What is the closest reef to Cairns?

What is the closest reef to Cairns?

Written by: Cameron Ward

Published: 07/24/2023

Reading time: 3 mins

You guessed it right: it’s the Great Barrier Reef! This enormous coral reef system also happens to be one of the seven wonders of the natural world, making it an absolute must-visit when in Cairns.

Cairns is a city in tropical Far North Queensland and it’s considered the gateway to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. You can spend up to a week in Cairns, exploring the tropical town and underwater worlds alike.

The three reefs within the Great Barrier Reef ecosystem closest to Cairns are Sudbury Reef, Moore Reef, and Arlington Reef. Moore Reef is the most popular of the three, making it a popular destination for those staying in Cairns.

With a lot to do and see, here are some of the activities you can do at Moore Reef!


Snorkelling is one of the most popular activities you can do at Moore Reef. It’s the perfect way to explore everything from marine life to colourful coral, without having to dive many metres below the surface.

Scuba diving

Scuba diving is undoubtedly the best way to go deep into the water. Who knows, you might even get the chance to swim with sea turtles and reef sharks.

Two scube divers ready to dive

Helmet diving

Helmet diving is a different way to go about seeing the Great Barrier Reef. There is no equipment to operate, and you won’t even get your hair wet! Not to mention that you don’t need to be a good swimmer for this type of dive as all you do is walk underwater, making it a very accessible option.

Glass-bottom boat

If you are not keen on getting in the water at all, a glass-bottom boat is just another way to discover the Great Barrier Reef. There are two styles of boats you can go on: a submarine-style boat in which you go inside a glass cabin, or a boat with glass on the bottom. In the latter, you get to sit around and look down to see what marine life will swim by.


A pontoon is essentially a giant boat with activities onboard. You can go snorkelling, diving, and even explore the reef from a glass-bottom boat. What’s more, there may also be swimming pools, waterslides, or a range of different presentations, such as fish feeding.

A pontoon has everything you need: changing rooms, toilets, and even food to grab if all the swimming tires you out.

If all of this sounds like something you would love to be involved in, you can book a one-day Great Barrier Reef pontoon tour here! You will be able to do anything from diving to snorkelling, going down the waterslides, or even going on a glass-bottom boat tour.

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.