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Cairns Outer Reef Cruises

Cairns’ Outer Great Barrier Reef Cruises are an excellent choice for singles, couples, families with older children and adventurous travellers.

The Great Barrier Reef system is comprised of more than 2,900 individual coral reefs. Each day more than 30 trips depart Cairns: you can choose between sail boats and fast, comfortable catamarans. Activities available include snorkelling, introductory diving (no experience necessary) and certified scuba diving. The boat size varies, pending the operator, so you can escape the crowds and tailor your day to suit your interests.

Tusa Dive

Tusa Dive

Reef Magic Pontoon

Reef Magic Pontoon

Reef Quest

Reef Quest

Although each of these Great Barrier Reef tours offer different destinations and experiences, there is one main choice to make when selecting an outer reef cruise. Do you want to take a cruise that visits a pontoon or not? What’s the difference? A pontoon trip allows you to leave the boat and enjoy shaded seating and meals on a permanently anchored pontoon. Non-swimmers will enjoy a pontoon trip, thanks to the range of above-water activities.

A boat trip takes you to and from and the reef, visiting between two and three different reef sites (pending the operator) with water entry directly from the boat itself. These trips are not recommended for non-swimmers.

Pontoon trips are generally more expensive, but have more inclusions: boat trips are cheaper and allow you to visit more reef sites. More on this as follows.

Cairns’ Outer Great Barrier Reef Boat Trips

Cairns Outer Great Barrier Reef boat trips are generally cheaper than the outer reef pontoon trips. Travel time is generally between 90-minutes and 2-hours and you visit at least two different reef sites during the day. Each operator has different moorings; some of the reefs you may visit include Saxon, Hastings, Paradise, Milln, Moore, Flynn, Thetford, Sudbury, Channel and more. All are within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and World Heritage Area.

Tusa Dive

Tusa Dive



Try a Scuba Dive

Try a Scuba Dive

Inclusions on these trips vary. Some boats have glass bottom boat tours, some offer guided snorkelling and some do not. All trips include lunch and complimentary tea and coffee on arrival. These trips are suitable for snorkelers and divers and allow you to explore the Great Barrier Reef in the open water. These trips are not suitable for non-swimmers.

Maximum water depth is generally around 30m and coral gardens come to within metres of the surface. You can expect to see colourful corals and many different types, shapes and sizes of Great Barrier Reef fish.

Cairns’ Outer Reef Pontoons

Cairns’ Outer Reef Pontoons provide the perfect day tour for families, non-swimmers, motion sickness sufferers, the elderly, mobility impaired visitors and people wanting a variety of reef activities in the one tour. Why?

All three of Cairns’ outer reef pontoons have child friendly swimming enclosures and provide child-sized wetsuits and snorkelling equipment. The boats and pontoons are pram friendly and some even have change tables.

Nemo Magic


Sun Deck Magic

Relax on the sundeck

Pontoon Snorkeling

Pontoon Snorkeling

Non-swimmers can partake in a range of Great Barrier Reef experiences thanks to glass bottom boat tours, underwater observatories, marine biologist presentations and semi-submersible vessels.

Pontoons are more ‘stable’ than boats. Their larger size and sheltered anchor positions make them more like being back on land, giving motion sickness sufferers a chance to get off the boats. Swimming, snorkelling and diving are all easily enjoyed from platforms, with access to calm waters. When not exploring the Great Barrier Reef, relax on sundecks with comfortable lounges.

The Outer Reef Pontoons offer a variety of activities. Guests can swim, snorkel, scuba dive, partake in glass bottom boat and semi-submersible tours, visit underwater observatories and marine touch tanks, relax on sun decks, get changed and have a freshwater shower before returning home.

Three Cairns Great Barrier Reef day tour operators have permanently moored outer reef pontoons, Reef Magic Cruises, Great Adventures and Sunlover Cruises.

Cairns Dive Adventures has been on every Cairns outer reef cruise and pontoon. We are happy to provide unbiased advice and trip reviews, to help you select the best day tour to suit your budget and experience. All of these trips are full day tours. Contact us for more info on +61 7 4041 1638 |

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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.

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.

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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