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Best Ways to See the Great Barrier Reef

Best Ways to See the Great Barrier Reef

With hundreds of thousands of miles of coral reefs, sun-soaked shores, and waters teeming with fish, nowhere else on earth is like the Great Barrier Reef. Here are the top ways to experience the UNESCO-listed star of Australia's Tropical North.

Underwater

Dive in to swim, snorkel, or scuba dive amid a kaleidoscope of exotic fish and corals, or try a seawalker helmet dive, all of which provide the chance to spot green sea turtles, anemones, stingrays, giant clams, and other marine life. Keep in mind that you don't have to get wet to experience the underwater wonders—opt for a cruise on a glass-bottomed boat, take a semi-submersible boat tour, or admire the views from an underwater observatory.

From Above

The Great Barrier Reef is so gigantic it can be seen from space, and the only way to get a sense of its magnitude is from above. Take off for a scenic flight or thrilling helicopter ride from Cairns and enjoy unbeatable aerial views of highlights such as Lizard Island, Green Island, and the Arlington Reef while soaring overhead. Flights can last anywhere from 20 minutes to over an hour, and many tours combine a flight with a boat cruise or sightseeing tour.

By Sightseeing Boat

The easiest way to discover the Great Barrier Reef is by boat, and a range of day cruises run to popular spots such as Michaelmas Cay, Fitzroy Island, Green Island, and the Low Isles. Soak up the scenery onboard a schooner or catamaran; hop off to explore the islands; or spend a night at the unique Reefworld pontoon. Most cruises depart from Port Douglas, Airlie Beach, or Cairns and typically include breakfast, lunch, or afternoon tea served onboard.

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16 Tours and Activities

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Great Barrier Reef Snorkeling and Diving Cruise from Cairns

Great Barrier Reef Snorkeling and Diving Cruise from Cairns

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1503
If snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef is on your bucket list, don’t miss this day trip from Cairns. The 35-metre superyacht, Evolution, departs Cairns with a record 5 hours spent exploring 2 spectacular and exclusive outer Great Barrier Reef locations for an adventure-filled day! You’ll visit 2 different locations on the barrier reef for the chance to see tropical marine life in the clear waters. Lunch is included onboard the boat, and you have the option to upgrade to include additional adventures such as introductory or certified scuba diving or a helicopter flight over this UNESCO World Heritage site. Both water sports enthusiasts and novices are welcome. Includes instruction and equipment provided by friendly and professional instructors.
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  • 8 hours 30 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
From
$119.89
From
$119.89

Outer Reef Pontoon Experience from Cairns
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Outer Reef Pontoon Experience from Cairns

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318
Enjoy the natural delights of the Great Barrier Reef on an activity cruise from Cairns that gives you several ways to experience this renowned underwater world. After traveling by catamaran to a pontoon moored on the reef, you can observe marine life on a glass-bottom boat or semi-submersible vessel; go snorkeling to spot sea turtles; get your hands wet in the touch pool; upgrade to include a Seawalker Helmet dive; or upgrade to include an introductory or certified scuba dive. A buffet lunch is included, and the pontoon is equipped with showers.
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  • 8 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$144.59
From
$144.59

Great Barrier Reef Scenic Helicopter Tour and Cruise from Cairns

Great Barrier Reef Scenic Helicopter Tour and Cruise from Cairns

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193
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 or enroll in an optional scuba diving course (additional expense).
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  • 2 to 7 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$293.84
From
$293.84

Ultimate 3-Day Great Barrier Reef Cruise Pass

Ultimate 3-Day Great Barrier Reef Cruise Pass

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21
Explore the Great Barrier Reef exactly the way you want and save with this great-value, customizable 3-day pass. Choose three different full-day cruises to suit your style and preferences, from certified and introductory scuba dive trips to snorkeling and glass bottom-boat adventures. Get a new perspective on the world-famous reef on every cruise, with diverse destinations including Green Island, Agincourt Reef, and Low Isles. Tours depart from Cairns or Port Douglas can be taken over a 7-day period to suit your sightseeing schedule. It’s a fantastic way to discover Australia’s spectacular underwater world!
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  • 3 days
  • Free Cancellation
From
$396.00
From
$396.00

