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Best Day Boats For Backpackers in Cairns

Updated Fri 11 Nov 2022

Three people on a day boat with snorkelling equipment

Cairns and Port Douglas are the main cities from where most vessels set sail for the Great Barrier Reef. No two boats go to the exact same locations; there are over 2000 individual reefs and 900 picturesque islands! Not to mention, there are an incredible array of boats that run out to the reef, and your selected boat is an important aspect of your experience. Each day tour is unique and will range in size, style and the number of passengers they take. Some boats will have only 25 passengers and other big boats over 100 people. 

With an overwhelmingly large selection of options, let our local guides help you decide which backpacker day boat is perfect for your Great Barrier Reef adventure! 

Best Great Barrier Reef Day Boats For Backpackers from Cairns

Reef Daytripper

Departs 7:45 am
Returns 4:30 pm

A full-day catamaran sailing experience including a scuba & snorkel reef trip.

Visit Upolu Reef located on the edge of the Great Barrier Reef and home to incredible reefs and colours. Spot giant clams, turtles, sea stars and reef fish in warm, clear and protected waters.

  • Max group size of 20
  • Up to 4 crew per 20 passengers
  • Complimentary guided snorkel tour provided
  • Dive guide provided at no extra charge
  • Free catered lunch along with tea and coffee
  • Eco-friendly tour with a low carbon footprint
  • Unlimited snorkelling

Reef Daytripper catamaran on blue water, Cairns

Passions Of Paradise

Departs 8:00 am
Returns 5:00 pm

Adventurous day sail aboard a modern catamaran with a free intro to scuba.

Passions III, is one of the fastest and largest sailing catamarans in Australia, winning the hearts of backpackers every time. Relax on the upper deck and bow nets bound to provide the perfect setting for your day on the reef. Explore two stunning reef spots and a free introduction to scuba diving! 

  • Eco-certified operator
  • Free 10-minute in-water introduction to scuba diving
  • Freshly prepared buffet lunch: hot and cold buffet meats, salads, prawns and fresh tropical fruit
  • Morning and afternoon tea included
  • Marine life presentation by eco-certified guides

passions of paradise catamaran from the back with snorkelers jumping into the water

Ocean Freedom

Departs 8:30 am
Returns 4:15 pm

Day tour to Outer the Reef with incredible underwater experiences.

This comfortable 20-metre motor catamaran is the only boat in Cairns offering a full 6 hours on the reef. Dive into two exclusive Great Barrier Reef sites, without the crowds. The crystal clear, shallow waters and surrounding reef of Upolu Cay and “Wonder Wall” are a spectacular plateau, home to diverse coral and marine life on the outer edge of Upolu Reef.

  • Max Group Size 75
  • Snorkel and dive experience on the Outer Edge of Upolu Reef
  • Informative glass bottom boat tour
  • Tasty seafood smorgasbord lunch including local seafood like smoked salmon and prawns, with tea and coffee

Cairns catamaran out on the blue reef waters


Departs 8:00 am
Returns 4:30 pm

Grand catamaran day sail to the Outer Reef

Evolution is an award-winning, three-level catamaran boasting high speeds and smooth cruising. Explore two spectacular and quiet outer Great Barrier Reef locations like Norman, Saxon and Hastings Reefs.

  • 35-metre superyacht
  • BBQ buffet lunch onboard: fresh fish, steak, a variety of salads, and prawns
  • Locally owned and operated company for over 30 years.
  • Introductory or certified dives available

Woman snorkelling in bikini with Evolutions in the backgroung


Departs 8:30 am
Returns 4:30 pm

Your spacious and comfy catamaran is the fastest dive catamaran in Cairns, so let's get exploring! 

Visit three different outer reef sites at Flynn, Pellowe, Milln and/or Thetford Reefs. Your skipper will select personalised locations on the day, with magnificent coral formations, varied marine life and underwater visibility.

  • Diver's choice with 5 hours on the reef
  • Experience more with visits to 3 different Outer Great Barrier Reef sites
  • Buffet lunch, plus morning and afternoon tea

Silverswift Underwater scuba shot of reefs and fish


Departs 8:30 am
Returns 5:30 pm

Day tour out to an activity-laden floating pontoon.

Unique outer Great Barrier Reef day tour where you can enjoy your catamaran sail and floating pontoon as a gateway to the flourishing reef!

  • Custom-designed floating pontoon
  • Snorkelling & equipment, semi-submersible & glass bottom boat tours
  • Access to the underwater observatory, touch tank & fish feeding presentations and waterslide
  • Gourmet tropical-inspired lunch
  • Transfers on board a comfortable, stable and air-conditioned catamaran

Woman sliding into the ocean in a red swimsuit on a big blue slide


Departs 8:00 am
Returns 5:00 pm

Full Day eco-cruise with diving, snorkelling, bush-tucker tastings and Indigenous guides.

This unique tour is a brilliant and authentic way to learn about Indigenous history and explore the reef. Explore the reefs with diving and snorkelling experiences, relax aboard a modern vessel and learn from your experienced guide on this unforgettable day out.

  • Indigenous sea rangers interact with original clap sticks and fire poles
  • 5 full hours on the Outer Reef
  • Visit 2 premium outer reef sites
  • Indigenous welcome & history of the area
  • Freshly prepared native bush food tasting
  • Free guided snorkel tour
  • Reefs visited are chosen for superior water clarity and coral colour

Indigenous man in traditional facepaint onboard Dreamtime

Explore the many overnight diving experiences in Cairns or check out our backpacker guide for more information about adventure travel.

For any questions, live chat with our local travel experts today! 

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  • Can answer all your Cairns questions
  • We will build you exclusive packages to save you money
  • Available by email or chat 24/7

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