We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.
We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Section of Great Barrier Reef

Cardiff, United...
posts: 3
Section of Great Barrier Reef


I am due to go out to Australia in November and would like to travel the East Coast from the GBR down to Melbourne so we are a bit short for time! We are wondering whether it is worth going up to Cairns to visit the Reef or whether to start from lower and spend more time in the Whitsundays/ Fraser Island. Would we be missing out a nicer area to snorkel by not going out from Cairns?

Thanks, Hayz

Lunenburg, Canada
Destination Expert
for Saint John, Foz do Iguacu, Iguazu National Park
posts: 2,818
reviews: 7
1. Re: Section of Great Barrier Reef

Hi Hayz!

We traveled out to the Great Barrier Reef from Airlie Beach, near the Whitsunday Islands. You know best whether you're a connoisseur of the different aspects of the Reef, but the Whitsundays are a fine and popular place for your visit. It's not cheap, and if time is short I'd do one visit only.

Boats going out to the reef leave in the morning, around 8 or 9 o'clock from the docks in Airlie Beach. Tickets are widely available for miles around from innumerable dealers. It takes three hours to sail out across the Coral Sea, with a stop on one of the Whitsundays to pick up other passengers. They'll serve a lunch of sandwiches (included in the ticket price) and shoot pictures of you to sell back to you as souvenirs. There may be massage treatments available on the boat, for a price of course. Otherwise, the sail is mostly out of sight of land. Bring reading material.

The boat docks at a station anchored over the reef. On board this station, you can partake of the various reef activities, everything from scuba diving to a ride in a glass-sided semi-submersible, to more massage treatments. Some attractions, like the semi-submersible, are included in the price of your ticket. For others, like the scuba dives, you pay extra.

After several hours, you board the boat again for the sail back, another three hour jaunt. You should arrive in Airlie Beach shortly before sunset.

When we did it, I was a bit underwhelmed by the reef. You've seen all the spectacular pictures of fish and marine life? Those photos are shot with special filters that our eyes don't come equipped with. The blue of the water makes the view you get look washed-out and a bit dark. There are lots of fish, but not surprisingly they look bigger in pictures than in real life.

By the way, you did say November? Do you mean three months from now, or November 2012? If you said 2012, there's a total eclipse of the sun in Cairns the morning of November 14, 2012, and that would be worth the drive!

Happy travels!



Destination Expert
for Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park
posts: 7,399
reviews: 155
2. Re: Section of Great Barrier Reef

Hi Hayz05,

Depending on budget what about Lady Elliot Island for snorkelling.

If you fly into Brisbane, there are direct flights from Brissie to Lady Elliot Island, and while in Brissie you can visit the Sunshine Coast.


If you fly to Lady Elliot Island out of Hervey Bay you can also visit Fraser Island.

I can vouch for Fraser Island and Lady Elliot Island.

I have also spent time on the reefs of Cairns, and the outer reef is spectacular, but you will get the crowds. I can't vouch for the Whitsundays.

Have a good look at Lady Elliot Island.

Some thoughts.

Safe travels - Robert

Edited: 2:12 pm, August 22, 2011
Sydney, Australia
Destination Expert
for Sydney, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Airlie Beach, Whitsunday Islands
posts: 16,751
reviews: 142
3. Re: Section of Great Barrier Reef


as a frequent traveller to the GBR in numerous locations I can give you more accurate information that is not based on one daytrip out on the Fantasea, CruiseWhitsundays/WQuiksilver sardine can that tkaes you to overused and overcowded venues (hence the reply stating fish size etc)

Personally I think the trip to Cairns is worth it so you can perhaps do an overnighter and access some of the less travelled reefs. Unfortunately the Whitsundays doesn't have the outer reef trips on offer (due to distance to the reef) that can be found from Port Douglas or Cairns as an example. It does have access to some great fringing reefs.

The point of difference here would be Heron Island and Lady Elliot. Both of these have excellent fringing reefs.

For the record I carry my underwater camera each time I snorkel (used to dive) and can vouch that on most days where turbity is low and you are during a drier period with low runoff the eye view through my goggles is just the way the camera catches it. Your brain is quite clever, it corrects for the colour difference the same as it will for an incandescent light so the poster earlier has some of his info not quite right...

ask more if you need

posts: 26
reviews: 1
4. Re: Section of Great Barrier Reef

Guruswife and others

I'm also interested in the GBR for November this year. We have done some diving in the Maldives which was spectacular and fear we have been spoilt. i snorkelled on the GBR years ago (only a day trip) and was underwhelmed due to lack of things to see and large numbers of people.

