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Great Barrier Reef Tours

The Great Barrier Reef is the largest Natural Wonder of our underwater World. Visible from Space, the Great Barrier Reef grows on the North-East Coast of Australia. At over 2800 km long it can be explored by Great Barrier Reef Tours!

Bright colorful reef fish

Colorful Reef

Sea Turtle

Sea Turtle

Scuba Diver

Scuba Diver

Which is the best place to Visit the Great Barrier Reef?

Great Barrier Reef Tours can be enjoyed from two main locations on the East coast of Australia, the Whitsundays Islands and Cairns. The Whitsunday’s are home to over a dozen Islands with white sandy beaches and crystal-clear water. Cairns is regarded as the closest access point to the outer barrier reef systems. Cairns has a large array of day snorkel and dive boats. The Whitsundays has a large fleet of sailing boats for enjoying the Islands.

How Much do Reef Tours Cost?

Well, this depends on where you travel from, how many people are in your party and what activities you choose. A basic ferry transfer over to Green Island and back from Cairns will set you back $93.00. This includes snorkel equipment or a glass bottom boat. Cairns Outer Reef Cruises travel much further offshore and include all meals, multiple reef locations, and all snorkel equipment. The average cost of these is between $149 to $245 per adult. Most Great Barrier Reef tour companies offer family discounts if the children are between 4-14 years old.

Can I see the Reef if I can’t Swim?

The short answer, Yes! Great Barrier Reef Tours range from visiting the Tropical Islands and Sand Cays to the outer reef day boats and floating pontoons/platforms. The pontoons or floating platforms cater more to the non-swimmer with the inclusion of semi-submarines, glass bottoms boats and underwater observatories. All services are usually included in the ticket price.

Can I try First Time Diving?

Yes! But remember you must be medically fit with no asthma and not taking any prescription medication to try diving. Most first-time scuba dives are called an introductory scuba dive. They consist of around 10 minutes training on the boat, learning about breathing thru a regulator and tips on how to clear your mask and equalize your ears. The remainder of the lesson is spent underwater diving the Great Barrier Reef. All introductory scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef is limited to a max depth of 12 meters.

Diving with Cuttlefish

Diver & Cuttlefish

Day boat tender

Day boat diving

Introductory Divers

Introductory Divers

Can I try Helmet Diving on a Great Barrier Reef Tour?

The short answer, Yes! Only a handful of reef tour operators offer helmet diving. This can be done at Green Island and on all the outer reef pontoon companies. You cannot do helmet diving on any of the outer reef day boats. You must be medically fit with no asthma and not be taking any prescription medication. The service usually consists of 10 minutes training preparing you for the experience and then around 25 minutes underwater exploring the Great Barrier Reef.

What can I see Snorkeling and Diving?

Great question! You can expect to see a huge array of bright colourful soft and hard corals, including sea whips, staghorn coral, soft anemone’s, brain coral to a large array of marine animals like, Giant Mauri Wrasse, Cuttlefish, Yellow Tail Fusiliers, Anemonefish, Sea Turtles, Giant Clams, Nudibranchs, Moray Eels, Giant Trevally, Coral Trout and much more!

Best time of the year to do Great Barrier Reef Tours?

In general, the lowest windy months are best. These are typically April/May and October/November. Traveling to the Great Barrier Reef during this time will make your journey to and from the reef as comfortable as possible. Generally, the peak tourism time for visiting the Great Barrier Reef are June, July, August and then December and January of each year. The busy tourist season coincides with the Australian school holidays. The rainy season of December, January, February, and March can often bring rain and heavy thunderstorms, although sea conditions can be very calm and flat with warm water temperatures usually around 28 degrees. All tour companies operate 365 days per year.

What Dangers are there?

