How many days do you need at the Great Barrier Reef?

How many days do you need at the Great Barrier Reef?

Written by: Cameron Ward

Published: 05/05/2020

Reading time: 4 mins

There is plenty to see and do in this amazing part of Australia!

As the seventh natural wonder of the world, the Great Barrier Reef is at the top of many travellers’ bucket lists. So, if you are planning a trip to Cairns to visit the reef, how long do you need to fully appreciate everything this amazing destination has to offer?

Honestly, a lifetime is not enough to explore and enjoy all the amazing natural wonders of Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef. But if you can’t spend your life on holiday, we recommend at least three days in Cairns to discover the main attractions!

Below are a few points to consider to help you decide how many days you need for your holiday.

Great Barrier Reef day trips

Great Barrier Reef Snorkelling

A day trip to the Great Barrier Reef is a great option if you don’t have much time in Cairns.

Jump on a boat to head to outer reef sites where you can see an amazing array of marine life including giant clams, starfish, clown fish and much more. You’ll get to explore the magical underwater world of the Great Barrier Reef with 3 – 5 hours of snorkelling time depending on which tour you select.

Dive options are also available on select Great Barrier Reef day tours, even if you have no previous diving experience.

Liveaboard tours

If one day on the water doesn’t sound like enough, try a liveaboard tour!

You can choose to spend two days or three days on the reef. These liveaboard tours offer amazing opportunities that aren’t available on a day trip! The opportunities include night diving and early morning snorkelling.

Liveaboard tours offer the most comprehensive Great Barrier Reef experience and are perfect for travellers with more diving or snorkelling experience. They also offer more time on the reef so you can explore even more of the vast reef.

Trips to the nearby islands

Great Barrier Reef Island

Snorkelling and diving aren’t the only way to explore the Great Barrier Reef! Another great way to enjoy the spectacular natural wonder is to embark on a day trip to one of the 900 islands that also make up the Great Barrier Reef.

Fitzroy Island and Green Island are easily accessible from Cairns via a short boat journey. These two islands are a great option for any travellers with young children or who aren’t keen on spending the whole day on a boat.

A day trip to the reef’s islands can include a whole host of activities both in and out of the water. Try some snorkelling to explore the reef up close. Set up a picnic and lounge about on pristine sandy island beaches. Or maybe you will choose to explore the rainforest before returning to Cairns in the afternoon.

Exploring beyond the reef

Atherton Tablelands

The Great Barrier Reef is by no means the only thing to see in Tropical North Queensland! Any trip to the area will also need to factor in a visit to some of the terrestrial attractions on offer.

At the top of the list is a day trip to the Daintree Rainforest. Here, visitors can explore the dense tropical rainforest via walking tracks and swim in pristine freshwater swimming holes. You can also spot crocodiles from a boat cruise along the Daintree River and keep your eyes open for Australia’s dinosaur bird, the cassowary.

Another day can be filled with a day trip to the magical Atherton Tablelands. Here you can enjoy splashing about under cascading waterfalls and swim in a lake created by an extinct volcanic crater. There is even a natural slide made of rock that you can glide down, into the pristine waters below. The area is also home to some unique Australian wildlife including platypuses and tree kangaroos.

No matter how long you spend in Cairns, we’re sure it won’t feel like enough as you board your plane again. Don’t worry, there’s always next time!

Related article: How much does it cost to visit the Great Barrier Reef?

Cameron Ward
Cameron Ward
Managing Director at Sightseeing Tours Australia

Cameron Ward turned his travel passion into a thriving Australian tourism business. Before he co-founded his own business, Sightseeing Tours Australia, he was enjoying being a Melbourne tour guide. Even now, Cameron delights in helping visitors from all around the world get the most out of their incredible Australian trip. You’ll see Cameron leading tours or writing about his favourite Australian places where he shares his local insights.