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Tips for Australia Great Barrier Reef Tours

Visiting Australia’s Great Barrier Reef

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The Great Barrier Reef was a priority destination on our recent trip to Australia, and it did not disappoint! There are many options to view the reef. My family found a great snorkeling tour to the reef that left from Cairns on Seastar Cruises.

Cairns is a common launching point for many Great Barrier Reef tours. Cairns is located in the far northwestern part of Australia. Many airlines offer affordable fares. We flew from Auckland, New Zealand to Cairns and then from Cairns down to Sydney. Booking one way flights meant we never had to backtrack.

Great Barrier Reef Tours

There are many tours to choose from to explore the Great Barrier Reef. The tour options include large boats that go to one location; tours that go to a single island; or smaller tours that go to multiple locations. My family wanted to scuba dive and snorkel with a smaller group, so we chose Seastar Cruises. The tour was good for kids because there were so many friendly crew members to guide us.

Michaelmas Cay

The tour started on Michaelmas Cay where a boat took us to a small island. We started snorkeling from the beach. There was also the option to dive with an instructor. If anyone is uncomfortable with snorkeling, walking into the water makes it easier. Wetsuits, snorkels, masks, flotation devices, and instruction are all included. We were split into small groups. Our guides showed us where the best snorkeling was located and pointed out different corals. We also could snorkel on our own.

Hastings Reef

We then boarded the boat again and had a delicious lunch as we went to our next location, Hastings Reef. Hastings Reef is absolutely stunning. It is what I always imagined the Great Barrier Reef to be. Again, there is the option to dive or snorkel. We saw hundreds of fish, beautiful coral, sea turtles, and of course Nemo (clownfish). The staff takes small groups snorkeling and then everyone can snorkel on their own. Seastar also takes underwater photos and posts them on their Facebook page. After everyone is done in the water, there is an option to take a glass bottom boat tour or relax on the boat.

Australia Great Barrier Reef tour - Sea turtle

Seeing a sea turtle during our tour of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef was a highlight of our trip.

Tips for Visiting the Great Barrier Reef

  • The most important tip is to take sea sickness medicine. The waves can be very rocky on the way out to the reef.
  • Take a day bag with hats, sunglasses and plenty of sunscreen. Don’t forget to get the back of everyone’s legs! That is the number one place where snorkelers get sunburned.
  • We checked out towels from Hilton Cairns. They even gave us a tote to carry all of our towels.
  • Bring an underwater camera. I purchased one a few years ago and have found it to be a great investment.
  • Don’t worry if you are visiting during Australia’s winter. Cairns is a tropical climate and the Great Barrier Reef is warm. We visited in June, the beginning of winter in Australia, and we found the water to be very warm.
  • Depending on the time of year, book the tour ahead of time. Tours during Australia’s summer season (December through February) book up very quickly.

Where to Stay Near the Great Barrier Reef

Hilton Cairns is located right on the harbor where all of the cruises depart. After a great breakfast in the Executive Lounge, we only had a five-minute walk to our boat. There is also a boardwalk nearby filled with shops and restaurants. Hilton Cairns was the perfect location to stay before our Great Barrier Reef tour.

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Photo credits: Seastar Cruises

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Tricia lives in Phoenix with her husband, 12 year-old daughter and 10 year-old son. She is a special education teacher for elementary students. Her family’s favorite memories…

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