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Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef

Updated Fri 09 Sep 2022

Great Barrier Reef turtle and reef underwater shot

Cairns is a beautiful coastal town, located in Far North Queensland and a launch point for visiting the world-famous Great Barrier Reef. It is a mecca for tourism, with not only the reef at its doorstep, but also the Atherton Tablelands, Port Douglas, the Daintree Rainforest, Cape Tribulation and the Kuranda Rainforest all within reach.

Cairns is tourist-friendly, with many types of accommodation available for all types of travellers, as well as much to do within city limits in-between days of exploring, including a beachfront lagoon, shopping, spas and amazing restaurants.

Many tours to the Great Barrier Reef leave from Cairns or the neighbouring Port Douglas, leaving from the Marlin Marina in Cairns and the Reef Marina in Port Douglas (located about an hour from each other). There is also an airport located just outside of Cairns, meaning you can fly in with no fuss to enjoy your reef adventure, making Cairns the perfect place to situate yourself for adventures on the world-famous reef. The Outer Reef, where snorkelling and scuba diving are unrivalled, is located about an hour offshore (depending on which reef you go to, as well as weather and wind), making it perfect for day trips and overnight trips with little travel time.

The Great Barrier Reef consists of 2,900 individual reefs in total and is home to 900 islands. The Cairns region hosts both Outer Reef and Fringing Reefs, the latter of which is a reef situated around an island or off a shoreline, with the Outer Reef being an isolated reef out in the middle of the big blue. During tours leaving from Cairns, you’ll likely head to the Outer Reef, where your tour will take you to ideal snorkelling and diving reefs depending on the day's tides and wind.

Several reefs that are often targeted during the day and overnight trips from Cairns are Michaelmas Reef, Oyster Reef, Upolu Reef and Arlington Reef, to name a few. Each of these reefs is made up of unique coral formations, which are bordered by sand,  seagrass and open ocean. Different sites have a wide variety of marine life, full of soft and hard corals, thousands of species of fish, turtles, reef sharks and other amazing and unique sea creatures. Some sites are ideal for snorkellers, with shallow reefs, while others are ideal for scuba divers with deeper reefs and coral formations. Many tours target reefs that are a good combination of both, allowing them to accommodate both types of ocean explorers.

Tours departing from Cairns are great for both overnight boat trips as well as day trips, meaning no matter what kind of adventure you're looking for, Cairns is a great place to start. You can spend several nights at sea, exploring by day and relaxing under the stars at night, or you can spend the day exploring the beautiful and unique Great Barrier Reef before returning back to land for an evening of fun in Queensland’s beautiful tropical city. 

Get in touch today to book your next Great Barrier Reef adventure from Cairns! 

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