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Cairns Reef Tours

Cairns Reef Tours depart daily, taking passengers from the tropical port city to a variety of marine destinations, including the Outer Great Barrier Reef, tropical islands (Green and Fitzroy) and pristine coral sand cays.

These trips enable people to visit, explore and enjoy the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef. Cairns Great Barrier Reef cruises are numerous in destination, boat type and product offering. They cater to everyone from the non-swimmer, to the advanced scuba diver, the very young to the adventurous, older explorer.

Come and See Nemo

Come and See Nemo

Green Turtle

Green Turtle



The Great Barrier Reef is simply paradise. Clear, warm blue waters are home to vibrant, rainbow coloured corals, fish of every imaginable size and shape, flying mantra rays, graceful turtles, sea stars, migrating whales, dolphins and so much more.

Claiming pride of place in the Coral Sea, off Queensland’s north-eastern coastline in Australia, the Great Barrier Reef is one of world’s ‘must visit’ places. Its beauty creates lasting, lifetime memories. From the smallest anemone shrimp and pygmy sea horse, to schools of darting bait fish and the largest Potato Cod and Maori Wrasse, the reef residents will inspire, humble and amaze you.

Green Island

Green Island

Outer Reef Tours

Outer Reef Tours

Outer Reef Pontoon

Outer Reef Pontoon

With over 20 Cairns reef cruises on offer, each and every day, it can be confusing to know what is best for you. Cairns Dive Adventures is here to help. We have been on every boat and visited every Cairns reef cruise destination. We are not affiliated with any of the reef cruise operators. We are Cairns locals who are passionate about the Great Barrier Reef and dedicated to ensuring every visitor has the very best experience, to suit their needs, skills, budget and itinerary.

Cairns is the best place to visit the Great Barrier Reef

This is the closest mainland port to the reef, which means you’ll enjoy less time travelling and more time exploring and enjoying this natural marine marvel. Cairns reef operators are committed to environmental protection and awareness, ensuring you see and learn about the reef, without damaging it for future generations.

The water temperatures here are comfortable throughout the year, ranging from 30 degrees Celsius in Summer to 23 degrees Celsius in Winter. All Cairns reef boats have lycra and wetsuits onboard. These suits offer protection from the tropical sunshine and any marine stingers that may be in the water. Please see our Top Tips on visiting the Great Barrier Reef for more information and answers to general reef questions.

Upulo Cay

Upulo Cay

Warm Water

Warm Water

Amazing Colours

Amazing Colours

The Great Barrier Reef itself is comprised of over 2,900 individual reef systems and numerous tropical islands and sand cays. On a Cairns reef cruise you will get to experience the beauty of the reef and can choose the destination that best suits you.

Cairns Outer Great Barrier Reef Cruises take you 60km offshore, visiting some of the many different reef sites. Coral towers rise 30m from the ocean floor, reaching a plateau just metres under the surface, creating a shallow space for fish and snorkelers to share the warm waters, enjoying the kaleidoscope of coral colours, illuminated by the softly filtered light.

Divers can descend further, exploring the Great Barrier Reef’s coral walls, caves and swim throughs, festooned with soft corals, feather stars, sea fans and anemone.

Cairns Outer Reef Pontoon Tours

Cairns also has Outer Reef Pontoon Cruises. How are these different? These trips also visit Cairns’ Outer Great Barrier Reef, but your day boat will tie up to a permanently anchored pontoon. There are three trips including a pontoon. Pontoon cruises are generally the most expensive, as they include more activities, such as glass-bottom boat tours, semi-submersible tours, underwater observatory, fish feeding and marine biologist presentations.

Reef Magic

Reef Magic



Great Adventures

Great Adventures

The pontoons are quite large and have covered seating, sun decks and change rooms. All of the pontoons are anchored near shallow coral gardens, which are excellent for snorkelling. These trips are great for everyone: you do not even need to get wet to see the reef! Travel time is 90-minutes to 2-hours on comfortable, air-conditioned catamarans. Diving is available as an optional extra, as is Introductory Diving (no experience necessary).

