One of the seven natural wonders of the world, The Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral system on earth, supposedly can be seen from outer space and is depicted as the home location of the well-loved characters in the Pixar film Finding Nemo!
It’s a fantastic location to visit and sure to be an unforgettable experience for the family.
Unfortunately, like visits to many famous places, a day trip to the Great Barrier Reef has a rather hefty price point attached to it. Here are the tips we’ve gathered after our own day trip to the Great Barrier Reef. Hopefully, these will help you plan and optimise your time and maximise the money spent on your own trip!
The Reef covers an area of 348,700 km². It’s huge and there are multiple accommodations within the area with hundreds of companies offering a variety of activities there – from day tours to helicopter rides, as well as snorkelling and diving trips.
When choosing a day tour for our own visit to the Great Barrier Reef, we figured that answering three questions would be a good place to kick start the decision-making.
What to Consider for a Family Day Trip to the Great Barrier Reef
1. Where are you staying?
The only way to get out over the water at the reef is by boat or helicopter (or via hot air balloon), so booking a tour is the most convenient way to go. Tours usually offer a small additional pickup fee from accommodations mostly in either Port Douglas or Cairns, so factoring that into the final cost would help in budgeting. Some tours offer complimentary pick-up from hotels affiliated with the Great Barrier Reef, though from observation, many of these tours are more specialized and at a higher price point.
2. How comfortable are you in the water?
If you’re going to be finding Nemo and friends, some tours accommodate both swimmers and non-swimmers. For families with young children or members who are not too confident in the water, consider searching out a tour operator that owns a pontoon. These usually offer a variety of wet activities that cater to swimmers of different levels, as well as many dry activities such as submarine rides and underwater observatories.
For families who are made up of members who are confident swimmers, we highly recommend going for a snorkel or dive tours that take you to different sites at the Great Barrier Reef. Some companies that offer that are Silverswift, VisitCairns and Poseidon Cruises.
You’ll be spending the whole day out in the water and will have a much higher chance of spotting a larger number of species of marine life. You might even be able to see a whale or two!
If you’re planning to experience the reef from the air, sign up for helicopter ride tour where you can see the magnitude of the breathtaking site from up above. These usually include a tour of the surrounding islands too.
3. How long do you want to spend at the Great Barrier Reef?
You can spend anything from a few hours to more than a few days at the Great Barrier Reef. For short trips, try a trip with the Reef Sprinters, where they offer a 2 ¼ hours trip inclusive of, 1 ½ hours of snorkelling.
Those who love the water can stay overnight with Sunlover Reef Cruises or even spend up to five days and leaving scuba-certified with Pro Dive Cairns.
Another tip worth sharing is that the peak visitor periods is around June/July due to the good weather, as well as it coinciding with school holidays in Australia. If you are planning to head over during that time, book your tickets and accommodation early.