Excursions & Ideas for 2023

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The Nice Barrier Reef is without doubt one of the seven pure wonders of the world and one of many important causes to go to Australia.

It’s the identical size from Vancouver to the Mexican border, consisting of 900 islands and 2,900 particular person reefs.

It’s the world’s largest coral reef and the biggest dwelling construction on the planet. So superb, it may be seen from outer area.

However how do you go to the Nice Barrier Reef? A real surprise of the world that’s 2,300km lengthy?

aerial view of the Great Barrier Reefs in the ocean
Moore Reef within the Outer Nice Barrier Reef – photograph by ReefMagicCruises.com

For us, and plenty of different individuals, a go to to the Nice Barrier Reef from Cairns has been a bucket record for years.

Throughout our 18-month street journey round Australia, we have been decided to expertise it in one of the best ways we might with our children.

On this information, we now have shared our suggestions for visiting the Nice Barrier Reef from Cairns in Tropical North Queensland, together with the completely different excursions you’ll be able to take and the best way to get there.

How one can Go to the Nice Barrier Reef from Cairns

The Nice Barrier Reef is situated a brief boat trip from Cairns and the quantity someday journey you’ll be able to take.

The one method to see the GBR is by taking a ship, in fact, it’s situated out within the ocean. For those who don’t have the posh of your individual boat, you’re going to want to seek out one.

Most individuals go for a Nice Barrier Reef tour from Cairns as a result of it’s the most cost effective and most handy method to see it in a day.

It’s potential to constitution your individual boat and do it your self. With this, you’ll be able to attain the outer reef places, select your individual cruise itinerary, and have all of the crew working for you.

Sounds pretty, proper? But it surely’s additionally costly. Not solely as a result of it’s extra luxurious however as a result of most non-public boat charters can solely be rented for week-long cruises (they should make it price their whereas).

You may constitution a non-public boat from the Cairns Visitor Centre, which might help you organise Luxurious Gameboats, Motor Yachts, and Crusing Yachts.

For the remainder of us with a modest price range, the one different method to see the Barrier Reef is by taking one of many Nice Barrier Reef excursions from Cairns.

Our Expertise Visiting The Nice Barrier Reef from Cairns

mother and child with snorkels on head about to get in the water

I wasn’t certain if The Nice Barrier Reef would match its hype, nevertheless it did, in a much less glamorous however extra curious and awe-inspiring manner.

Our day tour from Cairns pulled up in the course of the ocean at Marine World on the Outer Nice Barrier Reef.

It was windy and uneven and there was a little bit of a swell – not the calm, pristine circumstances I’d seen within the brochure.

I felt a bit sinking concern and disappointment considering I wouldn’t even see this magical world beneath the ocean as a result of there was no manner I used to be getting in.

All of it seemed a bit too out of my consolation zone.

Kalyra grabbed my hand, “Come on Mum, let’s go.“ She’s not even a assured or sturdy swimmer. After all, I couldn’t let her go on her personal, so on the rely of three, we held fingers and slipped off the sting and onto the reef.

mother and daughter holding hands giving the camera the peace sign while snorkeling. Snorkeling


We turned to one another beneath the water giving thumbs up, holding fingers, and stating parrot fish consuming on the coral and large purple clams.

It was a second.

Giant purple clam - Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia

It’s a superb factor a snorkel was in my mouth as I had no phrases that might describe how fantastic it felt to be swimming above brightly colored coral and rainbow colored fish with stripes and spots, snouts and outs, beaks and flapping fins.

An incredible massive Maori Wrasse known as “Wally” swam proper as much as the snorkelers as quickly as we dived within the water.

He was smiling to see the return of his day by day pals and his physique twisted and snaked between our legs, his massive lips pouting in entrance of our faces as he got here up for a peak.

Meet "Wally" the big Maori Wrasse we met on the Great Barrier Reef
“Wally” the large Maori Wrasse we met

Kalyra and I squealed as we noticed him method. At this stage, I used to be nonetheless making an attempt to recover from the awe-struck feeling I had about my six-year-old daughter.

Then she pried herself away to snorkel on her personal.

It blew me away how assured she was and I quickly let go of my concern to simply take pleasure in myself. Even once we swam on the outskirts of the reef over the deeper water she stored beaming and pointing and never letting the abyss scare her as a lot because it scared me.

young girl snorkeling above the water at the Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia
Kalyra snorkeling by herself

Which Nice Barrier Reef Excursions From Cairns Are Greatest?

There are numerous other ways to expertise the Nice Barrier Reef from varied places alongside the Queensland coast.

First, let’s discuss the primary gateway to the reef, Cairns!

