Visitors who want to explore the world heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef and experience all its amazing locations might want to start off their adventures with one of the many Cairns reef tours available.
The tropical north Queensland town of Cairns (pictured below) is quite well known for its spectacular beaches, sparkling lagoons and easy access to the Great Barrier Reef.
Luckily enough, there are quite a few companies in Cairns that offer all types of tours to the Great Barrier Reef, for just about any price range. Best of all, some tours also combine treks to Cairns’ enchanting rain forests, where you can immerse yourself in the middle of nature and enjoy the crisp, fresh air of the both the reef and rainforest.
Great Barrier Reef Tours
There are several types of tours to the reef. Most of the Great Barrier Reef tours are day tours out to the reef near Cairns and the outer Great Barrier Reef, and many can be extended over several days, providing visitors with the opportunity of exploring the region or simply spending several hours snorkeling across the Great Barrier Reef.
Prices for these Great Barrier Reef tours can range from around $200 to over $1000, so it definitely pays to shop around and see what’s available. If you’re on a budget, there are plenty of cheap options that will still allow you to experience the reef in all its glory.
Deciding what is the best reef tour in Cairns comes down to the individual, the time you have in Cairns, your budget, and how adventurous you are.
Below, we dive in and explore some of the more popular Great Barrier Reef tours on offer.
Snorkeling and diving tours from Cairns
If you’re the type of person who loves getting in the water and exploring all the things that swim beneath the surface, then a snorkelling or scuba diving tour is definitely for you.
Guided snorkel tours are a great activity for people of all ages and swimming abilities, and there are plenty of tours that will take you out to the reef so you can explore the marine life up close.
Scuba diving, on the other hand, requires a bit more training but is well worth it if you want to see the reef in all its glory. There are plenty of diving schools in Cairns that offer certification courses as well as day trips out to the reef near Cairns and the outer Great Barrier Reef.
Reef tours provide visitors with the chance to explore the Great Barrier Reef up close. There are plenty of tours to choose from, so there’s something to suit everyone. Whether you want to snorkel, scuba dive, or just take in the sights from a glass-bottomed boat, there’s a tour for you.
Glass bottom boat tours
For those who want to experience the Great Barrier Reef without getting wet, there are plenty of glass-bottomed boat day tours that operate out of Cairns. These tours provide visitors with the unique opportunity of viewing the reef from the comfort of a dry vessel.
Most glass bottom boat tours include a stop at one of the many reef pontoons, where you can take a dip and explore the reef up close.
These day tours are great for families with young children or for those who simply don’t want to get wet. Prices for these tours start from around $60 per person.
If you really want to get up close and personal with the reef, then a Seawalker semi-submersible tour is for you.
These tours take place on a vessel that partially submerges beneath the surface of the water, providing visitors with an underwater experience without having to get wet. These tours are great for families with young children or for those who simply don’t want to get wet.
Seaplane and helicopter rides
If you really want to see the world heritage Great Barrier Reef in all its glory, then a helicopter or seaplane tour is definitely for you.
These scenic tours provide visitors with stunning aerial views of the reef and outer Great Barrier Reef, as well as the chance to land on a remote island for a picnic lunch or even a spot of snorkeling. Scenic helicopter tours to the Great Barrier Reef operate out of Cairns and can be booked online in advance (as they’re quite popular and limited).
Cairns catamaran cruises
For those who want to explore the Great Barrier Reef in style, a catamaran cruise is definitely the way to go. These luxurious cruises offer visitors the chance to relax on deck and take in the stunning views of the reef as they sail across the turquoise waters.
Most catamaran cruises include stops at several different reef locations, so you can spend your time snorkeling, take a scuba dive, or simply relax on the beach. Prices for these tours start from around $200 per person.
Day Tours to Green Island
Green Island is very close to Cairns, and a very popular day trip destination. Take a full day tour to the island and enjoy the white sandy beaches, pretend to be a marine biologist exploring the coral, explore the rainforest and take a guided snorkel and scuba dive (for certified divers) on the Great Barrier Reef.
A day trip to Green Island from Cairns often come with equipment supplied, as well as optional extras (like lunch supplied and afternoon tea) and will cost you around $100 per person.
