The Tour Specialists Blog


Where is the best place to see the Great Barrier Reef?

admin on July 24th, 2023

Cairns and Port Douglas are both regarded as the ultimate destinations to see the Great Barrier Reef due to offering the quickest and easiest access from their great harbourfront marinas and the many and varied types of tour boats on offer all making their way to the Great Barrier Reef daily, giving the guests the option to choose the type of reef tour that suits them and their fellow travellers best. 

Whilst the whole of the Great Barrier Reef is magnificent it is difficult to answer the question "Where is the best place to see the Great Barrier Reef" as the reef stretches approximately 2300 kilometres along the coast of Queensland and covers around 344,400 square kilometres,  and there are many departure points along the east coast with each location offering a unique experience of that section of the Great Barrier Reef. The answer also depends on what sort of activities you wish to explore on the reef and it depends on with whom you are travelling with and what are their capabilities. If its a young family with grandparents you would be looking at family friendly tours that offer quick, easy access and a safe environment, if you are an avid scuba diver you would be looking for the best outer reef dive trip possible and that may be on an overnight dive trip. So there are a few things that need to be considered before deciding on the location you wish to visit. 

The northern section of the Great Barrier Reef offers world class corals and marine life that is not seen anywhere else on the planet and for that reason the divers and snorkellers tend to head here for that type of experience. Other popular destinations are the Whitsundays well known for sailing holidays and its scenic beauty, Townsville and Magnetic Island for its pristine and remote reefs and scuba diving on the SS Yongala wreck. There are so many places to see and things to do on the Great Barrier Reef it is hard to pick just one and say it is the best place to see the Great Barrier Reef as it is such a personal thing for each individual visitors experience.  

Cairns Offers the Fastest Easiest Access to The Great Barrier Reef

Cairns is regarded by many as the best place to see the Great Barrier Reef as the proximity to three magnificent islands is one of Cairns' standout features. These islands, including Green Island, just a 45-minute boat ride offers an easy introduction of the reef. This is a great island for families with young children, cruise ship passengers, older parents or folks that just want to spend the day relaxing on the beach, enjoying the tropical waters snorkelling, scuba diving, helmet diving or riding around in a glass bottom boat or a semi-submersible submarine. For those that wish to see the reef in all its beauty you can take a helicopter flight from Cairns to Green Island and return or just take a flight from the beach to circumnavigate the islands and reefs.

The other two islands close to Cairns are Fitzroy Island (45 minutes) which suits the more adventurous and Frankland Island (30 minutes from Deeral) the nature lover’s island.

In addition to the island allure, Cairns is the best place to see the Great Barrier Reef because it provides a well-developed infrastructure that offers an extensive range of options to see and experience the reef catering to all age groups and all capabilities. Whether you prefer a fancy luxury yacht charter, or a  more modest charter boat, exhilarating helicopter scenic flights, unique activities like Scubadoo, or semi-submersible submarines, outer reef pontoons or the comfort of glass-bottom boats, Cairns simply has it all. The variety of Cairns tours and choices ensures that every visitor can find a way to immerse themselves in the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef.

Outer Reef Pontoons - Interactive Platforms

From Cairns there are three outer reef pontoons that are a hit for those guests that wish to be on a floating platform that hugs a magnificent coral reef structure for a full day of activities. These platforms offer change rooms, lockers, showers, dining rooms, sun decks, underwater observatories, kids swimming decks, submarines, glass bottom boats, helicopter scenic flights and a myriad of other in water and on water activities. If you are a non-swimmer then combining a scenic flight and a tour to a pontoon is the perfect way to explore more of the Great Barrier Reef without getting wet. 

For a thrilling way to get to these pontoons you can take a helicopter & reef combo flight or board a boat at the Cairns Marina for a comfortable 90-minute ride to the outer section of the reef.  

Endless Options For Exploring the Great Barrier Reef   

For those looking for a more chilled calming journey to the see the best of the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns you could embark on a catamaran sailing adventure to enjoy some smooth sailing across the water. These catamarans travel to either a remote sand cay or to outer reefs for snorkelling and scuba diving.   

But the attractions don't end there. Cairns offers world exclusive opportunities for guests to book liveaboard dive and snorkel tours to swim with dwarf minke whales, an exhilarating adventure that allows you to witness these highly inquisitive whales up close and personal. The chance to interact with such majestic and rare marine life is an unforgettable experience that sets Cairns apart from other locations in Queensland.

You can even book a dive with sharks liveaboard dive tour and sit on the ocean floor as a pack of shark’s circle above you as they are in a feeding frenzy, and swim with Giant Grouper fish that are as big as you yet as playful as a puppy.

Day tours to the outer reef are perfect for both scuba divers and snorkellers who may or may not have a lot of in-water experience as the day boats moor up close to large coral bommies and they have in-water guides providing assistance and on deck lookouts always keeping an eye on the in-water activities. 

With Cairns as your best base, you have easy access to spectacular diving sites both north and south on the reef. The vibrant colours, diverse marine life, and captivating coral formations are sure to leave you mesmerised.


Great Barrier Reef Tours From Port Douglas

Port Douglas has one beautiful island called the Low Isles that is located 15km north-east of the township that is well known as the place to go if you love snorkelling with turtles. Low Isles is popular as a half day tour or a full day tour and offers an insight into maritime history with its island lighthouse and heritage walk. Low Isles is also a place where marine biologists come from the world over to study the Great Barrier Reef and learn about its management.   

Port Douglas has one outer reef pontoon and that is the Quicksilver pontoon and visitors can choose to fly to the pontoon on a helicopter and reef combo or take that smooth riding wave piercer. This outer reef pontoon offers all the interactive toys enabling the visitors to see the reef in a myriad of ways. This is the only pontoon on the Great Barrier Reef that is also suitable for disabled visitors.

Port Douglas is also home to the Crystalbrook Superyacht Marina and this is the departure point for luxury yacht charters, charter boat tours, sunset cruises, snorkelling tours and scuba diving day tours to the outer sections of the reef.   

In summary, you could say that both Cairns and Port Douglas are some of the best places to discover the Great Barrier Reef. Their close proximity to enchanting islands, the abundance of diverse marine life, and the wide range of Great Barrier Reef tours and experiences they offer set this region apart. Prepare for an adventure of a lifetime as you explore the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef from the captivating city of Cairns and Port Douglas.

For more information you can always contact The Tour Specialists in Cairns as they have been the experts on Cairns tours for over 19 years.



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