We’d been in Cairns for a couple of week and have been researching day excursions. We requested some locals on the Caravan Park we have been staying at, checked in with our Facebook community, and jumped on-line to Journey Advisor to do extra analysis.

We’d all the time needed to go to the Outer Reef, as a result of that’s the place the very best snorkeling and diving are. You may solely go to the Reef as soon as, however it would be best to see it at its greatest!

Excursions vary from small boats the place you dive or snorkel off the boat, to larger excursions the place you moor at a pontoon and from there take part in many alternative actions.

Listed below are the very best Nice Barrier Reef excursions from Cairns…

1. The Pontoon Expertise

Marine World pontoon in the ocean surrounded by reef.
Marine World at Moore Reef

As a result of we now have two younger youngsters, Kalyra was six on the time and Savannah solely two, we determined the pontoon expertise could be most sensible. We didn’t fancy being caught on a ship all day with our younger ones, it could have been aggravating, and getting access to the water would have been difficult.

We selected the pontoon expertise at Marina World primarily based out at Moore Reef with Reef Magic Tours. After researching, we’d heard they have been most likely the very best for households. The household value was going to value us $495, however hey it’s the Nice Barrier Reef and it’s Australia.

The pontoon was a terrific selection.

young girl swimming in cage pool in the middle of the ocean

After our 90-minute high-speed catamaran trip out from Cairns our vessel moored at Marine World and we jumped on the pontoon.

It gave us all room to maneuver round with out being confined to a ship. Plus the steps that lead down from the primary deck to a submerged snorkel platform help you sit down and put in your masks and fins, making it straightforward to slip into the water.

2. Marine World at Moore Reef Tour

pontoon Marine World on the edge of the reef
The sheltered coral lagoon at Marine World

The all-weather Marine World platform caters to all exercise ranges and was a terrific base for the day.

We had our personal desk and chairs on the sundeck, use of freshwater showers and altering rooms and lockers, and a yummy morning/afternoon tea plus a full buffet lunch.

The most effective half was the boldness Kalyra bought by snorkeling within the sheltered coral lagoon. The snorkel space is supervised always, they’d snorkeler relaxation stations scattered round should you wanted a break within the water, and we might clearly see the underside always.

3. Introductory Scuba Dive Tour

Craig ready to dive in his gear
Craig able to dive

For those who’re going to go to the Nice Barrier Reef you’ve gotta do a dive proper?!

Craig determined this was a once-in-a-lifetime second and put his hand up for an introductory dive. This was going to be solely his second time ever diving, his first being one other introductory dive two years in the past at Shelley Seaside in Manly, Sydney.

On the way in which out to Marine World, his teacher launched the gear and briefed him on the fundamentals of scuba diving.

He bought a 30-minute dive with an authorized diver teacher and only one different individual. Intro dives have not more than 4 individuals per teacher making it reassuring for any first-timers.

He liked it.

His dive reached a most of about 8 metres however was principally hovering across the 4-5 metre stage within the lovely coral lagoon, a sheltered space with dense coral cowl and a ton of fish life, together with a while swimming with massive WALLY!

“It’s one other world down there, I can undoubtedly see the habit to diving” he beamed.

After all, he needed to take the obligatory selfie:

man holding up cairns licencse plate while scuba diving
Craig with a giant thumbs up!

Not solely did we snorkel and dive, however we have been capable of see extra of the reef on a glass backside boat and a semi-sub.

The semi-sub gave me the closest factor to a dive expertise. Getting nearer to the outer a part of the reef the place all the large faculties of fish have been was superior with out me being within the water fearful in regards to the reef sharks ready to eat the large faculties of fish!

We didn’t see any sea turtles, however they’re typically identified to swim in these waters, too!

boat on the edge of the reef
Semi-sub on the outer wall of Moore Reef – credit score ReefMagicCruises.com

We liked our household time out on the reef.

For individuals who wish to keep dry Marine World additionally has an underwater observatory or you’ll be able to chill on the sundeck and perhaps get a bit pampering from the one reef-based therapeutic massage therapist.

Although little Savannah is simply too younger to snorkel she had a bit swim and will paddle within the purpose-built toddler space hooked up to the facet of Marine World.

For those who or your loved ones are heading to Cairns Marine World is a good choice. Moreover what we did, Reef Magic Cruises even have an adventure snorkel safari and certified diving packages.

schools of small fish swimming over coral
credit score: ReefMagicTours.com

4. Ocean Freedom Tour from Cairns + Glass Backside Boat Tour

For those who don’t wish to get out of the boat and go swimming, and but you wish to see all the gorgeous marine lifetime of the GBR, then a glass-bottom boat tour is perhaps for you.