Day Tours to Fitzroy Island
Like Green Island, Fitzroy Island is very close to Cairns and is a popular destination for day trippers. Take a full day tour to the island and enjoy the white sandy beaches, the chance to snorkel and scuba dive from the island.
A day trip to Fitzroy Island from Cairns will cost you around $100 per person.
Extreme Cairns Experiences
There are plenty of things to do in and around Cairns, whether you’re looking for a relaxing day by the beach or an adrenaline-filled adventure.
Cairns White Water Rafting
There are several white water rafting operators in Cairns, but the best place to go rafting is on the Tully River. You can book a half day or full day rafting trip, and the tour includes all of your gear and experienced guides. Prices for a half day rafting trip start from around $120 per person.
If you’re looking for an adrenaline rush, then bungee jumping is definitely for you. Bungee jumping in Cairns is one of the most popular things to do. The city is home to Bungee Jumping at the AJ Hackett site. You can also combine your bungee package with an ATV tour.
The best place to go skydiving near the Great Barrier Reef is from the Cairns Airport. You can book a skydiving package which includes transport to and from the airport, as well as your skydiving gear and instructors. Prices for a skydiving package start from $360 per person.
Rock Climbing in Cairns
If you’re looking for a challenge, then rock climbing is definitely for you. Cairns has several rock climbing sites, each offering different levels of difficulty. You can book a half day or full day rock climbing trip, which includes all of your gear and experienced guides. Prices for a half day rock climbing trip start from around $100 per person.
Touring the Daintree Rainforest
The Daintree rainforest is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Far North Queensland, and for good reason. This ancient rain forest near Cairns is home to an incredible array of plant and animal species, and is a must-see for any nature lover.
There are plenty of tour operators in Cairns that offer day trips to the Daintree Rainforest, with prices starting from around $80 per person.
Ideal for anyone looking for budget-friendly Great Barrier Reef tour, Compass Cruises is a family-owned business that will help tourists explore the Great Barrier Reef in safely. One of the highest-rated Cairns Reef Tours in Australia, this company offers a plethora of reef adventures such as the “Reef And Rafting” package.
This 2-day tour offers an entire day of snorkelling across the Great Barrier Reef, enabling you to experience its rich and abundant wildlife. This is followed by several hours of Whitewater Rafting across Cairn’s famous Barron River, an experience that promises adrenaline and thrills. Light snacks and beverages are also offered to ensure that you keep your energy levels up throughout the day.
Another popular tour offered by Compass Cruises is the Reef Cruise and Waterfalls package. This 3-day experience offers unlimited snorkeling with up to 4 hours of exploration across the fringes of the Great Barrier Reef. In this particular adventure, you will be treated to a magnificent huge Cods, Moray Eels, Turtles, Giant Clams and an assortment of tropical fish.
The following day, guests will be able to visit Cairns’ numerous waterfalls, with opportunities to take refreshing plunges in those multi-tiered falls. A visit to the world-popular Millaa Millaa Falls is also included, along with a trek in the middle of the rainforest, where you will be exposed to Cairns’ rarest and most spectacular wildlife.
Sunlover Reef Cruise
If you’re looking for an exciting Great Barrier Reef cruise, you might want to look into the packages offered by the Sunlover Reef Cruises.
With over 10 years of experience, the crew provides a variety of comfortable catamarans that depart from Cairns on a daily basis, taking you all the way to Moore Reef, which is at the edge of the Great Barrier Reef. In this particular Cairns Reef tour, you will be assisted by experienced guides and certified divers who will ensure your safety throughout the whole adventure.
Additionally, other complementary activities are included in the Great Barrier Reef tour, such as underwater observatory, seafood buffet lunch, marine life touch tank, semi-submersible viewing adventures and glass bottom boats, among others.
If you want to benefit from an exhilarating Great Barrier Reef experience, you can also book a two-day Cairns Reef Tour and arrange for an overnight stay on one of the company’s catamarans.
So, there you have it – a rundown of some of the most popular Great Barrier Reef tours for when you stay in tropical Cairns. Whether you want to dive in, get wet and explore the reef up close or simply take in some of the sights from a scenic helicopter flight, or explore on dry land, there are plenty of tours to choose from, and there’s something to suit everyone.