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  • Address: Pier Marina, Pier Point Road, Cairns, Tropical North 4870, Australia
  • Admission: Free

Encompassing roughly 3,000 individual reefs and dotted with almost 900 islands and coral cays (small sandy isles), Australia's Great Barrier Reef is one of the world’s most unforgettable natural treasures. Snorkelers and certified divers often place the reef at the top of their bucket lists due to the unparalleled array of marine life in its underwater world, ranging from thousands of different varieties of fish, birds, and clams to hundreds of types of birds, seaweed, and turtles. And with experts expecting much of this diversity to dwindle in the next decade, there’s never been a better reason to plan a visit to this natural wonder.


Popular Great Barrier Reef Activities

Snorkeling and scuba diving are the most popular activities; the water is at its clearest from April to October and most snorkeling tours include the use of equipment. Savvy visitors make their trip into an educational opportunity by getting their PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) certificate. Keep in mind that strenuous in-water activities are not recommended for those with medical conditions affecting the heart or lungs.


Don’t want to get wet? The sheer enormity of this UNESCO World Heritage Site makes it worth experiencing out of the water as well. Some barrier reef cruises feature afternoon tea or take place on a glass bottom boat rather than a catamaran, suitable for those who would like a more relaxed reef experience. And if you’re short on time, scenic helicopter flights offer the full-picture perspective on the immensity of this remarkable ecosystem, which makes up the world’s largest coral reef.


Insider Tip

Staying in Airlie Beach, the gateway to the Whitsunday Islands, can allow you to see the area without having to pay the steep price of luxury island resorts.


Great Barrier Reef Attractions

Seeing the huge Great Barrier Reef could take weeks, but there are a few landmarks and highlights that are must-sees. Saxon, Hastings, and Norman reefs in the outer Great Barrier Reef are top scuba diving and snorkeling spots, while Hamilton Island, Green Island, and Fitzroy Island are some of the most popular day trip destinations for reef tours. And visits to nearby Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park and the Daintree Rainforest, both located on the mainland outside Cairns, are easy to add onto your Great Barrier Reef exploration. A trip on the Kuranda Scenic Railway or Skyrail Rainforest Cableway can provide a unique view and be combined with a reef cruise.

How to Get There

Scuba diving excursions, snorkeling trips, and reef cruises all depart from Cairns, Cape Tribulation, Port Douglas, or Townsville. The reef runs 1,426 miles (2,300 km) from Bundaberg to the country’s northernmost tip, coming closest to the continent right around Queensland.

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Great Barrier Reef Diving and Snorkeling Cruise from Cairns, Cairns & the Tropical North, null
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Great Barrier Reef Diving and Snorkeling Cruise from Cairns

4.5 star rating: Recommended 460 Reviews

Make the most of your visit to the Great Barrier Reef on a full-day tour by fast boat, with five hours to enjoy two premium spots on the reef with snorkeling ...  Read more

Location: Cairns, Australia
Duration: 8 hours 30 minutes (approx.)

From USD $116.76
Green Island Day Trip from Cairns, Cairns & the Tropical North, Day Cruises
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Green Island Day Trip from Cairns

4.5 star rating: Recommended 430 Reviews

Cruise to Green Island from Cairns and find a tropical paradise on the Great Barrier Reef. You'll spend either four or five hours at Green Island, with plenty ...  Read more

Location: Cairns, Australia
Duration: Varies

From USD $70.53
Cairns Super Saver: Great Barrier Reef Cruise plus Kuranda Scenic Railway plus Cape Tribulation Day ... 
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Cairns Super Saver: Great Barrier Reef Cruise plus Kuranda Scenic Railway plus Cape Tribulation Day Trip

4.5 star rating: Recommended 91 Reviews

Over three days, experience the best of tropical Far North Queensland! Go diving or snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef, ride the Kuranda Scenic Railway and ...  Read more

Location: Cairns, Australia
Duration: 3 days (approx.)

From USD $330.70
Low Isles Great Barrier Reef Sailing Cruise from Port Douglas, Port Douglas, Super Savers
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Low Isles Great Barrier Reef Sailing Cruise from Port Douglas

4.5 star rating: Recommended 50 Reviews

Not a confident swimmer, but want to experience the Great Barrier Reef? At Low Isles you can snorkel straight off the beach, enjoy coral viewing on a glass ...  Read more

Location: Port Douglas, Australia
Duration: 9 hours (approx.)

From USD $161.82
Great Barrier Reef Luxury Snorkel and Dive Cruise from Cairns, Cairns & the Tropical North, ... 
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Great Barrier Reef Luxury Snorkel and Dive Cruise from Cairns

5 star rating: Highly Recommended 84 Reviews

Explore the Great Barrier Reef aboard a sleek, luxury catamaran on this snorkel and dive cruise from Cairns! Spend six hours on the Great Barrier Reef at two ...  Read more

Location: Cairns, Australia
Duration: 9 hours (approx.)

From USD $152.81
Outer Great Barrier Reef Dive and Snorkel Cruise from Cairns, Cairns & the Tropical North, Day ... 
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Outer Great Barrier Reef Dive and Snorkel Cruise from Cairns

5 star rating: Highly Recommended 37 Reviews

View the colorful underwater world of the Great Barrier Reef on this full-day trip from Cairns. Whether you are a snorkeler or a scuba diver, experienced or a ...  Read more

Location: Cairns, Australia
Duration: 10 hours (approx.)

From USD $169.66
Great Barrier Reef Cruise from Cairns, Cairns & the Tropical North, Scuba Diving
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Great Barrier Reef Cruise from Cairns

4.5 star rating: Recommended 40 Reviews

Cruise out to a moored pontoon on the Great Barrier Reef, and enjoy a day packed full of activities, both in and out of the water. Go snorkeling with the ...  Read more

Location: Cairns, Australia
Duration: 8 hours (approx.)

From USD $155.95
Fitzroy Island Day Trip from Cairns, Cairns & the Tropical North, Day Cruises
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Fitzroy Island Day Trip from Cairns

4.5 star rating: Recommended 136 Reviews

Escape to Fitzroy Island, a tropical island on the Great Barrier Reef located only 45 minutes by high-speed ferry from Cairns. Spend your day doing as much or ...  Read more

Location: Cairns, Australia
Duration: 8 hours 30 minutes (approx.)

From USD $58.77
Green Island Sailing Cruise from Cairns, Cairns & the Tropical North, Snorkeling
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Green Island Sailing Cruise from Cairns

5 star rating: Highly Recommended 19 Reviews

Swim, snorkel or dive in the pristine waters off Green Island on the Great Barrier Reef. From Cairns, sail to the island in style on a two-mast schooner and ...  Read more

Location: Cairns, Australia
Duration: 9 hours (approx.)

From USD $152.81
Learn to Scuba Dive on the Great Barrier Reef: 4-Day PADI Open Water Dive Course, Cairns & the ... 
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Learn to Scuba Dive on the Great Barrier Reef: 4-Day PADI Open Water Dive Course

5 star rating: Highly Recommended 6 Reviews

Take the opportunity to learn to dive while you’re in Cairns! With classes limited to eight participants, led by professional and friendly instructors, you’ll ...  Read more

Location: Cairns, Australia
Duration: 4 days (approx.)

From USD $376.15

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