Where could we find great diving without crowds and with some lovely accommodation? we really want somewhere to get away from it all.



Sydney, Australia
Destination Expert
for Sydney, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Airlie Beach, Whitsunday Islands
posts: 16,751
reviews: 142
5. Re: Section of Great Barrier Reef


great diving doesn't come cheaply.

there are several options...

Overnighters- Spirit of freedom or similar, Cod Hole etc out of Cairns Ribbon reefs are essential

Luxe accom...Lizard is possibly the best choice..make sure you buy a dive package..places like Dynamite and No Name on top of Cod Hole.

Can't recc Orpheous personally but other frineds have loved (and hated) it.

Heron also has great diving but the accom isn;t quite so lux

posts: 26
reviews: 1
6. Re: Section of Great Barrier Reef

Thanks Guruswife - much appreciated. To be honest, if we're coming half way round the world and are going to dive, we'd rather spend the money to get the best diving.

I see you are based in Sydney? Would you happen to have any recommendations for beach/coastal places (with or without diving) in NSW please?

We've been looking at Lord Howe Island and Jervis Bay (both on recc from friends) and other places and I am now completely overwhelmed by the choice! We are after peace and quiet, beautiful scenery, wildlife spotting if possible and ideally some diving but we can head further north for diving if we need to.

Thanks again!

Sydney, Australia
Destination Expert
for Sydney, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Business Travel, New South Wales
posts: 26,465
reviews: 575
7. Re: Section of Great Barrier Reef

Another option is Lady Musgrave Island , the Fitzroy Reef , Heron island apart of the Bunker group Islands. (beautiful).




Sydney, Australia
Destination Expert
for Sydney, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Airlie Beach, Whitsunday Islands
posts: 16,751
reviews: 142
8. Re: Section of Great Barrier Reef

Sonia ,

you might be best to start your own thread.

I'll answer a bit here though.

Lord Howe is lovely, but great diving can be due to the weather there. Balls Pyramid (best dive spot) wasn't accessible for the whole week we were there last year. It does have better accom options than Jervis Bay though. If doing Lord Howe check you can get accom and flights to match, there is limited number of guests allowed on the island at any one time and sometime co-ordinating is hard. In the ned last year I used Oxley Travel, only because they had a full list of wht had what when and some places took forever to respond and by then the flight was sold out.

Jervis would be more a "cooler dive", Shark Nursery is the big attraction. Not a lot of lux accom, maybe Paperbark Camp.

Ottawa, Ontario
posts: 40
9. Re: Section of Great Barrier Reef

Hi everyone,

I'm debating between Cairns and Airlie Beach. I'll be travelling with my mom in Oct. I'll be doing some snorkelling but my mom doesn't swim. Most likely be joining a day tour out to see the reef. Which area would be best?

Newcastle, Australia
posts: 93
reviews: 26
10. Re: Section of Great Barrier Reef

Hi Sonia,

Guruswife has made some good points.

Jervis can be cold, but not all the time. I dived there on Jan 2nd (summer) and the water temp was 15 deg Cel.

There is some great diving on NSW coast.

The absolute best (I my humble opinion and that of many on world wide opinion polls) is "Fish Rock Cave" at South West Rocks on the mid north coast of NSW.

SWR is a beautiful little town. Fish Rock is serviced by two dive operators, SWR Dive and Fish Rock Dive. I prefer the former.

Fish Rock is essentially a granite pyramid sticking up out of the water that has a split in it that you dive thru. If you don't like caves, there is plenty of dive action at either end. Easy diving.

What will you see: lots of grey nurse sharks up close often less than metre away, bull rays, turtles, eagle rays, fish, fish and fish. One dive earlier this year I saw 40 hammerheads, a guitar shark and lost count of the grey nurse at 85! A fantastic dive spot.

Port Stephens further south near Newcastle is a pretty place with decent diving. Byron Bay north of SWR is a funky beach/hippy/rich village set on a fabulous beach and scenery with good diving at "Julian Rocks". Byron is easily accessible from Brisbane.

I nice trip would be go drive from Sydney to Port Stephens, South west Rocks, Byron Bay and on to the Gold Coast or Brisbane.


Get answers to your questions about Great Barrier Reef