for photos too) the Dolphin pool has views directly over the beach.

Dolphin Pool

Dolphin Pool - Hamilton Island

© Hamilton Island

Wild Life Park

Wild Life Hamilton Island is intimate, so you get a close up look at Australian animals like koalas and wallabies. My daughter enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere, and especially seeing this sweet Parma wallaby with a joey in her pouch.

Wild Life Hamilton Island

Great Barrier Reef Quick Facts

  • 2,300 kilometers long
  • 600 types of coral
  • 133 varieties of rays and sharks
  • 1625 types of fish
  • 30 species of whales and dolphins

Reef from the air / Reef from below

The Great Barrier Reef from the air and the ocean

© Brisbane Kids

Enjoy the movie Finding Dory. It’s fantastic! Follow it up with a range of family fun activities that celebrate the wonder of the Great Barrier Reef. It’s incredible.

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