You’ll journey on a quick and comfy catamaran to one of many outer reefs, Upolu Reef. From right here, you’ll be able to search for marine life comparable to large clams from a glass backside boat.

The Upolu Cay space is extremely protected and is without doubt one of the no-fishing zones on the reef, so that you’ll have the ability to see plenty of little fish fortunately swimming within the corals.

After that, the tour takes you to the pure Coral Cay, the place you may get within the waters and snorkel or dive with the fish. Some former friends have mentioned they have been capable of see turtles and reef sharks on this tour.

5. Scenic Helicopter Flight

aerial view of the great barrier reef

For all of your non-swimmers on the market, you’ll be able to nonetheless expertise the wonders of The Nice Barrier Reef from Cairns by taking a scenic helicopter flight.

It is a nice method to see the magnitude and enormity of the reef, and should you’re fortunate, you may even get a glimpse of the ocean wildlife from above.

Soar above the turquoise blue waters, fly over the rainforest and be marveled on the scenes under.

Maintain your eyes peeled for whales, dolphins and extra!

6. Quicksilver Cruises

Quicksilver Cruises are one of many greatest and most highly-rated tour operators in Cairns. The supply the prospect to cruise the GBR on a luxurious 30-meter (99-foot) Wavedancer crusing catamaran, which takes you across the idyllic Nice Barrier Reef island of Low Isles.

It is a extra enjoyable day journey on the GBR and is appropriate for {couples} and households with older youngsters, who take pleasure in peace and quiet.

The Low Isles are an unspoiled coral cay island with calm waters, turquoise lagoons, and a thriving reef.

On this tour, you’re additionally launched to the reef by a marine biologist who will provide you with the knowledge it’s good to go to the reef safely and see the reef with knowledgeable eyes. 

There’s additionally an choice to see the turtles from a glass-bottomed boat.

This tour leaves from Port Douglas, however a luxurious coach from Cairns will be supplied on the time of reserving.

7. Passions of Paradise Excursions

side view of yacht on the ocean

One other fashionable Nice Barrier Reef Tour from Cairns is by Passions of Paradise, a top-rated tour operator in Cairns.

This tour provides an opportunity to snorkel or scuba diving on the Nice Barrier Reef on a luxurious catamaran.

POP has entry to greater than 26 areas on the outer Nice Barrier Reef and so no two days are the identical. Every day they’ll go to an space that’s greatest suited to that day, primarily based on the ocean and climate circumstances.

You’ll get the prospect to dive with their skilled crew and think about the reef that’s alive with marine life and corals.

8. Ocean Walker Helmet Dive Tour

Need to go to the Nice Barrier Reef in model? Then how a couple of helmet dive tour?

Helmet diving is the place you put on a specifically designed helmet that lets you breathe underwater by a tube with oxygen. This lets you stroll on the ocean ground and focus on the views, moderately than respiration.

On this tour, you’ll go to the gorgeous Inexperienced Island, an island off the Nice Barrier Reef. From right here, it is possible for you to to decide on between a glass backside boat coral viewing tour, snorkeling from the seashores, or scuba diving – in addition to the helmet dive expertise.

Be sure to spend a while exploring the island too. Go to the Marineland Melanesia crocodile habitat or head to one of many resorts to swim within the pool or eat on the restaurant.

9. Combo Excursions of The Nice Barrier Reef from Cairns

family looking out over ocean from the daintreerainforest at Alexandra Lookout

For those who’re in search of greater than a full-day tour of the barrier reef and wish to see another components of Cairns, it’s potential to e-book a three-day tour that mixes a go to to the GBR and another fashionable points of interest in Cairns.

On this three-day tour, you’ll expertise the UNESCO Nice Barrier Reef with an introductory dive. For those who don’t wish to dive, you’ll be able to choose to snorkel as an alternative.

On the second day, you’ll head over to a different UNESCO heritage website and one among our favourite points of interest in Cairns, the Daintree Rainforest, which is the world’s oldest constantly surviving rainforest.

The third and ultimate day will take you above the forest ground and into the cover, as you expertise the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway earlier than heading to the village of Kuranda and again on the historic Kuranda Scenic Railway.

It is a hassle-free method to discover a number of the greatest nature spots of Cairns, which is nice for households.

Different Locations To Go to The Nice Barrier Reef

It’s not nearly the great thing about what’s beneath the water, however the islands which can be part of the Nice Barrier Reef – lots of which have been created by the coral itself.

It’s price exploring a number of the islands to get the entire expertise. Listed below are a number of different Nice Barrier Reef Islands that we’ve explored.

