Cairns is a great place to base yourself...if you'd like to see the Great Barrier Reef and Cape Tribulation.
When I wen there the first time...I was on a shoestring budget...and just wanted a nice place to call home in the evenings...so I booked the Lake Cairns Resort & Spa off of Orbitz...and booked a trip to the Great Barrier...and rented a car to see Cape Trib.
I was one of those crazy people who wanted to see the Great Barrier on my way to New Zealand...and stopped there for 3 days...and I"M SO GLAD I DID!!!!
I travelled with a guy friend of mine...so we got a 2 bedroom suite and only paid $126 for a huge apartment with kitchen, family, deck...the works. It was away from the town...but it was an unimpressive town...and close to the highway to check other things out.
We booked a Sailboat Cruise to the Great Barrier Reef for $101 and they picked us up from the hotel around 8:30am. Ocean Spirit Cruises (tel. 07/4031 2920). It was a smaller sailboat, so it was not overcrowded and obnoxious...and it included the snorkeling and glass submarine to see the reef. We even got a glass of champagne while we listened to an acoustic guitar player on our way back home.
And I love to scuba...but it's not necessary to scuba in order to see the amazing fish...it's out of this world!
Cape Tribulation is a MUST SEE if you're in Cairns. It reminded me of Costa Rica with the big rainforest, huge blue butterflies...and bright flowers everywhere. There is a cool spot called Dragonfly that is a definite cool spot to go and have lunch.
Doing a day trip to the outer reef is a fantastic experience. We did the day trip on The Falla. This was a fantastic day and much nicer then the huge tourist ferries that seemed to be overloaded with day-trippers. There were no more then 20 of us on the boat, we went right out to Upolo Cay (??) and snorkled the reef. From there we were taken right to the cay and we snorkled off the beach.
The crew were wonderful and Doug, the captain and owner of the boat, was informative and made sure everyones needs were catered too. Doug took those that didn't snorkel out on the dinghy and they got to view the reef from there.Not only did we have fun, we learned quite a bit about the reef during the course of the day.
Scuba diving was available and even if you have never dived before, there are two fully licensed diving instructors onboard to take you for your first dive. I passed on that particular adventure.
Excellent day, great crew and memories forever.
Who could come here and not go to the reef?
I went with Down Under Dive which cost $79 and you get morning tea/coffee, wine & cheese on return, mask, snorkle and fins. Free Scuba lesson then if you decide to go on the first dive costs $50, the second $30. 4 hours snorkling at two different locations and a glass bottomed boeat trip. It was a fantastic day, the staff were great, very helpful and obviously knew their stuff.
I held a sea cucumber and put my hand in a giant clam, it was great to get so close to all the fish.
You can sign up for one of many daily cruises to the Great Barrier Reef for a day of snorkelling and scuba diving. The water is so clear and the clarity so god, that it feels like you're snorkelling in a pool. The colurful reefs are not very deep, so you can see the reef life clearly from the surface. Of course, if you prefer a closer encounter, you can opt for scuba diving.
Went scubba diving on the reef. Wow!! The most amazing thing I did in the whole month I was there! Seeing the reef close up was an experience I wont forget. It was like being in another world. Good crew on the boat and experienced diving instructors made the whole day a pleasure at Michaelmas Cay. If you have the chance just do it!!
The Great Barrier Reef is the reason most visitors come to Cairns. You can go on a variety of trips. The closest island is Green Island and there are also a number of Coral Cays that you can visit. Many of the most popular cruises go to a pontoon on the Outer Reef where the catamaran moors up for the day while you get out and snorkel, dive, swim etc. You want a wind of about 10 knots for a relatively comfortable trip by boat and good diving conditions. Anything above that and you're in for a choppy time. But don't miss this, it is worth every penny and the fish and coral are superb.
The largest living thing on planet Earth, the Great Barrier Reef is a UNESCO World Heritage site, it is approximately 2300km long and a major must see in Australia
Cairns is awash with offers of reef trips, the reef is only about 50km out from here and although there has been some bleaching of the coral there are still fabulous areas for swimming, snorkelling and diving to see the awsome beauty of the reef, some trips offer submersibles so you can see the reef without diving, and most have glass bottom boats
the reef is something you must experience if you are ever in Queensland, and if you want to learn to dive what better plce in the world to learn than here ? the depth of the reef varies considerably, in some places you can see it breaking through the waves, but its down deep that you see the really beautiful parts of it
You must must must make time in your trip to take the boat out to the Great Barrier Reef. There are plenty of trips to choose from, one for everyones budget and they run everyday.
Even if you don't swim, you can go on the semi submergable boat and the glass bottomed boat and see nearly all of what the snorkellers see without getting wet.
Snorkelling out on the reef is a must. There are probaly loads of boat trips offering this fantastic opportunity. Be careful not to touch or kick any of the coral as (i'm sure they will warn you) if takes hundreds of years to grow back and is endangered. Amazing colours, fish, coral, sea. amazing. You can't possibly visit Cairns and not go out to see the reef.
Barrief Reef is a must see. There are lot of ferries going everyday for a dive on the reef. Find out the best buy at the marina and go. Fitzroy islands is also really nice to see the reef. You should take a trip there as well.
I almost forgot to mention that you should definitely either rent an underwater camera or bring one with you to the reef. It would be a real shame to come home without any pictures of the beautiful underwater scenery. And if you're not a diver, don't worry. Neary everyone on our boat (including myself) simply snorkeled around the area. The water is shallow enough that you can see almost everything without strapping on an air tank and diving all the way down. In fact, you can reach the bottom in a lot of places simply by taking a deep breath.
The amount of underwater life way out here so close to the edge of the reef and the open ocean beyond is astounding. Everywhere you look you'll find coral formations surrounded by fish and other creatures of all kinds.
The Quicksilver boat docks at a floating platform anchored near the ege of the Outer Great Barrier Reef. From there you can see where the reef ends and the vast open expanse of the Pacific Ocean begins. Just beyond the reef, where you can see all the breakers crashing against the coral, is the greatest concentration of great white sharks in the entire world. Fortunately for us, the reef keeps most of those nasty fellows out.
You cannot come to Cairns without snorkeling or diving at the Great Barrier Reef. Passing this up would be a waste of an entire vacation.
I took a cruise on the ReefQuest run by Deep Sea Divers Den. The boat leaves at 7:30 AM and returns at 4:30 PM. You get about 4 hours of quality time to snorkel, dive, and relax in the sun. Lunch is included.
For snorkeling, it costs about AU$70 for adults and half for children. Diving lessons can be conducted and prices vary for how many dives you take. Certified Divers pay about $120 for 2 dives and $150 for 3. All equipment is included. Bring an underwater camera! You can also rent one. I used a disposable and the pictures came out great.
I signed up at the Pier Marketplace near the marina where the boat is docked.
Cairns is the best starting point for the GBR. There are trip packages you can get, everything from single day to multi-week.
I did a day trip to Green Island with my sister. We spent a full day out there snorkeling, swimming, and picnicing. It was so cool!
Wear sunscreen, though - it was cloudy on the day we went out, and we both got burned.