A number of Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) research activities involve monitoring different aspects of coral reefs. Surveys of coral community structure, composition and diversity were carried out at nearshore reefs of the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. 466 sites on 96 reefs between Mackay and Cooktown (latitude 14-21 degrees South) were surveyed between 1994 and 1997 to a depth of 20m. The aim of the study was to characterise nearshore coral communities in this region. Hard corals were identified to species level and rated by relative abundance. 285 species from 69 genera are represented in this dataset. This data was collected by scuba divers and snorkelers.