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How You Can Tour the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns

Explore one of the world’s most beautiful places.

Off the coast of Tropical North Queensland in the Coral Sea you will find the world’s largest and most extensive coral reef system – the Great Barrier Reef.

Covering an area of more than 348,000 square kilometers, the Great Barrier Reef encompasses more than 3000 coral reefs, over 900 islands and coral cays, more than 600 types of corals, more than 100 species of jellyfish, over 1600 kinds of fish, and almost any other marine creature you can possibly think of.

It comes as no surprise that this World Heritage Listed destination has become one of the most visited places in Australia – attracting more than 2 million people each year.

When it comes to exploring the Reef, there are so many different ways to go about it. You can opt for sailing boat tours, fishing adventures, snorkeling trips or you can even take in this incredible attraction from above with a scenic flight or helicopter tour. Basically, whatever you can imagine, you can probably experience. But choosing the best tour option can be tricky – where do you even start?

For many people, Cairns is a very popular starting point to explore the Reef from. So, to make finding the right tour option for you easier, we’ve put together a list of some of the ways you can discover the Reef from Cairns today!

Discover the Reef from Cairns with these tour options

Sunlover Reef Cruises

If you’re traveling with the whole family, including kids, then Sunlover Reef Cruises is the perfect way for you to discover the Reef.

You’ll want to make sure you’ve got a full day spare for this one, because it is a big day of adventure. You’ll hop aboard a high-speed (and air-conditioned) catamaran that will sail through the Coral Sea for 40kms to reach its destination – the Moore Reef.

So, what’s at the Moore Reef Pontoon? Well, it’s essentially a small water theme park on right on the Reef that has activities for everyone. The kids (and adults) can enjoy the waterside, as well as the huge sun deck, fully enclosed pool, guided glass bottom boat tours, a semi-submersible submarine tour and there’s even snorkelling equipment. Even if you don’t like getting wet, you can still marvel at this incredible marine world!

You’ll spend 4 hours out on the Moore Reef, which will also include a hot and cold buffet lunch. Bask in the warm sun’s glow while you experience one of the most unique dining destinations in the world.

Pro Dive Cairns

If you’re a bit of a diver or you’ve always fantasized about giving diving a go – well, there isn’t really a better place to go diving. And when you’re in Cairns, Pro Diver is the tour group that’s perfect for you.

Pro Dive offers people scuba diving Cairns tours in 19 of the most exclusive and unspoilt dive sites of the Reef. And there are a variety of tour options where you can spend from one day to up to 5 days learning to dive and exploring this incredible destination.

If you’ve only got a day to spare, you should opt for the Silverswift tour, which offers 5 hours out on the Reef visiting 3 dive spots. And if you’re a beginner, you can enjoy two introductory dives and Great Barrier Reef snorkeling as part of this tour.

If you’ve got a little more time up your sleeve, Pro Dive Cairns offers a 3-day/2-night tour where you can learn to dive and take on various PADI certified scuba diving courses. Pro Cairns also offers 5-day Learn to Dive Open Water Certification Courses – what better place to learn?

And for the real dive pros out there, Pro Dive offers a number of different Liveaboard Tour options, where you can spend anywhere from 3 days to 7 days, exploring and immersing yourself in some of the best diving sites in the world. Some of these options even offer nighttime dives!

Reef Magic Cruises

If you’re after a somewhat more relaxing way to experience the Reef, then you can’t really go past Reef Magic Cruises.

With Reef Magic you will experience private access to an exquisite coral reef location. The pristine waters and incredible array of marine life make it the perfect place to take in the true wonder and diversity of the Reef.

The tour also includes a marine biologist who offers guided snorkel safari tours, as well as access to a glass bottom boat, an underwater observatory, and a semi-submersible reef viewer, so if you prefer staying dry, you don’t have to miss out on discovering the Reef.

And remember how we said this one was relaxing? Well, you can take some time out to enjoy the glorious sundeck and scenery while also enjoying a massage from the area’s only reef-based masseuse.

Could there be a more relaxing way to discover the Reef?

Fitzroy Island

Another way you can immerse yourself in the world of the Great Barrier Reef is by visiting a tropical island that is situated in the waters of the Great Barrier Reef. And our pick for the best tropical island to discover the Reef from is Fitzroy Island.

Fitzroy Island is only a 45-minute ferry ride (aboard the Fast Cat Ferry) from the Cairns Marina and is considered one of the places where the rainforest meets the reef.

This beautiful tropical island is 97% national park, with a ranging landscape that includes large granite boulders, luscious green rainforest and the beach that was named Australia’s Most Beautiful in 2018, Nudey Beach.

In addition to the incredible landscape of the island, you also happen to be metres away from the coral gardens of the Reef. From Nudey Beach and Welcome Bay (the island’s main bay area), you can come face to face with this diverse underwater world within seconds.

From Fitzroy Island you can explore the Reef in a wide variety of ways including water activities like sea kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, snorkelling and scuba diving. Or if you prefer to stay dry, you can take a tour of the Reef with a glass bottomed boat tour, or you can even meet some of the friendly sea turtles at the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre on the island.

If you’re short on time, you can take a day trip to the island, with the Fast Cat offerings return trips from Cairns. Or if you have more time, you can stay for a while to have a go at all of these activities and so many more. Fitzroy Island Resorts offers all sorts of accommodation to suit any budget, from camping all the way to the Penthouse suite. 

If visiting the Great Barrier Reef is something you’ve always wanted to do, as you can see there are so many different ways you can discover this incredibly diverse and engaging destination. Like any other once-in-a-lifetime adventure, use our guide and plan your dream Great Barrier Reef journey today!

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