Where is the best place to visit the Great Barrier Reef?

Cairns, in Tropical North Queensland Australia, is the best place to visit the Great Barrier Reef.

As Australia’s premier regional city, Cairns has its own international and domestic airports, seaport and is connected nationally on the railway line.

A tropical city with unique character, Cairns is the gateway to two amazing World Heritage sites – the Great Barrier Reef & Wet Tropics Rainforests (Daintree) – making it your ideal holiday destination.

Cairns Reef

Cairns Reef

Cairns Sunrise

Cairns Sunrise

Cairns Wildlife

Cairns Wildlife

Cairns accommodation options range from budget backpackers to bed and breakfast and caravan parks, self-contained holiday apartments, beachside bungalows, island retreats and luxury hotels and resorts.

Choose to stay in the city, with its free Esplanade Lagoon pool, shops, restaurants, casino and proximity to the Reef Fleet Terminal (where most Great Barrier Reef tours depart from) or at one of the northern beaches, including Palm Cove.

Making your stay even easier, Cairns tourism operators provide an extensive range of daily tours to the Great Barrier Reef and its islands, including Green Island, Fitzroy Island and the Frankland Islands.

Cairns Snorkeling and Diving

There are over 20 daily snorkel and dive tours, as well as a range of liveaboard scuba diving tours ranging anywhere from overnight to up to seven (7) days and nights, taking you from Cairns north to Lizard Island, the Ribbon Reefs and out to the Coral Sea.

Cairns is also an ideal place to learn to scuba dive on the Great Barrier Reef. Cairns Learn to Dive operators are some of the most experienced in the world with 5 star PADI and SSI accreditation.

Courses on offer start at introductory reef dives, with no experience necessary, to basic Open Water Certification, Advanced and Adventure Diving, Stress and Rescue Diving and more.

Cairns learn to dive courses start daily and you can choose between PADI or SSI accreditation. All courses include trips to the Great Barrier Reef, so you can practice skills learnt in the classroom and pool, on one of the earth's amazing natural wonders. Levels of professionalism, safety and equipment are world class.

Nemo Michaelmas Cay

Nemo Michaelmas Cay



Cairns Scuba Diving

Cairns Scuba Diving

Cairns tourism operators are committed to ensuring they operate to the highest environmental standards, protecting the Great Barrier Reef and providing visitors with information and interpretation on its natural wonders, amazing residents and World Heritage values.

When selecting your Great Barrier Reef trip, make sure you look for an operator that has Ecotourism or Advanced Ecotourism accreditation through EcoTourism Australia. That way, you know you are supporting sustainable tourism and helping to preserve the Great Barrier Reef for visitors today, tomorrow and in the future.

Cairns is definitely the best place to visit the Great Barrier Reef, not only for its proximity to the reef and variety of touring options and experiences available (choose between day trips and liveaboard trips to reefs, islands and coral cays) but also for its other attractions.

Cairns Attractions

Combine your Great Barrier Reef holiday of a lifetime with a visit to the world's oldest continually surviving tropical rainforests or the vast Australian outback, all are within driving distance of Cairns. A range of Great Barrier Reef tourist packages are available, allowing you to combine your reef trip with a scenic helicopter flight, introductory or certified scuba dive, rainforest day tour, parachuting, hot air ballooning and much, much more.

You will be amazed at what Cairns has to offer: award winning restaurants, art galleries, shopping, botanic gardens and so much more. We look forward to seeing you in Cairns and on the Great Barrier Reef, soon.

If you need help trying to find a reef tour to suit your preferences, try our tour finder let us help you find a tour to suit your budget, experience level and time frame.

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.
Tusa at the Reef

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.
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. Free guided snorkeling tours, introductory and certified diving are available at extra cost. Brand new boat.

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.
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 Michaelmas Cay & Paradise Reef 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.
Cairns Dive Centre Day Boat - MV Reef Kist

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.
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

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.

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.
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.

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.

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Cairns Reef Information

Click the links below to find out more.

Do You Need Help Choosing?

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.



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 6:00pm.