Where is the Great Barrier Reef Located?

The Great Barrier Reef is in the Coral Sea, on Australia’s north-eastern coast. It stretches more than 2,300km along the state of Queensland’s coastline, beginning at the tip of Cape York Peninsula in the north and extending down to Bundaberg in the south. The Great Barrier Reef is ideal for Cairns Scuba Diving.

The Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area encompasses approximately 348,000km2 and extends from the low water mark of the mainland to include all islands, internal waters of Queensland and Seas and Submerged Lands Act exclusions.

Visible from outer space, the Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest living organism and is a place of remarkable natural beauty and biodiversity. Its physical size, when taken as a single unit, is larger than Switzerland, Holland and the United Kingdom combined. In Australian terms, its area is larger than Tasmania and Victoria combined.

Where is the Great Barrier Reef Located

It is the world’s largest coral reef ecosystem and a critical global resource, as was recognized when it was added to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (UNESCO) World Heritage list as a natural site on 30 October 1981. To be added to the list, the Great Barrier Reef met all four natural criteria.

Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Values

  1. The Great Barrier Reef provides a habitat for rare and threatened species of plants and animals and for in situ conversation of biodiversity.
  2. The Great Barrier Reef has outstanding examples representing significant ongoing ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals.
  3. The Great Barrier Reef has outstanding examples representing major stages of the earth’s history including: the record of life; significant geomorphic and physiographic features; ongoing geological processes in the development of landforms.
  4. The Great Barrier Reef contains superlative natural phenomena and areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance.

Great Barrier Reef - Significant Features and Highlights Include:

  1. Over 2,000km2 of mangroves, including 54% of the world’s mangrove diversity
  2. Over 2,900 coral reefs, built from 360 species of hard corals
  3. Over 3,000 km2 of sea grasses
  4. Provides a safe breeding ground for Humpback and other whale species
  5. Approximately 2,000 fish species
  6. Over 5,000 molluscs species
  7. 800 echinoderm species (sea stars etc), representing 13% of the world’s total species
  8. Six (6) turtle species – of the world’s seven (7) known species
  9. The world’s largest dugong population
  10. Over 1/3 of the world’s soft coral and sea pen species
  11. Over 175 bird species
  12. Approximately 2,200 native plant species (25% of Queensland’s total)

In recent years, post-World Heritage listing, Australia’s state and federal governments increased the level of protection afforded to Great Barrier Reef Marine Park to include subsoil beneath the seabed to a depth of 1,000m and the airspace above the waters to 915m.

Occupying such a large tract of space, it is little wonder that the Great Barrier Reef contains more than just coral reefs. Other natural features include: mangrove estuaries; sandy and coral cays; continental islands; sea grass beds; algal and sponge gardens; sandy and muddy bottom communities; continental slopes and deep ocean troughs.

So, now we’ve answered the question ‘Where is the Great Barrier Reef located?’ the next question is, 'Where is the best place to visit the Great Barrier Reef?'

Cairns in Tropical North Queensland is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and the best place to base yourself for a visit.

Cairns is the closest coastal city to the Great Barrier Reef, meaning less travel and more time on the reef. It offers over 500 day tour options, including snorkel and dive tours to the Great Barrier Reef, its islands and coral cays.

Cairns is also home to the Daintree Rainforests and within driving distance of Cape Tribulation, where the rainforest meets the reef.

Cairns is a safe, tropical holiday destination with world class attractions and Australian tourism award winning attractions and well know for Cairns Diving. A 'must do' inclusion on any Australian Great Barrier Reef holiday itinerary.

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.

Search for Tours:

Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Search in posts
Search in pages

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.