Cairns Island Reef Tours

Cairns reef cruises also visit tropical islands and sand cays, like Green Island and Fitzroy Island, Michaelmas and Upolu Cay. The islands offer a diverse shore and sea experience. Green Island has tropical rainforest with boardwalks and interpretive signage, and comfortable sandy beaches. The coral gardens are best near the jetty. Fitzroy Island has a lighthouse and summit walk, coral beaches and a range of on-island activities. Both islands have resorts and bars. These trips are good for families, non-swimmers and swimmers. They can be booked as half or full day tours.

Michealmas Cay

Michealmas Cay

Green Island

Green Island

Fitzroy Island

Fitzroy Island

The sand cays are set in the Coral Sea, providing safe, shallow waters for snorkelling and diving. They are surrounded by fringing reefs, home to giant clams and schools of colourful fish. Be welcomed into the water by grey and yellow bat fish and fast moving trevally, while brightly coloured parrotfish graze on the corals. Giant clams with their iridescent interiors open and close with the passing of people, tiny damsel fish and hum bugs dart in and out of the staghorn corals, while turtles glide through this underwater world, the masters of their domain. These are full day tours suitable for people of all ages, but recommended for those that can swim.

Cairns Reef Tour Activities

Some of these cruises include glass-bottom boat tours and a marine biologist presentation, some do not. All cruises include transfers to and from the reef, snorkelling equipment and lunch. Diving is available, as an optional extra, as is Introductory Diving (no experience necessary). These are open water trips, which means you may be subject to currents and tidal conditions, travel time is usually between 90-minutes and 2 hours. These trips are good for comfortable / confident swimmers.

Semi Submarine

Semi Submarine

Glass Bottom Boat

Glass Bottom Boat

Underwater Observatory

Underwater Observatory

Departure times for Cairns reef cruises vary from operator to operator, the first boats leave at 7.30am and the final departure is at 10.30am. Standard price inclusions are the boat trip to the reef, tea and coffee, lunch and a marine biologist presentation. Some packages include additional activities and optional extras, such as scenic helicopter flights. Cruises can be booked as half (island tours only) or full day tours.

Cairns Dive Adventures has done all of the Cairns reef cruises. Each offers a slightly different day and experience. We are happy to provide unbiased trip reviews and advice, to help you select the best reef cruise for your experience and budget.

Please note that we are not affiliated with any of the boats. We are Cairns locals, trying to help visitors have the best time they can, on the amazing Great Barrier Reef. This website is funded and built by us: we make commission from your tour bookings. We hope this information is of some assistance and thank you in advance for your support.

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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 – Half Day

There are three (3) departure and return times for the half day tours, which means this trip can be accommodated into most itineraries.

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.

Big Cat Green Island – Half Day

Half day tours from Cairns to Green Island. Morning (9am) and afternoon (12.45pm) departures. Up to 2 hours to explore Green Island. Rainforest walks, swimming and snorkelling from the beach.
Green Island

Skedaddle: Half Day Snorkel Tour

Skedaddle provide Cairns half day snorkel tours to the Great Barrier Reef. Check in at 8.30am. Enjoy 2 hours snorkelling time on the reef, with all equipment and guides included. Great value.
Cairns Half Day Snorkel Tours

Fitzroy Island & Sea Kayaking – Cancelled

The only Cairns Great Barrier Reef day tour that includes sea kayaking. Fitzroy Island day tour. Up to 7 hours on the island, including 3-hour guided sea kayaking tour (no experience necessary).
Sea Kayaking - Fitzroy Island

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.

Big Cat Green Island – Full Day

Green Island day tours run by a locally owned and operated company. Departs at 9am and returns at 5pm. Plenty of time to explore Green Island's rainforest, sandy beaches and fringing reefs. Great value.
Big Cat Green Island Cruises

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).

Low Isles Wavedancer

Low Isles is an unspoilt coral cay, which is just a one hour sail from Port Douglas. A great day tour for families and non-swimmers. Not suitable for scuba divers.

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.

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.

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