Passions of Paradise Great Barrier Reef Snorkel and Dive Cruise from Cairns by Luxury Catamaran
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Passions of Paradise Great Barrier Reef Snorkel and Dive Cruise from Cairns by Luxury Catamaran

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Go snorkeling or scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef on a full-day cruise from Cairns. Relax on board your 80-foot (25-meter) luxury catamaran as your captain sails to two exclusive locations on the Great Barrier Reef. Choose to snorkel or dive, with full instruction provided by guides, and see an array of colorful fish, sea turtles, and corals. Your tour includes morning and afternoon tea, and a buffet lunch, with additional beverages available for purchase.
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  • 9 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$134.42
From
$134.42

Great Barrier Reef Day Cruise from Cairns Including Snorkeling and Marine Biologist Presentation

Great Barrier Reef Day Cruise from Cairns Including Snorkeling and Marine Biologist Presentation

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605
Discover the underwater beauty of the Great Barrier Reef on a full-day tour from Cairns. Glide across the Coral Sea on a catamaran ride to a premium outer reef location with diverse marine life. Spend hours at the UNESCO World Heritage-listed reef with exclusive access to an activity platform staffed by marine biologist guides. Snorkel, scuba dive, or opt to take a glass-bottom boat tour.
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  • 8 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$215.08
From
$215.08

Green Island Day Trip from Cairns

Green Island Day Trip from Cairns

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656
Explore the Great Barrier Reef and a lush island rain forest on this full-day catamaran tour to Green Island from Cairns. Create your own perfect day on this protected coral cay with a variety of activities including snorkeling, scuba diving, Seawalking, nature walks, and tours on a glass-bottom boat. Upgrade to include a delicious buffet lunch on board the catamaran and/or a ride in a semi-submarine. It’s a fantastic way to discover the underwater wonders of the world’s most famous reef!
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  • 8 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$69.75
From
$69.75

Great Barrier Reef Adventure from Cairns
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Great Barrier Reef Adventure from Cairns

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Whether you want to immerse yourself in the Great Barrier Reef or view it from a bit of a distance, this day trip to the outer reef has you covered. The activity platform at the reef provides opportunities to snorkel, dive, and swim, and to view it from the comfort of a semi-submersible and an underwater observatory. An ideal day trip for the whole family.
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  • 7 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$183.10
From
$183.10

Private Helicopter Tour: Reef Island Snorkeling and Gourmet Picnic Lunch

Private Helicopter Tour: Reef Island Snorkeling and Gourmet Picnic Lunch

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18
Indulge yourself and your loved ones with a private helicopter tour that takes you out to a secluded island on the Great Barrier Reef. Admire the reef from above during your 25-minute scenic helicopter flight, then experience its natural beauty up close after your pilot gently lands on the gorgeous and remote Vlasoff Cay (or Turtle Beach if Vlasoff Cay is occupied). Enjoy a two-hour retreat in paradise with everything you need provided, including a picnic basket with champagne and nibbles, picnic blanket, deck chairs, beach umbrella and snorkeling equipment.
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  • 2 hours 30 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
From
$625.23
From
$625.23

Helicopter and Cruise Packages with Great Adventures

Helicopter and Cruise Packages with Great Adventures

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See the natural wonder that is the Great Barrier Reef from various angles on this combined helicopter and cruise package deal. Fly to the outer reef on a helicopter, enjoying the sea views from above and seeing the reef from a unique perspective. After landing, spend more than two hours at the reef platform, where you can snorkel, view the reef from a semi-submersible, and learn about the reef’s biodiversity.
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  • 3 to 5 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$372.88
From
$372.88

