The Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is the world’s largest coral ecosystem and is threatened by climate change. This study investigated the impact of the 2016 Marine Heatwave (MHW) on plankton associated microbial communities along a ∼800 km transect in the GBR. 16S rRNA gene metabarcoding of archived plankton samples collected from November 2014 to August 2016 in this region showed a significant increase in Planctomycetes and bacteria belonging to the genus Vibrio and Synechococcus during and after the heatwave. Notably, Droplet Digital PCR and targeted metagenomic analysis applied on samples collected four months after the MHW event revealed the presence of several potential pathogenic Vibrio species previously associated with diseases in aquatic animals. Overall, the 2016 MHW significantly impacted the surface picoplankton community and fostered the spread of potentially pathogenic bacteria across the GBR providing an additional threat for marine biodiversity in this area.