What are the best reefs in Cairns?

This topic can be very subjective as there are many amazing healthy reefs to visit from Cairns. In this article, we are going to break it down into small easily digestible chunks so that you can make up your mind, what are the best reefs in Cairns!

Ok, let's get into it!

REEF TOURS FOR SNORKEL OR DIVING

Lady enjoying the water-slide at Moore Reef.

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.

Silverswift At The 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.

Evolution Dive Boat Cairns

Down Under Dive: Evolution

Well priced Great Barrier Reef day tour, including BBQ lunch. 5 hours on the reef at 2 reef sites. Introductory and certified diving are available at extra cost. Brand new boat.

ReefQuest

Deep Sea Divers Den: Aqua Quest

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

Do you need help choosing?

Can't decide?
CALL US: 07 4041 1638
Or try the form below, 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.

I Just Plan to Snorkel:

If you just plan on snorkeling then two stand-out reefs are Norman reef and Flynn reef. Both of these reefs have very shallow coral gardens located at the top side of the reef. Similarly, this makes it very easy to swim up into the shallow coral gardens and explore the thousands of soft and hard corals. In addition to finding many species of bright colorful reef fish and marine animals that inhabit these reefs, they are very easy to get to.

  • Snorkeling at these reef sites you can easily find yourself spending 45 minutes or even up to an hour floating above the shallow coral gardens.
  • In addition, two wonderful day trips visit these reefs; Silverswift Dive & Snorkel visit Flynn Reef and Reef Experience visit Norman Reef. Both of these day trips offer you snorkel gear, lycra suits, pool noodles, and life jackets.

It is a good idea to use the supplied pool noodle or life jackets as these keep you floating on the surface and very buoyant. Please remember do not stand on top of the reef this will break and damage the reef.

We are Certified Divers:

If you are a certified diver then two stand-out reefs are Saxon reef and Milln reef. Saxon reef has a dive site called Magic Wall or Magic Mountain Wall, firstly this is one of the nicest scuba dives you can do from Cairns. Divers can experience a steep drop-off wall dive with depths of up to 23 meters. Secondly, you can find giant pink soft corals at around 22 meters deep with large red sea whips and very healthy coral.

  • Importantly there is a day boat called Reef Experience for those that only have one day to spend.
  • Alternatively, there is an overnight liveaboard called Reef Encounter where divers may spend multiple days exploring these magical dive sites.
  • Overnight liveaboards are the way to go if you can spare 3 or 4 days.

Similarly, there is fantastic diving to be had at Milln Reef, a beautiful reef located 54.96klm East of the city of Cairns. This reef is home to a wonderful dive site named three sisters. Named appropriately as there are three large bommies that extend from a depth of about 24 meters to around 18 meters.

Furthermore, you can nearly always find large schools of diagonal banded Sweetlips fish - (Plectorhinchus lineatus) congregating on top of these bommies. Diagonal-banded Sweetlips makes for fantastic underwater photos, they generally congregate in large groups of 8 or 12 fish per bommie. Sitting at around 6 / 8 meters underwater they are perfect for underwater photographers.

Above all, there are two wonderful day boats that visit Milne reef both Silverswift Dive & Snorkel and Passions of Paradise offer day trips to Milne reef. Alternatively for those that have a little more time you could spend a 3-Day/2-Night liveaboard with Pro-Dive Cairns.

Watch Video:

See our latest video from overnight diving at Norman, Saxon, and Hastings Reef with Reef Encounter:

In Conclusion:

To sum it up we have tried to outline what are the best reefs in Cairns. For instance, if you are a snorkeler check out Norman Reef and Flynn Reef. If you are a certified diver check out Saxon Reef and Milln Reef. If you have time we always recommend trying to go out on the overnight liveaboards, this really gives you a lot more time to explore this magical part of the world!

Here at Cairns Dive Adventures, we are active scuba divers on all the reefs from both Cairns, Port Douglas, the Ribbon Reefs, and the Coral Sea, we are here to help. With over 638 dives on the Great Barrier Reef, if you have any further questions or need some help choosing a trip, please contact our dive crazy reservation team on (+61 7 40411 638) or by Email: reservations@cairnsdiveadventures.com

Lady enjoying the water-slide at Moore Reef.

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.
Silverswift At The 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.
Evolution Dive Boat Cairns

Down Under Dive: Evolution

Well priced Great Barrier Reef day tour, including BBQ lunch. 5 hours on the reef at 2 reef sites. Introductory and certified diving are available at extra cost. Brand new boat.
ReefQuest

Deep Sea Divers Den: Aqua Quest

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

Reef Magic Cruises

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.
Great Adventures Green Island & Reef Package

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.
The Passions of Paradise boat Cairns Australia

Passions Of Paradise

Australian Tourism Award Winner. Daily dive/snorkel trips to Paradise Reef, Hastings reef, and more on 25m sailing catamaran. Free scuba demonstration & guided snorkel tour. Hot / cold buffet lunch.
Fully inclusive Great Barrier Reef day tours with Reef Experience

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.
Ocean Freedom the quickest Great Barrier Reef day tour dive in Cairns

Ocean Freedom Cruise

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.
Great Adventures Day Boat

Great Adventures: Outer Reef Pontoon

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.

Silversonic Dive & Snorkel

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.

Ocean Spirit Cruises Cairns

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.
Poseidon Dive Boat with Divers

Poseidon Snorkel and Dive

Poseidon provides daily tours from Port Douglas to the Agincourt Ribbon Reefs, visiting three (3) separate reef sites. Suitable for scuba divers and snorkelers. Great passenger to crew ratio.
Quicksilver Cruises Boat from Port Douglas

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.
Dreamtime Dive & Snorkel Reef Boat

Dreamtime Dive & Snorkel Cruises

Dreamtime Dive & Snorkel offers a great value for money option that spends 5 hours at a beautiful reef location. Free guided snorkel tour, glass bottom boat tour and marine presentation.

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Cairns Reef Information

Click the links below to find out more.

Do you need help choosing a trip?

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.

Special

FREE UNDERWATER CAMERA HIRE*

Cairns Underwater Camera Hire Service

Spend over $550.00 AUD on your Great Barrier Reef tour with us and receive the latest Digital Underwater Camera Hire. Take amazing High-Resolution images and 1080 HD Video.

Not available for any tours to the Islands as fine white sand damages the seals on the cameras and makes them leak!

You need to come into our shop located on the Cairns Esplanade the day before departure to pick up the camera before 5:30 pm. You also need to supply your own SD Camera Card and drop the camera off back at our shop before 5:30pm.