Cruise to Outer Reef - Cruise Return Plus 10 Minute Scenic Flight

Cruise to Outer Reef - Cruise Return Plus 10 Minute Scenic Flight

Discover the iconic Great Barrier Reef combining an awe-inspiring helicopter flight with a Great Adventures outer reef day experience. The spacious activity platform moored on the spectacular outer reef makes possible exciting inclusive and optional activities for all ages in and out of the water. While you’re out at the pontoon to take to the sky on a joy flight, you will have the best seat to witness this natural wonder.
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  • 7 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$318.98
From
$318.98

Great Barrier Reef 30-Minute Scenic Helicopter Tour from Cairns

Great Barrier Reef 30-Minute Scenic Helicopter Tour from Cairns

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Enjoy unforgettable views of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef as you fly over the UNESCO-listed natural wonder in a helicopter. Experience the magnitude of the vast reef as you float overhead on a 25-minute flight, spotting landmarks like Green Island and Upolo Cay and swooping low enough to see coral clusters and schools of tropical fish and rays. This tour includes pick-up from Cairns and Northern Beaches hotels.
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  • 1 hour
  • Free Cancellation
From
$293.84
From
$293.84

Ultimate Great Barrier Reef and Rainforest 45-minute Helicopter Tour

Ultimate Great Barrier Reef and Rainforest 45-minute Helicopter Tour

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11
Enjoy the best of both worlds on this exhilarating 45-minute helicopter flight, crossing both land and sea. Swoop over the lush rainforest and thundering waterfalls of the Barron Gorge, then admire the vast reefs and aquamarine waters of the UNESCO-listed Great Barrier Reef. Spot landmarks like Stoney Creek Falls, Green Island and Arlington Reef, and snap aerial photos of the Northern Beaches and Palm Cove. This tour includes hotel pick-up and drop-off from Cairns.
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  • 45 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
From
$367.48
From
$367.48

Great Barrier Reef Diving and Snorkeling Cruise from Cairns

Great Barrier Reef Diving and Snorkeling Cruise from Cairns

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986
Get more than four hours to explore the outer Great Barrier Reef on this full-day tour, which offers snorkeling or diving experiences from two different reef locations. You can choose between different options for this experience based on your snorkeling or diving levels. While out on the water, keep an eye out for wildlife, including fish, rays, and turtles.
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  • 8 hours 30 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
From
$145.32
From
$145.32

Ocean Free Green Island & Great Barrier Reef Snorkel Cruise, Cairns 25 guests
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Ocean Free Green Island & Great Barrier Reef Snorkel Cruise, Cairns 25 guests

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212
Sail on a 2-masted schooner from Cairns to Green Island for a full day of snorkeling, swimming, and scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef. Have a choice of options for exploring Green Island, spending time in the water around the magnificent coral reefs, walking in the rain forest, or lazing on the white sandy beaches. Enjoy the expertise of the superb crew, in addition to buffet lunch, morning and afternoon tea and a glass of wine as you cruise back to Cairns.
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  • 9 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$155.13
From
$155.13

Ocean Freedom Great Barrier Reef Personal Luxury Snorkel & Dive Cruise, Cairns

Ocean Freedom Great Barrier Reef Personal Luxury Snorkel & Dive Cruise, Cairns

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630
Spend a day on the Great Barrier Reef at two different snorkel and dive sites on this luxury catamaran cruise from Cairns. Travel in style aboard a fast, comfortable catamaran to the outer edge Upolu Reef. Take an Adventure Snorkel & Glass Bottom Boat Tour through the highly protected no-fishing zone sites in the Marine Park. Refuel with a buffet lunch on board the catamaran before heading to your next destination, Upolu Cay reef. Enjoy the shallow azure blue waters surrounding this natural Coral Cay with both snorkeling or diving on offer. Be mesmerised by coral teeming with colourful fish.
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  • 9 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$155.13
From
$155.13