Inexperienced Island

aeiral view of Green Island
Inexperienced Island – picture by Nice Adventures

We additionally spent the day on Inexperienced Island earlier than doing the Marine World expertise, situated 45 minutes by boat from Cairns.

It’s a sand island and is nice for a soothing day and for households. This was the primary place Kalyra snorkeled and she or he liked seeing a number of fish and stingrays!

You may snorkel straight off the shore and we felt the world close to the jetty was significantly better than snorkelling off the patrolled seaside. There’s additionally a pleasant boardwalk via the forest to the opposite facet of the island, and while the kiddies performed within the water I loved a therapeutic massage.

There are three day by day departure instances and our household ticket value us $215 and we went with Great Adventures.

sandy beach on Green Island with no one onit
woman and two girls posing with peace signs on a beach

Whitsunday Islands

the swriling white sand and green waters of Whitehaven Beach View from Hill Inlet -

I believe the very best islands of the Nice Barrier Reef area are within the Whitsundays. How will you compete with world well-known Whitehaven Seaside which constantly ranks as one of many prime 5 seashores on the earth by TripAdvisor?

The photographs don’t even actually present how amazingly lovely it’s if you end up standing within the softest, purest, whitest sand on the planet.

ripples in the white sand at Whitehaven Beach

There’s fairly good snorkelling across the islands as nicely at Langford IslandMaureens Cove and Manta-Ray Bay.

peopel snorkeling Manta Ray Bay
Manta Ray Bay

Hayman Island

For those who’ve bought deep pockets and desire a little bit of rock star expertise, keep at Hayman Island. Simply make sure you arrive by helicopter through Whitehaven Seaside, an unforgettable second. You may also entry well-known “Coronary heart Reef” from Hayman.

private beach with palm trees Hayman Island, Queensland, Australia
Hayman Island
luxurious swimming pool Hayman Island Resort Pool, Queensland, Australia
Hayman Island

Daydream Island

There may be, in fact, Daydream Island off Airlie Seaside, which many think about a bit kitsch, however regardless that we solely stayed for twenty-four hours I actually favored it. It’s a particular household or {couples} resort vacation that will provide you with nothing however enjoyable actions, lovely surroundings, and rest.

In simply 24 hours we did snorkeling, paddle boarding, kayaking and bought shut up with stingrays and child sharks at their training centre. The sunsets are fairly spectacular too!

I’m all for it.

private beach on Daydream Island - Queensland, Australia
Daydream Island
young girl holding baby shark
Kalyra on Daydream Island
sunset on the beawch with sillouhette palm trees.
Daydream Island sundown

For those who’re seeking to expertise the Nice Barrier Reef, don’t wait 40 years like we did. With the way in which the atmosphere goes and the function of Governments, it might have already seen it’s greatest days.

We will’t wait to return and do extra diving and snorkeling.

FAQs About Visiting The Nice Barrier Reef From Cairns

Right here’s what individuals often ask us about visiting The Nice Barrier Reef from Cairns…

Are you able to get to the Nice Barrier Reef from Cairns?

Sure, completely. Cairns is the very best place to go to The Nice Barrier Reef and is taken into account the gateway. There are numerous dive and snorkel excursions leaving right here every day, and you too can constitution your individual boats if you wish to do it and not using a tour.

How lengthy does it take to get to the Barrier Reef from Cairns?

It is dependent upon the place you go to on the reef, however typically, you’ll be able to attain the reef inside half-hour from Cairns.

Is it higher to see the Nice Barrier Reef from Cairns or Port Douglas?

That is the age-old query. The reality is, each locations are nice locations to see The Nice Barrier Reef from. Cairns is an even bigger metropolis and has extra choices in the way in which of excursions, whereas Port Douglas is small and laid again and provides a extra enjoyable expertise.

What metropolis is closest to the Nice Barrier Reef?

Cairns is the closest metropolis to The Nice Barrier Reef which is why it’s thought-about the gateway.

Earlier than You Go

So there you’ve gotten it, that is how one can go to the Nice Barrier Reef from Cairns, and as you’ll be able to see, there are a number of excursions out there and every of them provides one thing completely different and distinctive.

We hope this information has helped you slim down your choices and resolve which is one of the best ways to go to the GBR from Cairns to your journey.

Earlier than you go, we simply wish to remind you to put on reef-safe suncream. Sadly, many sunscreens hurt the coral reef and marine life, so should you plan to swim, please ensure you apply reef-safe solar cream to maintain this thriving reef alive.

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Have you ever visited the Nice Barrier Reef? What are your greatest suggestions for excursions from Cairns to the GBR?