Travel Guide to Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef

Cairns is an excellent exit point for tours to the Great Barrier Reef.
The city of Cairns is located on the north east coast of Australia, in the north of the state of Queensland, some 1700 km north of Brisbane and 2700 km north of Sydney. The city's population is about 150 thousand.
The city was established in 1876 to serve the gold miners in the area, and later as a port of shipping minerals and sugar cane.
Today it is a vibrant tourists' city, with an abundance of attractions and very popular with tourists mainly because of its tropical climate and for:

- Being an excellent exit point for tours to the Great Barrier Reef.

- The tropical rain forests nearby.

- Special destinations located further north in the state of Queensland.

- Plenty of attractions and activities in the city itself as well as in the near and further surroundings. For those who spend time in the city there is a supply of bars and clubs, performances and movies, casino, various night markets, galleries and shops of every kind. It has a nice long promenade along the beach in the center of which is a huge swimming pool, free of charge.


Cairns swimming pool


How to reach the city:

 The distances between Australian cities are of thousands of kilometers, thus whoever is in one of Australia's major cities will reach Cairns by a two and more hours of flight. Those who are coming from abroad from the direction of Bangkok or Hong Kong can first land at Cairns, spend a number of days here and continue south to Brisbane, Sydney or Melbourne. Alternatively they can choose Cairns as the last destination on the way back.



The Great Barrier Reef Adventure

This reef is located along the northeastern shores of Australia and it is a huge collection of reefs and islands with a total length of 2300 km! The reef covers an area of about 350,000 square km; this is a larger area than the area of Greta Britain. In this reef are 350 types of corals and some 1500 types of fish.


great barrier reef

Great Barrier Reef - All rights reserved to Reef Magic Cruises, Cairns Australia  ©


You can reach the reef from the cities and villages along the north shore of Queensland. The city of Cairns is the best one for this purpose because it is big a vibrant, offering tourists additional varied entertainment possibilities, and it also has a comparatively large port and an international airport with many flights arriving in it from all around the world.
The recommended season to visit the reef is during the Australian winter, because during this season you will not meet the poisonous jellyfish that arrive during the summer when the water is warmer and reaches 29 degrees.
Many companies offer cruises to various points in the Great Reef, some to the near islands Green Island or Fitzroy Island, others to low sandy islands surrounded by corals, some just to the reefs, and some combining two sites. Cruise and diving takes about 8 hours, and the cruise to the reefs and back takes about 3 hours. The size of the boats vary from one company to the other, some are small boats for 20-30 people with a more personal attention, and some large spacious boats for 100 or more passengers.
A most recommended company for a cruise to the Great Reef is Reef Magic Cruises. This company has a fast, large catamaran boat that arrives at an excellent site on the Great Reef within half an hour. Because of its size its stability is better, it is spacious and convenient, with an external open rear deck as well as an inside air-conditioned closed hall that has a beverages bar.


catamaran boat for the great barrier reef


At the diving site is a large spacious barge to which the passengers are transferred. The barge has two suntan decks, a large hall with tables for lunch, and convenient ladders to descent into the water.


docking place for boats at the great barrier reef
hall with tables for lunch at the great barrier reef


At the disposal of the divers are also glass bottom boats, or a vessel that is half a submarine, so that those unable or unwilling to dive, can still see the corals and fish, and during the remaining time rest on the barge's deck and enjoy the pleasant tropical weather in a sea surrounded by reefs.


glass bottom boat


The length of the stay is 5 hours, so that you can enjoy diving at the reefs, take the cruise with the glass bottom boat or the half submarine, eat lunch and rest of the spacious barge deck. The company workers team is efficient and friendly, and include knowledgeable marine biologists that provide professional explanations regarding the reef during the cruise to it as well as during the guided tours and while snorkeling.
The cruise price includes the two-way cruise, lunch, coffee, tea, and cold water at all times, snorkel equipment, a mask and flippers, free cruise on the glass bottom boat and in the half submarine.


sun deck at great barrier reef


For those interested, and for an additional fee, you can rent a cloth or rubber swimsuit, deep-diving equipment – air containers and a suit (do not forget to bring your diver's certificate). For the unexperienced, there is a short air containers diving course. The unexperienced snorkeler can receive guided snorkeling.



