More about Cairns

Cairns diving trips, options and experiences are diverse and fantastic. This is an iconic dive destination in Australia, being the closest mainland port city to the Great Barrier Reef. A true tropical paradise, Cairns is home to two World Heritage listed natural sites, the Great Barrier Reef and Wet Tropics (Daintree) Rainforests. There’s an abundance of accommodation and tour options to enjoy. 

Cairns diving covers everyone from the complete novice, who has no experience or certification but wants to try an introductory dive, to those wanting to learn to dive and become certified, through to Advanced Divers and Dive Masters.

Cairns diving experiences include swim throughs, drift dives and guided dives. The majority of Cairns dive operators, including learn to dive operators, complete trips and certifications on the Great Barrier Reef off Cairns. This is done either on the Outer Great Barrier Reef, Islands and Sand Cays or at Reef Pontoons. A fleet of dive boats depart Cairns’ Marlin Marina every day. Stocked with professional dive equipment and manned by certified dive crew, these boats offer amazing Cairns diving experiences.

A few Cairns dive operators provide liveaboard trips to reef destinations further afield, including the Ribbon Reefs and Osprey Reef, in the Coral Sea. These trips range from 4 nights to 7 nights and can sometimes include a scenic flight, to and/or from Cairns to Lizard Island.  

A constant factor is the abundance of marine life. For those who have never dived the Great Barrier Reef before, it is like diving in an aquarium. You may encounter reef sharks, sea turtles, moray eels, cuttlefish, octopus and more fish than you can imagine, from tiny Damsels to diver-sized Groupers and Cod. There’s giant clams, hard and soft corals, anemones, star fish, sea cucumbers and so much more.

Which Cairns Diving Trip Should I Choose? 

It depends on your experience levels, expectations and budget. Dive in Australia has been on many of the boats and experiences and with more than 12 years experience working in the Cairns diving industry, we can provide personalized advice to ensure you have the best dive experience possible. 

Cairns offers divers the greatest variety of destinations, when it comes to choosing a reef day dive trip destination.  This enables you to pick a tour which suits your interest, experience and budget.  It also offers a range of liveaboard dive trips; please see relevant section on this site for more information.

Generally, the Cairns reef day dive trip destinations can be categorised as Outer Great Barrier Reef, sand cays or islands.  I’ve done them all and can provide personal advice, tailored to your experience, needs and certification, to deliver the very best Great Barrier Reef dive experience for you.

Cairns Outer Great Barrier Reef
Cairns Outer Great Barrier Reef is comprised of several different reef systems and a multitude of individual dive sites.  The reefs include, but are not limited to, Saxon, Hastings, Michaelmas, Milln, Moore and Thetford Reefs.  They are all a part of the Great Barrier Reef system and Marine Park.  These reefs are approximately 60km offshore. Travel time varies from 60 minutes to 2 hours, pending operator and boat. Water / dive depth varies from 5m to 20m, but does not usually exceed 18m, making this destination perfect for those with an Open Water Certification.  It is all open water diving with boat entry. 

Most of the Cairns reef day dive tours offer guided diving only, but some do offer the choice of unguided; we can provide advice and assistance on this.  Cairns dive day boats include catamarans and sailing ships.  What can you expect to see? An amazing array of colourful corals and marine life.  Highlights may include turtles, clownfish (nemo), Maori Wrasse, parrotfish and more.  Cairns reef day dive trips to the Outer Great Barrier Reef depart daily.  The number of passengers, dive sites and time at sea varies from boat to boat and we’re happy to provide our expert advice on the best trip and boat for you.

Great Barrier Reef Sand Cays
There’s a few Great Barrier Reef sand cays off Cairns, which are popular destinations for many of the reef day tour boats.  These include, but are not limited to, Michealmas Cay and Upolu Cay. These trips usually combine a visit to the sand cay with at least one Outer Great Barrier Reef site and are suitable for divers travelling with snorkelers or non-diving companions. Why? Non divers will enjoy the excellent snorkeling and chance to relax on the sand and visit the surrounding coral gardens.  The water visibility for diving around sand cays is generally not as good as on the Outer Great Barrier Reef sites, but there’s still lots to see including giant clams, turtles and more.  Water / dive depth varies anywhere from 5m to 18m; the water temperature varies between 22-29 degrees. All Cairns reef day tour operators provide wetsuits / lycra suits for divers. 

Great Barrier Reef Islands
There’s two Great Barrier Reef islands off Cairns that are visited by the day boats, Green Island and Fitzroy Island.  Both offer diving opportunities for certified and introductory divers.  The waters are relatively shallow and visibility varies according to time and weather.  You can expect the visibility to not be as good here as on the Outer Great Barrier Reef dive sites.  Operators provide wetsuits / lycra suits for divers.

Cairns Diving – The Facts at a Glance

  • Day Trips, Liveaboard Trips, Dive Courses
  • Reefs: Outer Great Barrier Reef, Ribbon Reefs, Osprey Reef and Coral Sea
  • Depth: Cairns to Port Douglas – 5mtrs to 25mtrs | Ribbon Reefs 5mtrs to 38mtrs | Osprey Reef and Coral Sea 15mtrs to 1,000mtrs
  • Currents: Various pending location, usually low and mild, but can be moderate and wild (Osprey Reef)
  • Dive Experience: Coral Gardens, Isolated Bommies of Coral, Wall Diving, Drift Diving and Coral Swim Throughs
  • Marine Life: Both Pelagic and Macro life
  • Diver Level: Suitable to novice, experienced and advanced divers
  • Dive Guides: Majority of day boats insist on guided dives, liveaboard boats prefer unguided dives, but diving in buddy pairs, only one boat allows for solo diving
  • Dive Briefings: The operators provide very detailed dive site briefings, highlighting specific coral formations, compass bearings and marine highlights of the dive site
  • Photo/Video: If you don’t have your own underwater camera, they are available for hire

Cairns Diving Bookings
Dive in Australia is pleased to provide an easy booking service for a range of Cairns diving products, experiences and courses. Save money with no booking or credit card fees. We offer first-hand experience and advice, choosing the operator and destination to best suit your experience and itinerary. For more information and bookings contact Dive in Australia today on +61 499 464 007 or