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

How long do you need to plan for your trip to the Great Barrier Reef? There is plenty to see and do in this amazing part of Australia, so read on for tips to help you plan your itinerary.

As the seventh natural wonder of the world, the Great Barrier Reef is 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 too offer? There is an abundance of things to see and do in the area and with the outer reef to explore, Nemo to find and tropical islands to laze about on you may be tempted to stay forever.

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. If you have more time, great! Here a few points to consider to help you decide how many days you need.

  • Day Trips

    Day trips to the Great Barrier Reef are 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, star fish, clown fish and much more. You’ll get a taste of life under the water of the Great Barrier Reef with 3 – 5 hours of snorkelling time depending on which tour you select. Dive options are also available, 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. These tours stay overnight on the reef and offer amazing opportunities that aren’t available on a day trip including night diving and early morning snorkels. Liveaboard tours offer the most comprehensive Great Barrier Reef experience and are perfect for travellers with more diving or snorkelling experience, and a bit more time.

  • Island Trips

    Besides a tour to snorkel or dive the outer reef, day trips to some of the 900 islands that also make up the Great Barrier Reef are another way to enjoy this spectacular natural wonder. Fitzroy and Green Island are easily accessible from Cairns via a short boat journey and are a great option for any travellers with young children or who aren’t keen on spending the whole day on a boat. Snorkel the surrounding reefs, laze about on pristine sandy beaches or explore the covering rainforest before returning to Cairns in the afternoon.

  • Beyond the reef

    The Great Barrier Reef is by no means the only thing to see in Tropical North Queensland and any trip to the area will also need to factor in a visit to some of the terrestrial attractions on offer. Top of the list is the Daintree Rainforest, where visitors can explore the dense tropical rainforest via walking tracks and swim in pristine freshwater swimming holes. 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 trip to the Atherton Tablelands, where you can enjoy splashing about under cascading waterfalls and swim in a lake created by an extinct volcanic crater. 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?

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