In general, there are minimal dangers enjoying a Great Barrier Reef Tour. Probably the highest danger is the sun! Sun protection is a must all year round with most companies providing lycra suits for sun protection and from jellyfish. In general, all areas of the Great Barrier Reef are affected by Jellyfish in the warmer summer months. There is only a hand full of Jellyfish that are dangerous to humans and these generally live on the coast next to the mainland beaches. In saying that all reef tour operators advise to where the stinger/lycra suits for added protection during these hot humid rainy months.

Can I take my children to the Reef?

Yes! There are fantastic Great Barrier Reef Tours for families with children. Whether you can all swim or not generally speaking visiting one of the Islands or floating pontoons/platforms is the best way to go if you have a family. All pontoon companies offer family rates which in general means the 2nd child travels free.

How do I choose a Great Barrier Reef Tour?

This can be tough, mainly because of all the different options available. But that also means you can choose the perfect option to suit you and your family. In general, if you are a great swimmer, love the water and have tried and would like to try snorkeling, choose one of the many outer reef day boats. If you have children or perhaps do not wish to swim so much but would still like to see as much of the Great Barrier Reef as you can choose one of the outer reef pontoons/floating platforms. If you are definite non-swimmer and only want to spend half a day on the reef, you should then visit Green Island or Fitzroy Island.


All Great Barrier Reef Tours offer a great way to visit and explore this magnificent reef system. Choosing one can be a bit tricky so if you are stuck for ideas or needs some suggestions please contact our reservations team on PH: +61 7 40411635 or email

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Selected Tours

Sunlover Cruises

Great day tour for people of all ages. Visit Outer Reef Pontoon at Moore Reef, with lots of inclusions: snorkelling, glass bottom boat and semi-sub tours, underwater observatory and more.
Lady enjoying the water-slide at Moore Reef.

Silverswift Dive & Snorkel

Only Cairns Great Barrier Reef day tour to visit 3 different reef sites in one day! Part of the Quicksilver Cruises fleet. Comfortable, high speed catamaran. Up to 5 hours at the reef.
Silverswift At The Reef

Quicksilver Outer Great Barrier Reef Cruises

The Ultimate Great Barrier Reef Cruise - Quicksilver Cruises provides the only Port Douglas Great Barrier Reef pontoon tour, departing Marina Mirage daily. Can snorkel and dive, Semi-Submarines & Underwater Observatory.

Sunlover Arlington Reef Half Day Tour

Great day tour for people of all ages. Visit Arlington Reef Pontoon see the Outer Great Barrier Reef in half a day. Includes Snorkeling, Underwater Observitory and BBQ Lunch.

Fitzroy Island Ferries

Fitzroy Island Resort Ferries have convenient departure and return times from Cairns to Fitzroy Island, making this great for a full day tour of the Island. Depart Cairns 8:00am, 11:00am and 1:30pm.

Great Adventures: Green Island – Full Day

Great Adventures offer two departure (8.30am - 10.30am) and return times (2.30pm - 4.30pm) for their full day tours. Flexible option, suitable for families.

Frankland Islands

This dive and snorkel reef day tour departs from Deeral, which is 40-minutes south of Cairns, and visits the Frankland Islands group which is surrounded by fringing reefs.
The Frankland Islands Group of Islands.

Deep Sea Divers Den: Sea Quest

Value for money Great Barrier Reef day tour. Visits 2 reef sites. Perfect for snorkellers, certified divers and those wanting to try an introductory dive. Buffet lunch included.

Down Under Dive: Evolution

Well priced Great Barrier Reef day tour, including BBQ lunch. 5 hours on the reef at 2 reef sites. Free guided snorkelling tours, introductory and certified diving. Brand new boat (December 2015).
Down Under Dive Evolution

Passions Of Paradise

Australian Tourism Award Winner. Daily dive / snorkel trips to Paradise Reef on 25m brand new sailing catamaran. Free scuba demonstration & guided snorkel tour. Hot / cold buffet lunch.
The Passions of Paradise boat Cairns Australia

Deep Sea Divers Den: Reef Quest

Value for money Great Barrier Reef day tour. Visits 2 reef sites. Perfect for snorkellers, certified divers and those wanting to try an introductory dive. Buffet lunch included. New boat (Dec 2015).

