© 2014 Elsevier B.V. Bacterioplankton and phytoplankton dynamics, pelagic respiration, virioplankton abundance, and the diversity of pelagic diazotrophs and other bacteria were examined in relation to water-column nutrients and vertical mixing across the southern Great Barrier Reef (GBR) shelf where sharp inshore to offshore gradients in water chemistry and hydrology prevail. A principal component analysis (PCA) revealed station groups clustered geographically, suggesting across-shelf differences in plankton function and structure driven by changes in mixing intensity, sediment resuspension, and the relative contributions of terrestrial, reef and oceanic nutrients. At most stations and sampling periods, microbial abundance and activities peaked both inshore and at channels between outer shelf reefs of the Pompey Reef complex. PCA also revealed that virioplankton numbers and biomass correlated with bacterioplankton numbers and production, and that bacterial growth and respiration correlated with net primary production, suggesting close virus-bacteria-phytoplankton interactions; all plankton groups correlated with particulate C, N, and P. Strong vertical mixing facilitates tight coupling of pelagic and benthic shelf processes as, on average, 37% and 56% of N and P demands of phytoplankton are derived from benthic nutrient regeneration and resuspension. These across-shelf planktonic trends mirror those of the benthic microbial community.