It is extremely recommended to go on a snorkeling safari with a marine biologist guide, which lasts for about an hour.


snorkeling at great barrier reef
Great Barrier Reef - All rights reserved to Reef Magic Cruises, Cairns Australia  ©


 In this safari you depart the barge by boat and go to the edge of the reef that is open to the ocean, where you jump into the water and snorkel along the walls of the outer reef, when you go lower into the depth, you will see the greatest variety of fish and corals, huge flocks of different types of fish with magnificent colors. During this snorkeling experience, you will see in addition to fish of all sizes and types, also eels, sea turtles, and even reef sharks (not dangerous to humans).


snorkeling at great barrier reef


For the interested, next to the barge is a small helicopter landing, and you can take short flights above the reef, 5, 10 minutes, and even a two-way flight from the city to the barge. The price varies with the length of the flight.


The beaches of Cairns

The city of Cairns is located in a broad bay, and its port is in the heart of the city. The port has a marina and a large terminal that serves the many boats carrying daily the tourists to the reefs and the islands of the Great Barrier Reef. The Esplanade promenade starts at the marina and it is adjacent in its entire length to the sea. It has lawns and parks, many environmental sculptures and walking as well as bicycle trails.
In the heart of the promenade is a wide pool with sandy beaches, lawns and wooden decks, and the city residents who take walks here, can bathe free of charge.


Cairns swimming pool


The pool was constructed because the beach near the promenade is not adequate for bathing and during low tide; a wide muddy area is exposed.


Cairns shoreline promenade


 Adjacent to the pool are showers, toilets and coin operated lockers. In general, Australia knows how to pamper its residents with beautiful parks equipped with whatever is necessary for leisure time in nature - tables, excellent grills, lawns, toilets and various sport and amusement facilities.
The better sandy beaches of the city are actually spread a number of kilometers along the city's northern shore, and can be reached by Captain Cook Highway. The travel time is 10 to 35 minutes away from the city. Adjacent to those beaches are the northern suburbs of the city.
The first beach, Mechans Beach is immediately after the airport and is the closest to the centre of Cairns.


Mechans Beach


The beach is sandy, but near the estuary and therefore, less recommended due to alligators that like to be in such areas. In general, the beaches of Cairns and north of it carry warning signs for bathers of the danger from alligators and poisonous jellyfish Their main season is during the summer months in Australia, when the water is warmer – between November and April). Those signs took out all my desire to enter the water although the beach is sandy and the water pleasant for bathing; however, many locals do enter the water. Everyone learns to live in his own swamp.
Five minutes ride to the north is Holloways Beach, and after five more minutes, Yorkeys Knob Beach. The beaches Trinity and Kawarra are a 25 minutes ride from Cairns. The Kawarra beach is a sandy strip shaded by a line of trees near the beach.


Holloways Beach


Holloways Beach is a bathing beach near Cairns in Australia.
Beyond Kawarra is Clifton Beach, followed by Palm Cove Beach.
Palm Cove Beach is the best of Cairn's beaches and is considered one of Australia's best (Not in my opinion because of the Alligators and poisonous jellyfish danger). It was selected as Queensland cleanest and friendliest beaches in north Queensland. This is a long and pleasant sandy beach, along it are palm trees providing it with beauty and shade for the vacationers. At the end of the beach is a concrete track to lower boats into the water, followed by a long pier continuing well into the sea and on it many anglers attempting their luck with fishing. Behind a line of trees along the beach, are hotels, restaurants and coffee shops. Sailboats are available for rent, as well as kayaks and jet-skis. The beach is equipped with good grills and picnic tables.


Palm Cove Beach


The next beach, furthest from Cairn (35 minutes away from the city) is Ellis Beach.
Next to Palm Cove Beach, one can find additional excellent tourist attractions:
1. The long cable car above the rain forests leading to kuranda skyrail.
2. Cairn Tropical Zoo
3. Cairn Night Zoo
4. Outback Opal Mine
5. Hartley Alligator Park

The Kuranda artist village is a nice place to visit. It located in mountains covered with tropical rain forests, at a distance of about 35 minutes away from the city of Cairns. Read the article about Kuranda.


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