4 helpful votes
My husband and I are going to do 2 back-to-back cruises that will take us through much of New Zealand, and then, to Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Hobart and Brisbane. Post-cruise, we would like to stay for one or two additional nights to Australia visit the Great Barrier Reef.
Is Cairns the Australia best place to do this? If not, where would you recommend? Please keep in mind that we will need to fly back to Los Angeles at the end.
Can you recommend the best luxury hotels in Cairns (or if that is not the best place to snorkle the Reef, then in whichever city you recommend?)
Also, if there are some sights that are absolutely “don’t miss,” please tell me what they are. I’ve Australia got New Zealand, Melbourne and Sydney worked out, but I am just beginning to research Adelaide, Hobart, Brisbane and Cairns.
174 helpful votes
cairns or port douglas would be the best bet altho for 1 or 2 nights cairns would save u the trip up and back to pd.
for things to see/do check out the ‘things to do’ and ‘itineraries’ tabs on the forum pages of the cities u r visiting.
it’s just over a 3 hour flight each way to cairns and back from sydney, 2 1/2 brisbane.
if u r flying directly back to lax from cairns via sydney then make sure u give yourself plenty of time for the sydney terminal aktarma ie. min 3 hours.
if brisbane, then a little less but not Australia by much.
4 helpful votes
I was just reading my Fodor’s guide book, and to my surprise, it said that December/January, when we will be visiting the Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef, it is monsoon season! Is that right? Maybe we should save the Reef for another trip, at another time of year, rather than getting flooded out? How would we see anything when we snorkel the Reef? Please say it isn’t so!
174 helpful votes
december/january is beginning of ‘the wet’ in NQ.
as well as rain there is also the possibility of cyclones (hurricanes).
BUT there is a very good chance the latter wont happen and u will only be subjected to short sharp downpours…..or fine weather for the two days.
it’s a good time to visit the reef. no trade winds = smooth trip to outer reef and the coral fluoresces wonderfully in over cast conditions. and just because it’s raining on the coast doesn’t mean it will be all those miles out to sea.
i wouldn’t be put off unless u r sure of coming back again during our winter.
7 helpful votes
the GBR stretches for over 1200 miles along the coast of queensland.
at the southernmost part of the reef there is a set of carol cays which IMHO can provide a better feel for reef ecology than a day trip to the reef….
have a look at
now be aware malibu that these islands do NOT have the standard of luxury to which you have become accustomed…but hey…two days roughing it may remind you of those days when you were young and poor and staying in shacks at ensenada down on the baja
Adelaide, South Australia, Kangaroo Island
95 helpful votes
As a diver I’ve seen quite a bit of the reef over the years. You don’t actually say whether you intend to ” visit” it in the biçim of viewing from a glass bottom boat, from the air, as a snorkeller or as a diver.. there are many wonderful ways to see the reef.
Yes december/january is the monsoon season .. perhaps less of the blue sky sunny days than one might expect from the picture perfect postcards but Australia again, it all depends how you want to see it. If you are snorkelling or diving it matters little whether it’s raining on the surface.
I have to say that Lady Elliott and Heron are wonderful places for diving and snorkelling the reef, many of my friends have reported seeing more fish at those locations than the locations out of Port Douglas and Cairns. A little more laid back but as said above , perhaps not total luxury. In this I agree entirely with clancydrover..
It’s possibly a matter of deciding whether you want the best luxury/hotels/facilities OR seeing the best of the reef…
Do a little more research here on Trip Advisor and then perhaps post back with suggestions. DO look at the Cairns Port Douglas sites and get a feel for what recent travellers have experienced (weather and conditions) at the time of year you intend to travel.
Cairns and Port Douglas are without doubt THE places to step off to the reef. Close access, pristine ribbon reef, world class diving, diverse options so you can choose, extremely cool wildlife face to face.
The wet season is the Best Time to see the reef and locals will agree. Limited trade winds. There is always the threat of weather anywhere.
4 helpful votes
Thanks for your help. I must confess that we are not great snorkelers. What other ways can we experience the Reef? If we take a glass bottom boat trip, can we really see anything? Can you recommend a great tour company for glass bottom boat trips? I imagine that a helicopter trip would be very dramatic. Can you recommend a great tour company for that? What other ways could we experience the Reef without actually snorkeling or diving? Most of the tours I’ve found described on Tripadvisor are intended for those who want to snorkel or dive.
A heli tour to private landing on remote atoll is amazing. Try GBR Helis or also search Skysafaris.
You can do glass bottom boats from most reef pontoons or day trips or from Green Island. Try Reef Magic or Quicksilver cruises search. Passions of paradise or Ocean spirit cruises do day trips to Michaelmas key.
On Fitzroy island you can go underwater with Great Barrier Reef submarines or you can get glass bottomed sea kayak.
At low isles you can paddle board above the reef.
Go sea kayaking at Cape Tribulation.
Scenic flights run from Cairns in Sea Planes.
Try www.cairnsgreatbarrierreef.org.au for ideas
4 helpful votes
Thank you so much! Looks like I will have a hard time deciding — so many great choices! I really appreciate the help!
2 helpful votes
In cairns, the’ shangri la hotel’ one bed suite is great, brilliant service and you get access to the executive lounge for free evening drinks and nibbles, we went for a birthday and got free bubbly and chocolates to, a great stay. It is also close to the reef fleet terminal where there are many boats that run out to the reef, for a great days snorkelling. ‘Sunlover’ operate a boat out to fitzroy island, that has a lovely resort, where i would reccommend for the second night. On the island you can snorkel, but the are also Submarines that do trips down to see the reef. They carry two people and the pilot, a really exciting and different way to see the reef, they fully submerge down.
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