Dreamtime Dive & Snorkel Cruises

Dreamtime Dive & Snorkel offers a great value for money option for people to join a large stable boat that spends 5 hours at a beautiful reef location. Free guided snorkel tour, glass bottom boat tour and marine presentation.
Dreamtime Dive & Snorkel Boat at the Great Barrier Reef.

Ocean Free Sailing Reef Cruise

Unique Cairns to Green Island sailing day tour. Max number of guests = 35. Snorkelling & diving plus time on Green Island. Buffet lunch + morning and afternoon tea included. Friendly crew.
Scuba diving Green Island

Seastar Cruises

Seastar provides daily dive and snorkel tours to Michaelmas Cay and Hastings Reef. Up to 5 hours at the reef and 2 guided snorkel tours included.

Reef Experience

Cairns' only fully inclusive day tour, including: city transfers, trip to Great Barrier Reef, 6 hours on reef, 2 reef locations, meals, free scuba dive, marine biologist presentation & equipment.
Fully inclusive Great Barrier Reef day tours with Reef Experience

Tusa Dive T6

Tusa Dive provide quality Great Barrier Reef snorkel / dive day tours on one of Cairns' newest reef day boats, T6. Up to 5 hours on the reef, visiting 2 locations. Great service - all meals included.
Tusa at the Reef

Ocean Freedom

Locally owned & operated. 5 star service. Up to 6 hours snorkel / dive time at 2 Great Barrier Reef locations. Best reef tour lunch in town. Friendly crew, glass bottom boat tour & much more.
Ocean Freedom the quickest Great Barrier Reef day tour dive in Cairns

Ocean Spirit Cruises – Michaelmas Cay

Ocean Spirit Cruises provide a luxury sailing catamaran to Michaelmas Cay. This trip is suited to swimmers, snorkelers and families. Often Sea Turtles are seen from the beach. All meals included.

M.V. Reef Kist – Cairns Dive Centre (Island Diver)

Great value one of Cairns cheapest day boats to the Great Barrier Reef. Full day snorkeling visiting 2 x Reef Locations. Includes lunch and all snorkel gear.
Cairns Dive Centre

Poseidon Snorkel and Dive

Poseidon provides daily tours from Port Douglas to the Agincourt Ribbon Reefs, visiting three (3) separate reef sites. Suitable for divers and snorkelers.

Aqua Quest Dive Port Douglas

Aqua Quest provides daily reef tours departing from Port Douglas and visiting Agincourt Reef, St Crispin Reef, and Opal Reef. Nitrox available on board.

Reef Magic – Marine World

Up to 5 hours at the reef. Outer Great Barrier Reef pontoon with fabulous coral gardens. Meet Wally! Lots of inclusions: snorkelling, glass bottom boat, semi-sub, underwater observatory and more.
Reef Magic Outer Reef Scuba Diving

Great Adventures: Outer Reef

Leaves later than most (10am) and provides up to 3 hours at their outer reef pontoon. Enjoy the sun deck, underwater observatory, semi-submersible and many optional extras.
Great Adventures

Silversonic – Port Douglas

Silversonic provides daily reef tours departing from Port Douglas and visiting the ribbon reefs at Agincourt Reef. 5 hours at reef and up to 3 dives.

Great Adventures: Green Island & Great Barrier Reef

This is the only Cairns day tour to combine time on Green Island with a visit to a Great Barrier Reef pontoon. Best of both worlds. Suitable for snorkellers and divers.
Great Adventures Green Island & Reef Package

Do you need help choosing?

Can't decide? We have personally been on every Cairns reef and diving trip. We can help you choose the best tour, to suit your experience and budget.

contact us
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