Exploring Cairns and The Great Barrier Reef for first-timers

Are you heading to Cairns to tick off the bucket list experience of snorkelling in the Great Barrier Reef? It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Australia, as well as being the largest coral reef in the world and one of the seven natural wonders. It’s home to brightly coloured fish, spotted rays, green turtles, starfish and whitetip reef sharks – to name just a few – so it’s understandable that it’s on your bucket list.

If this is your first time, then here are a few things you need to know:

Getting from Cairns to the reef

Getting from Cairns to the reef

You need to decide where you are going to visit the Great Barrier Reef from as it stretches for more than 2300km. Cairns is the best place to get to the reef, especially if you want to join a snorkelling or scuba diving trip because the largest number of reef operators are found in this city. You can access it from here every day of the year and it’ll take less than an hour to reach it.

The outskirts are quieter

If you don’t want to stay in the city, there are plenty of quieter areas just a short distance away that will enable you to escape the hustle and bustle while still being in easy reach of Cairns. Look for car hire in Cairns and take one of the country’s most beautiful coastal drives, the Great Barrier Reef Drive. It is around an hour to Port Douglas. From here you can also visit the Agincourt Reef.

There are many ways to see the reef

There are many ways to explore the Great Barrier Reef. You can come face-to-face with the sea life that call this reef home by snorkelling or scuba diving. You also have the opportunity to do an overnight boat trip on the reef and jump into the water several times. If you would prefer not to get wet, you can see the vibrant coral and colourful fish from a glass-bottom boat. Alternatively, you can look down on it from a helicopter tour.

Be prepared to see coral bleaching

Be prepared to see coral bleaching

Climate change has resulted in coral bleaching and, unfortunately, half of the Great Barrier Reef has been affected by this since 2016. That being said, it is still one of the most incredible places to snorkel and attracts millions of tourists each year. Plus, there are plans in place to try to protect the reef. But, you can’t hide from this issue and should be prepared for the fact you might see quite how severe it is while you are here. To ensure you see the best side of the reef, head for the south and avoid the north, which has been the most affected.

What else should you do in Cairns?

The Daintree Rainforest is a World Heritage site and the oldest rainforest in the world. You’ll find it about two hours and 20 minutes from Cairns and an hour and a half from Port Douglas. You can take a two or four-hour guided walking tour with local experts for this unique ecotourism experience.

Now you are ready for your first trip to Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef, you can make sure this one in a lifetime experience is everything you want it to be and more.


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