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Cairns Great Barrier Reef Tours & Island Cruises

Looking for all the best Cairns Reef and Island tours to the Great Barrier Reef? Get the best deals and discounts on reef tours from Cairns here! Explore the Great Barrier Reef on one of these top-rated tour operators and spend the day exploring the vibrant coral reefs and marine life on snorkelling and dive cruises. You may also view the beauty of the Great Barrier Reef on glass bottom boat tours without even getting wet! Island tours to Green Island or Fitzroy Island are another option if you prefer the freedom and flexibility to swim and snorkel from shore with easy access to amenities and dining options. View our entire range of Cairns Reef and Island tours and book your tour instantly with NO booking or credit card fees!

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About Cairns Great Barrier Reef Cruises

The Great Barrier Reef is such a drawcard to Tropical North Queensland that one of the first things most visitors to Cairns will want to do is head down to the Cairns Reef Terminal and join one of the many local operators for an adventure out into its wildlife-rich waters. While enthusiasm for this is understandable - it's one of the world's most incredible natural wonders, after all - the need to determine exactly which reef cruise to take is a key decision that first needs to be made.

Cruises of the reef from Cairns typically come in two major varieties: larger vessels that cater to big groups and provide a number of convenient facilities while also often helping cut down on price and smaller tours that limit guest numbers and visit more exclusive parts of the Great Barrier Reef for increased monetary investment.

Add in the option to head to nearby islands and cays or more accessible trips - including Green Island, Fitzroy Island, Michaelmas Cay, Upolu Cay, Coral Cays and more - and there's a dizzying array of options for experiencing what the reef has to offer.

We outline each of the main reef cruise options from Cairns below to help clear up any confusion about which cruise is best for you.

Experience Green Island With Day Cruises

Ranking perhaps top of Cairns' day trip destinations is Green Island, with its convenient location just 27km off the coast making it both accessible and reasonably priced. As a result, it's the ideal choice of reef cruises for those who are short on time or looking to bring the family along for the trip - the island is a coral cay that, while immensely popular and sometimes crowded, still provides an excellent "taster" of the reef/island snorkelling environment.

Tours to Green Island allow travellers to experience a sheltered marine environment without overpowering currents and still provides a decent cross-section of marine life encompassing fish, clams, rays and the occasional turtle. Green Island is also well equipped with facilities and offers a number of additional activities - such as glass-bottom boat and semi-sub trips, scenic flights, a wildlife park and its famous SeaWalker underwater walking experience - to provide a great amount of variety.

Explore the beautiful Green Island on the Great Barrier Reef in Far North Queensland, with a full or half-day cruise from Cairns.

Experience Green Island Cruises

Enjoy Peace & Seclusion at Fitzroy Island

Like Green Island, Fitzroy Island is also relatively easy to access from Cairns and lies only slightly further offshore, however, it's far less visited and as a result better for those who put enjoying a little more seclusion and peace as opposed to its neighbour.

While Fitzroy Island is lacking in the facilities and extras that Green Island comes with, in exchange the island offers some great opportunities for on-island exploration in addition to its obvious reef offerings in the surrounding waters. The island is quite hilly and is largely covered by rainforest, with a number of great walking tracks on which to embark.

Snorkelling is available just offshore and of a very enjoyable quality, with plenty of active marine life to witness up close and more slices of water to have to yourself without sharing with other travellers. Diving is also a possibility here, and as a result, a cruise to Fitzroy Island might serve as a better alternative for the more confident or advance reef-goer than Green Island.

Experience Fitzroy Island Cruises

Experience Pristine Sand at Michaelmas Cay

Striking a nice balance between the marine beauty of the Outer Reef with the convenience of the close proximity to Green Island, Michaelmas Cay offers a lovely white-sand environment along with some easily enjoyable snorkelling for all ability levels.

Sitting around 40km off Cairns' coast, the cay has a gentle and beautiful sloping beach along with a section of vegetation that attracts huge quantities of rare seabirds that help add an additional spectacle and feeling of life to a visit here. Cruises to Michaelmas Cay are also quite a bit rarer than to the other true "islands", and thus you'll be able to enjoy some pristine sand all to yourself.

Quality snorkelling is available just off the cay where sea turtles, rays, giant clams and even the occasional manta ray can be encountered, while coral quality is quite beautiful and offers a striking colour. Both hard and soft corals can be found here, and they're all viewable just offshore. A Michaelmas Cay cruise serves as a pleasant alternative to the more populated islands without the extended time and money needed to visit the Outer Reef.

Experience Michaelmas Cay

Travel to the Outer Great Barrier Reef

Those wanting to see the reef at its absolute best and most colourful will need to book a cruise to the Outer Great Barrier Reef - the edge of the reef that lies furthest out towards the edge of the continental shelf. These tours take more time and often require more money, but the sheer beauty and gorgeous marine life they offer is a snapshot of this wonder at its best; inner islands can't match the combination of water clarity and quantity of colourful marine life that the Outer Reef boasts.

The Outer Reef is a large area where numerous individual reefs can be found, and cruises to the Outer Reef typically orient around a particular reef or pair of reefs depending on which company you travel with.

The likes of Flynn Reef, Hastings Reef, Milln Reef and a number of others all feature prominently on Cairns cruise itineraries, with each having its own distinct character and emphasis on either diving or snorkelling, respectively. While they require a full day to experience, given that the Great Barrier Reef is often a once in a lifetime proposition, investing in an Outer Reef cruise from Cairns can make for some unforgettable memories.

Experience the Outer Great Barrier Reef