Adventure Cruises in Great Barrier Reef

Those who want to explore the remote and tropical side of Australia while keeping the relaxed vibe the region is famous for, will find Great Barrier Reef cruises are the perfect adventure. The Great Barrier Reef is formed of thousands of reefs and over nine hundred islands. These islands have quiet white-sand beaches, tropical forests and beautiful fringing reefs. Cruises to the Great Barrier Reef boast long, warm sunny days for those who love the beach and a long list of outdoor activities for the more active visitor.

The wildlife of the Great Barrier Reef is fascinating both above and below the water. On land, the lush forests are home to various breeds of birds. Huge ospreys hunt over the trees and on the smaller end of the scale, the lurid yellow-bellied sunbird can be spotted by its bright blue back and vibrant yellow belly. Sea turtles are also a common sight around the beaches and swimming past boats. If you enjoy snorkelling or diving, the reefs around the islands have vibrant coral life and plenty of interesting marine life to see.

Top things to do and see in the Great Barrier Reef

Lizard Island was named by the explorer Captain Cook for its plentiful yellow-spotted monitor lizards, which he commented on in his journal. Although Cook believed that lizards were the only land animals, the island is in fact home to a variety of wildlife. In the forests look out for tree snakes and black flying foxes and on the beaches nesting sea turtles can also be seen. On the fringing reef, the colourful corals are perfect for snorkelling and divers will enjoy a dip with the giant potato cod in the nearby Cod Hole. Lizard Island is also a popular spot for paddle boarding, sailing and swimming with turtles.

The largest island in the Great Barrier Reef is Hinchinbrook, famous for its striking waterfalls and dense forests. The famous Thorsborne nature trail takes visitors along a thirty-two-kilometre hike through the island and is a must visit on an Australian adventure cruise. The trail is home to a wide range of wildlife including the endangered giant tree frog. In the mangrove swamps, there are also dugongs and saltwater crocodiles which are a protected species on the island. The island is also well known for watersports with canoeing, paddle boarding, snorkelling and diving available, which can all be enjoyed from a Great Barrier Reef small ship cruise.

Great Barrier Reef boat cruises often take time to stop off at Dunk island where long sandy beaches and chilled out bars make for a pure relaxation experience. For the more active at heart, the island also has around thirteen kilometres of hiking trails and a beautiful walk up Mount Kootaloo in the middle of the island with striking views from the top. Lucky snorkelers might spot beautiful reef fish, turtles and even dugongs on the reefs around Dunk island.

Nathan Reef is a large mostly submerged reef in the Cairns section of the Great Barrier Reef. This bright and colourful coral reef is very popular with birdwatching enthusiasts, snorkelers and divers. On the surface, you can spot shearwaters, terns and noddys splashing into the water hunting for some of the reefs plentiful fish. Underneath the reef has colourful corals, anemone and large shoals of parrotfish on show. The water is calm and clear, perfect for dropping off your cruise and swimming or snorkelling.

Australia adventure cruises often visit the famous Ribbon Reefs which are long thin strips of reef which stretch out along the edges of the Great Barrier Reef. These reefs are often shallow and full of marine life, making this an ideal place to take a dip and try some snorkelling or even scuba diving. If you prefer to stay out of the water Agincourt ribbon reef is home to a platform with an underwater observatory and a small submersible so everyone can see the beautiful marine life.

Thetford reef is also a great spot for observing fish and coral reef. This is a very shallow reef and perfect for snorkelling or a cruise with a glass bottomed hull. For those who prefer to stay on board this is also a great spot for fishing. Like much of the Great Barrier Reef Thetford is also great for scuba diving. The calm clear waters and colourful life make it perfect for your first try dive or course. For experienced divers, there are many deeper sites with reef sharks, mantas and even minke whales swimming past.

Top Tips for visiting the Great Barrier Reef on a cruise

  • The Great Barrier Reef is famous around the world for snorkelling, if you intend to spend a lot of time looking at the corals and fish then it is a good idea to bring your own snorkel and mask. Most Great Barrier Reef cruises will provide equipment but it is much more comfortable to have your own.
  • If you are intending to do a lot of hiking and wildlife watching then sunscreen, good walking shoes and a good camera are a must.

Best time to cruise the Great Barrier Reef

The best time to take a Great Barrier Reef cruise depends on what you are looking to do and see on your trip. The high season is between June and October when the weather is slightly cooler and dryer but there is still plenty of sunshine. This is the busiest time of the year, particularly for diving so if you want to go on a Great Barrier Reef cruise in June - November be sure to plan ahead and book in advance. Whale lovers should head to the Great Barrier reef in June and July to encounter migrating minke whales.

The wet season is the quieter period for tourists on the Great Barrier Reef, not only that but the water is warmer as well. It is, however, advisable to stick to the south of the region as the north does experience an increase in the number of jellyfish at this time. April and May are a good compromise with still low numbers of visitors but great weather cool enough to enjoy hiking to see wildlife. Whichever season you prefer there isn't really a bad time to go on a Great Barrier Reef holiday in Australia.

Where do Great Barrier Reef cruises depart from?

Most Australia small ship cruises that visit the Great Barrier Reef begin at Cairns harbour, many from Trinity Wharf. The harbour is easily accessed from both local hotels and the airport by shuttle bus or taxi. It is advisable to book a shuttle in advance of your arrival as there is only one shuttle company operating ad hoc at the airport, this service only operates once every hour.

Cairns has its own international airport a 10-15 minute drive from the harbour. The airport takes flights from Singapore, Tokyo and Hong Kong as well as domestic flights from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. If you are coming from Europe or the USA, you will likely have to connect through one of these airports to reach Cairns.

Our reservations team can help you book your next cruise to the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Contact us today.

Great Barrier Reef Reviews

  • 9.3 Superb
  • 6 Verified Reviews
  • 10.0 Exceptional
  • Johanna D
  • United States United States

Excellent. Wish we had had a bit more sunlight and warmth....

Diving Great Barrier Reef in July on the Coral Expeditions II

  • 9.6 Exceptional
  • Jacqueline B
  • United States United States

Fantastic, very informative and options for everyone!

Diving Great Barrier Reef in November on the Coral Expeditions I

  • 10.0 Exceptional
  • Scott A
  • United States United States

Very safe with multiple lookouts and a chase boat. Coral was vibrant and seas were calm. We'll be back.

Diving Great Barrier Reef in July on the Coral Expeditions II

  • 10.0 Exceptional
  • michael S
  • United States United States

very nice. interesting. easy to do. great hikes

Diving Great Barrier Reef in August on the Coral Expeditions II

  • 8.4 Very good
  • Larry M
  • United States United States

Diverse, educational, and good options to suit all guests.

Diving Great Barrier Reef in November on the Coral Expeditions II

  • 8.0 Very good
  • Susan G
  • Australia Australia

Loved all of it, didn't miss a trip or a talk. Information from professionals, easy going, down to earth, totally Ozzie. BRILLIANT.

Diving Great Barrier Reef in June on the Coral Expeditions II