a guide to cairns & the great barrier reef


I cannot stop daydreaming about how pretty the Great Barrier Reef is. Our trip to the GBR was definitely one of my highlights from my time in Australia so far. You can literally see it from space -- think about how crazy that is. It's THAT big. This article will explain how I'd recommend you going about seeing the reef and what to do in Cairns on your way in and out of the reef!

Fun Fact #1: it's pronounced "canns", not with an R like it's spelled... typical aussies.

great barrier reef travel guide

best great barrier reef liveaboard

Photo from our trip by: Scubabo

When I said I was heading to the Great Barrier Reef for the weekend, I got a lot of snoody comments around how it's not that great anymore because it's dying from a variety of people... however; if you have never seen the great barrier reef, you have no expectations to compare it against. I found it absolutely stunning!

Fun fact #2: Queensland is one of the 2 states in Australia where it's legal to hold koalas? (South Australia being the other.)

best great barrier reef diving

Photo from our trip by: Scubabo

We recently got our diving certifications (which I highly recommend!) and so wanted to see the reef via scuba. Whether you scuba or just snorkel, I definitely recommend doing an overnight liveaboard cruise, because with the day trip you only make it out to the inner reef. With the overnight trip, you get to see the outer reef as well, which is even more untouched and preserved.

cairns travel guide best restaurants

Photo from our trip by: Scubabo

I am so happy we decided to do the Reef Encounter liveaboard dive trip, which consisted of 6 dives over the course of 2 days/1 night. You can do snorkel trips with Reef Encounter too. For our dive trip, the cost was around $400 aussie dollars per person, so not cheap, but then again diving is expensive no matter what (typically $100 for 2 dives), so at 6 dives + an overnight stay and food, it's actually a really great deal!

We even did a night dive (with sharks!) and I never thought I would do something like that. Now I already can't wait to do another liveaboard, it was such an amazing experience. The food was pretty good and staff was awesome. It's also great to go with guides since there are deadly jellyfish in QLD - they provide all the gear for you, including stinger suits like the dorky blue ones we are photographed in above, which will prevent you from getting stung! Not to mention, since you're on a boat the whole time, you are with the same people day and night and we made some pretty cool people that we will likely keep in touch with! It's awesome to expand our footprint of friends around the world.

where to go in cairns