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Where to stay near Great Barrier Reef...

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U.S.A.
posts: 142
reviews: 15
Where to stay near Great Barrier Reef...

Hello. We are traveling to Australia next year. We want to spend time near the Great Barrier Reef, but are unsure where to stay as our base location. We don't really want go from hotel to hotel, if it's not necessary. We would like to do boat excursions to great snorkeling spots and also visit beautiful beaches. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Canberra, Australia
Destination Expert
for Canberra
posts: 10,456
reviews: 2
1. Re: Where to stay near Great Barrier Reef...

Just to get you started while we're asleep you might like to look at the forums and Top Questions for Cairns, Port Douglas and the Whitsundays.

Sydney, Australia
Destination Expert
for Sydney, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Business Travel, New South Wales
posts: 26,465
reviews: 576
2. Re: Where to stay near Great Barrier Reef...

hi,

you do have a few options..

a) Cairns

b) Port Douglas

c) Airlie Beach

d) Hamilton Island

e) Town of 1770

I would suggest you stay either at Cairns or Port Douglas - there are plenty of tours available for snorkeling.

U.S.A.
posts: 142
reviews: 15
3. Re: Where to stay near Great Barrier Reef...

Thank you. Can you recommend any great spots for snorkeling? What local towns would you recommend that we visit? We're most interested in natural beauty and local charm. Thanks.

Philly, PA
posts: 746
reviews: 23
4. Re: Where to stay near Great Barrier Reef...

Agree, stay in Port Douglas or Cairns, or Palm Cove which is between the two. Lots of boat trips leave from both Port Douglas and Cairns. You can do one one day, one the other. Take a trip to the Daintree Rainforest to get a sense of the other wonder of this area besides the reef. We really enjoyed the rainforest!

Sydney, Australia
Destination Expert
for Sydney, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Airlie Beach, Whitsunday Islands
posts: 16,742
reviews: 142
5. Re: Where to stay near Great Barrier Reef...

The mainland has no direct snorkelling off the beaches which IMHO are not great once you go that far north, so maybe rely on the great beaches a bit further south. This is a relative opinion, I don't think any of the beaches in Hawaii are that great ;) If you want to snorkel directly off the beach youn would need to consider some of the isalnds.

You have already been given lots of options so possibly the best thing is to look at flights and connections, eg Hamilton Island and Proserpine for the Whitsunday area (great beach on a Whitehaven Daytrip) are not easily accessed from Cairns. Cairns can be quite expensive depending on the time of year and how far ahead you book.

If you are trying to keep costs down then Airlie would be a cheaper option, plenty of daytrips (note there is no beach as such). As mentioned Palm Cove and Port Douglas are good choices but also very $$$$ and little night life. Halfway between the Airlie and PD/PC option is Cairns, big city feel though. You might want to look at some of Cairns Beaches like Trinity or Yorkeys as both have a more relaxed feel and are less popular with OS tourist that PC/PD.

Cairns, Australia
posts: 2,847
reviews: 11
6. Re: Where to stay near Great Barrier Reef...

GW, Reef trips are far cheaper from Cairns than from Airlie Beach., Cairns is also not very expensive at all if you do nto wnat it to be.

Cairns, Australia
posts: 2,847
reviews: 11
7. Re: Where to stay near Great Barrier Reef...

Sojourner, the Great Barrier Reef is a barrier so waves break on the edge of the shelf rather than on the mainland. So no surf beaches at all. some pretty beaches though not great swimmingsurfing. More lake like,

Sydney
posts: 778
reviews: 12
8. Re: Where to stay near Great Barrier Reef...

If cost is a major factor, I'd recommend Cairns. I've just returned and a lot of the hotels and reef trippers are offering great discounts. There's plenty of choice and you get what you pay for.

Port Douglas is a bit more expensive, but not affected so much by the downturn of the tourism industry, fewer backpackers and fewer discounts. Plenty to do and some good reef trips.

Palm Cove - not one thing or the other.

Sydney, Australia
Destination Expert
for Sydney, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Airlie Beach, Whitsunday Islands
posts: 16,742
reviews: 142
9. Re: Where to stay near Great Barrier Reef...

I'm referring to things in general, not just reef, and more in point flights. there are some bargain trips to fringing reefs from Airlie as well as other options... and comparing Airlie to the islands,

.flights can be a real difference...eg Jetstar was offering $59 airfares to the Whitsundays I haven't seen anywhere near that offer to Cairns yet. (Not saying it isn't there, just I haven't seen it).

Cairns, Australia
posts: 2,847
reviews: 11
10. Re: Where to stay near Great Barrier Reef...

I have paid $7o with Jetstar so not enough really really to trade outer reef with inshore low visibiltiy fringing reefs.