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  • Writer's pictureIndy Escapes Crew

Ways to see the Great Barrier Reef

Updated: Nov 24, 2021

Nowhere else on Earth compares to the Great Barrier Reef, with hundreds of miles of coral reefs, sun-drenched shores, and fish-filled waters. The following are the best ways to experience Australia's Tropical North's UNESCO-listed star, the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns.

Spend time on one of the Great Barrier Reef's islands

Several reef-fringed tropical islands just off the coast of Cairns invite visitors to spread out a picnic, swim, and snorkel in relative seclusion, or even spend the night. Fitzroy Island, located 45 minutes by catamaran from Cairns, offers all of the above and beachfront access to the reefs for swimming and snorkeling, lush rainforest bush, and protected walks through national parkland.

Make arrangements with the onsite to rent snorkeling equipment, kayaks, and paddleboards, as well as to participate in dive outings and glass-bottom boat rides.

Scuba Dive or Scuba-Doo Ride

Would you like to have fun in Barrier Reef? There is no problem! Numerous outer reef pontoon companies offer helmet dive tours, such as Quicksilver's Ocean Walker excursion, allowing guests to walk on an underwater platform. At the same time, fresh air is pumped into the helmet's dome from the surface. Visitors to Green Island can also sign up for a similar Seawalker adventure, though participants will walk directly on the seafloor rather than on an artificial platform.

Alternatively, try your hand at a Scuba-Doo, a one-of-a-kind underwater scooter offered exclusively by Great Adventures in Australia. The scuba bike is similar to the helmet dive model in that it does not require a mask or mouthpiece: Sit, slip your head into the dome (a scuba tank provides air), and zoom away for an unforgettable ride.

Additionally, "liveaboard" dive expeditions are an excellent way to get up close (and frequently) with the underwater kingdom. You can even jump aboard a multi day trip boat and venture future out into the Great Barrier Reef. There are options which range from 2 days to 10 days and depending on seasons, you can even join an expedition to see the minki whale migration.

Charter a Yacht

Do you yearn for the adventure to never end? Charter a private yacht (with crew) for a solo travel in Cairns. While sleeping onboard, you'll have an unlimited number of opportunities to admire its splendor and dive into it whenever you please. Choice the reefs, dive sites and islands that you would like to explore, then spend the nights aboard eating fresh seafood and drinking cocktails in the close comfort of your selected friends.

Helicopter or Seaplane

Take a helicopter ride out with GBR Helicopters for a bird's-eye view of the reef. Their helicopter tours depart from Cairns and Port Douglas; guests can choose between 30-minute scenic reef flights or hour-long tours of the reef and rainforest. Additionally, most pontoon reef operators offer discounted fly-and-cruise packages, including optional reef helicopter flights launched from floating helipads near their pontoons.

On the other hand, Cairns Seaplanes offers an alternative way to soar above the cays and reefs, with the option of extending their seaplane flightseeing tours with an island beach picnic or a water landing just offshore from Green Island.

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