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 predominant 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 most important residing construction on the planet. So wonderful, it may be seen from outer house.

However how do you go to the Nice Barrier Reef? A real marvel 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 folks, a go to to the Nice Barrier Reef from Cairns has been a bucket listing for years.

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

On this information, we now have shared our ideas for visiting the Nice Barrier Reef from Cairns in Tropical North Queensland, together with the completely different excursions you possibly can take and find out how to get there.

The best way to Go to the Nice Barrier Reef from Cairns

The Nice Barrier Reef is situated a brief boat trip from Cairns and the quantity at some point journey you possibly can take.

The one solution to see the GBR is by taking a ship, after all, it’s situated out within the ocean. In case you don’t have the luxurious of your personal boat, you’re going to want to search 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 solution to see it in a day.

It’s doable to constitution your personal boat and do it your self. With this, you possibly can attain the outer reef places, select your personal cruise itinerary, and have all of the crew working for you.

Sounds beautiful, proper? Nevertheless it’s additionally costly. Not solely as a result of it’s extra luxurious however as a result of most personal 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 may also help you organise Luxurious Gameboats, Motor Yachts, and Crusing Yachts.

For the remainder of us with a modest finances, the one different solution 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, but it surely 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 situations I’d seen within the brochure.

I felt somewhat sinking worry and disappointment pondering I wouldn’t even see this magical world below the ocean as a result of there was no manner I used to be getting in.

All of it appeared somewhat too out of my consolation zone.

Kalyra grabbed my hand, “Come on Mum, let’s go.“ She’s not even a assured or robust swimmer. In fact, I couldn’t let her go on her personal, so on the rely of three, we held palms 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 below the water giving thumbs up, holding palms, and declaring parrot fish consuming on the coral and big purple clams.

It was a second.

Giant purple clam - Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia

It’s 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.

A fantastic large Maori Wrasse referred to 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 large 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 strategy. 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 worry to simply take pleasure in myself. Even after 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 lots of alternative ways to expertise the Nice Barrier Reef from varied places alongside the Queensland coast.

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

We’d been in Cairns for a few week and had been researching day excursions. We requested some locals on the Caravan Park we had 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 one of the best snorkeling and diving are. You would possibly 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 greater excursions the place you moor at a pontoon and from there take part in many various actions.

Listed below are one of the 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 children, Kalyra was six on the time and Savannah solely two, we determined the pontoon expertise can be most sensible. We didn’t fancy being caught on a ship all day with our younger ones, it could have been annoying, and having access to the water would have been tough.

We selected the pontoon expertise at Marina World based mostly out at Moore Reef with Reef Magic Tours. After researching, we’d heard they had been in all probability one of the 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 an important 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 can help you sit down and put in your masks and fins, making it simple 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 an important 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 arrogance Kalyra received by snorkeling within the sheltered coral lagoon. The snorkel space is supervised always, they’d snorkeler relaxation stations scattered round in the event 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

In case you’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 tools and briefed him on the fundamentals of scuba diving.

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

He cherished it.

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

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

In fact, he needed to take the obligatory selfie:

man holding up cairns licencse plate while scuba diving
Craig with an enormous thumbs up!

Not solely did we snorkel and dive, however we had 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 had been was superior with out me being within the water nervous concerning 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 cherished our household day trip on the reef.

For individuals who wish to keep dry Marine World additionally has an underwater observatory or you possibly can relax on the sundeck and possibly get somewhat pampering from the one reef-based therapeutic massage therapist.

Despite the fact that little Savannah is simply too younger to snorkel she had somewhat swim and will paddle within the purpose-built toddler space connected to the facet of Marine World.

In case you or your loved ones are heading to Cairns Marine World is a good possibility. Apart from 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

In case you don’t wish to get out of the boat and go swimming, and but you wish to see all the attractive marine lifetime of the GBR, then a glass-bottom boat tour could be for you.

You’ll journey on a quick and comfy catamaran to one of many outer reefs, Upolu Reef. From right here, you possibly can search for marine life equivalent to big 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 a lot 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 company have stated they had 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 possibly can nonetheless expertise the wonders of The Nice Barrier Reef from Cairns by taking a scenic helicopter flight.

It is a nice solution to see the magnitude and enormity of the reef, and in the event you’re fortunate, you would possibly 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 largest 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 children, 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 might be additionally launched to the reef by a marine biologist who gives you the knowledge it is advisable 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 offered on the time of reserving.

7. Passions of Paradise Excursions

side view of yacht on the ocean

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

This tour gives 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 are going to go to an space that’s greatest suited to that day, based mostly on the ocean and climate situations.

You’ll get the prospect to dive with their skilled crew and look at 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 type? Then how a few helmet dive tour?

Helmet diving is the place you put on a specifically designed helmet that permits you to breathe underwater by a tube with oxygen. This lets you stroll on the ocean flooring and focus on the views, quite 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

In case you’re on the lookout for greater than a full-day tour of the barrier reef and wish to see another elements of Cairns, it’s doable to e-book a three-day tour that mixes a go to to the GBR and another well-liked points of interest in Cairns.

On this three-day tour, you’ll expertise the UNESCO Nice Barrier Reef with an introductory dive. In case you don’t wish to dive, you possibly can choose to snorkel as an alternative.

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

The third and remaining day will take you above the forest flooring 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 solution to discover among 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 fantastic thing about what’s below the water, however the islands which are part of the Nice Barrier Reef – a lot of which have been created by the coral itself.

It’s price exploring among 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 he or she cherished 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 by way of 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 one of the best islands of the Nice Barrier Reef area are within the Whitsundays. How are you going to compete with world well-known Whitehaven Seaside which constantly ranks as one of many prime 5 seashores on this planet by TripAdvisor?

The images don’t even actually present how amazingly stunning it’s if you find yourself 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 properly at Langford IslandMaureens Cove and Manta-Ray Bay.

peopel snorkeling Manta Ray Bay
Manta Ray Bay

Hayman Island

In case you’ve received 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 can even 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, after all, Daydream Island off Airlie Seaside, which many contemplate a bit kitsch, however although we solely stayed for twenty-four hours I actually favored it. It’s a particular household or {couples} resort vacation that gives you nothing however enjoyable actions, stunning surroundings, and leisure.

In simply 24 hours we did snorkeling, paddle boarding, kayaking and received shut up with stingrays and child sharks at their schooling 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

In case you’re seeking to expertise the Nice Barrier Reef, don’t wait 40 years like we did. With the way in which the setting goes and the function of Governments, it could have already seen it’s greatest days.

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

FAQs About Visiting The Nice Barrier Reef From Cairns

Right here’s what folks normally 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 one of the best place to go to The Nice Barrier Reef and is taken into account the gateway. There are lots of dive and snorkel excursions leaving right here every day, and you may also constitution your personal 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 depends upon the place you go to on the reef, however typically, you possibly can 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 a much bigger metropolis and has extra choices in the way in which of excursions, whereas Port Douglas is small and laid again and gives 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 got it, that is how one can go to the Nice Barrier Reef from Cairns, and as you possibly can see, there are lots of excursions out there and every of them gives one thing completely different and distinctive.

We hope this information has helped you slender down your choices and determine which is one of the simplest ways to go to the GBR from Cairns in 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 in the event you plan to swim, please be sure 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 ideas for excursions from Cairns to the GBR?