Insider's Guide to Cairns & the Tropical North

Major attractions, tips and our top things to see and do.

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4.5 star rating: Recommended 105 Reviews

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  • Location:Cairns, Northern Beaches and Palm Cove, Australia
  • Duration:Varies

Great Barrier Reef Scenic Helicopter Tour and Cruise from Cairns

Customize your visit to the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns with your selection from three travel options with a choice of snorkeling, scuba diving and a one-way or round-trip scenic helicopter tour. Admire views of the Great Barrier Reef from your helicopter as you get a multi-angled perspective on one of the world’s top natural wonders. Then enjoy a close experience of the coral reef by choosing to snorkel, enroll in an optional scuba diving course (additional expense), or hop on a glass-bottom boat tour (additional expense).

Highlights

  • Half-day or full-day guided Great Barrier Reef tour by helicopter and boat
  • Snorkel, swim or scuba dive with expert guides at exclusive locations on one of the most famous coral reefs in the world
  • Marvel at aerial views of the Great Barrier Reef during a 25-minute helicopter flight
  • Learn from informative commentary during your helicopter flight and boat cruise
  • See colorful fish and coral up close while staying dry during a glass-bottom boat tour (payable direct)
  • Maximum of 6 passengers permitted per helicopter

Recent Photos of This Tour

What You Can Expect

Great Barrier Reef Scenic Helicopter Tour and Cruise from Cairns

Great Barrier Reef Scenic Helicopter Tour from Cairns

Choose from three options for your Great Barrier Reef experience (please see details under Itinerary below). Helicopters land at Hastings Reef floating helicopter pad, with transfer from there to a high-speed 100-foot (30-meter) vessel that holds a maximum of 100 people.

Eighteen expert guides lead activities, assist with snorkel or scuba diving equipment, and provide instruction to both newcomers and experienced participants. Even non-swimmers can get in the water with flotation devices and see the reef. For those who prefer to stay dry, a narrated glass-bottom boat tour is available in the afternoon (additional expense).

Optional activities include scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef, one of the world’s top dive locations! A complimentary 10-minute SCUBA lesson is provided before purchase of the introductory dive course. (Available only on the morning boat cruise). The full-day excursion has time for a total of three dives at two different locations for already certified scuba divers. The dives can be booked on the boat, and dive gear and dive computers are provided.

Your guides choose from 12 exclusive moorings at six locations for the best possible experience on the day of your tour. Generally, the boat visits one of the true Outer Great Barrier Reef locations (Norman Reef or Saxon Reef) in the morning. The afternoon features North Hastings Reef for snorkeling, the glass-bottom boat tour, and helicopter flight connections.

A tasty Australian barbecue buffet lunch is served on the boat. The spread may include fresh fish, sausages, steak, salads and pastas. At the end of your tour, return to the mainland by boat or helicopter, depending on the tour you choose.

Itinerary

Helicopter-Cruise Reef Tour (4 hours)
Fly by helicopter to the Outer Great Barrier Reef, have lunch and enjoy two hours of snorkeling, diving, swimming and glass-bottom boat tour (payable direct), then cruise by boat back to Cairns. Departs Cairns at 12:40pm and return at approximately 4:45pm. Hotel pick-ups commence between 30-60 minutes prior to this time.

Cruise-Helicopter Reef Tour (6.5 hours)

This option gives you the most time on the Great Barrier Reef! Depart by boat from Cairns and enjoy five hours of snorkeling, scuba diving, and swimming, plus the barbecue lunch and glass-bottom boat tour (at own expense). If you take the boat in the morning, when you arrive at the reef you stop at two prime locations to see multi-colored coral gardens and schools of fish. In the afternoon, transfer to the helicopter pad for your return flight to Cairns. Departs Cairns at 8:30am and returns at approximately 3pm. Hotel pick-ups commence between 30-60 minutes prior to this time.

Round-trip Helicopter Reef Tour (3 hours)
Fly by helicopter to the Outer Great Barrier Reef, enjoy one and a half hours for lunch and your snorkeling, swimming, diving and glass-bottom boat tour (at own expense), then depart by helicopter for Cairns. Departs Cairns at 12:40pm and returns to Cairns at approximately 3pm. Hotel pick-ups commence between 30-60 minutes prior to this time.

Customer Reviews

Candace J

5 star rating: Highly Recommended February 2016

The Reef was amazing! The boat was extremely nice along with the staff, gear and snorkeling. Lunch was great. The ride home in the helicopter was not 25 minutes- more like 15 minutes. We arrived so early that we had to wait 15 minutes for our shuttles that were taking us back to our hotel to show up.

Chris D

5 star rating: Highly Recommended January 2016

Great experience- The reef is amazing, the people were very professional and knowledgable.

mike United Kingdom

5 star rating: Highly Recommended December 2015

Definitely the best way to see the reef if you are restricted on time. This is an half day tour which starts around noon and finishes back at your hotel by 6pm. You get taken to the airport in Cairns where you get on your helicopter for a thirty minute flight out to and over a good area of the reef. You all get a good view and photo ops before setting down on a small pontoon next to the boat. A quick ride later and you are on the boat getting your snorkels and flippers for a 40 minutes swim around the surrounding reef. Then for a small extra fee got to do the same trip around the reef in the submersible which enabled us to take better photos of the reef up close. We then had lunch which could have been better because we only got the leftovers from the people who had done the boat trip both ways plenty of meat but my wife, who only eats fish, had to go without.
The boat trip back was enjoyable with plenty of cheese and biscuits and wine which made up slightly for the poor lunch. Even so it was a great trip and a very good 6 hour tour.

sharrlea

5 star rating: Highly Recommended December 2015

Would highly recommend this amazing tour. Everything ran smoothly, the tour guides were exceptional, the helicopter was exceptional, the reef just beautiful....loved every minute!

H G D

5 star rating: Highly Recommended September 2015

Best experience ever! Beautiful reefs, nice boatride, great snorkling equipment and friendly staff. The view from the helicopter is fantastic.

Naomi D

5 star rating: Highly Recommended August 2015

Very professional and friendly crew, both on the helicopter side and on the boat. Beautiful flight out to the reef. After a safety briefing on the boat we were in the water within 10 minutes. Great lunch on the way back on the boat. Highly recommend.

Imogen V

5 star rating: Highly Recommended August 2015

A once in a lifetime experience. It was incredible. Great value for money. Amazing knowledge from each member of the crew. Accessible for all abilities of swimmers. Brilliant food. Great entertainment. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.

Nicola J

5 star rating: Highly Recommended June 2015

This tour was amazing!

Mdlyn H

5 star rating: Highly Recommended May 2015

By far the best tour I have ever experienced. To Elvis and crew: Much thanks for your professionalism and hospitality.

Allan B

5 star rating: Highly Recommended May 2015

This tour was amazing!

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Tour code: 3262FLY

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