The Great Barrier Reef – Cairns, Australia

Travel Recommendations: Cairns, Queensland, Australia

Length of Stay

If you are like anyone else visiting Cairns, you are going there for the reef and hopefully you are SCUBA certified. Spend at least 3 full days. This will give you time to coordinate diving trips to the reef and maybe stay on a liveaboard so you can do some night dives. If you are diving, don’t forget to build in a few extra days to decompress so you don’t get the bends flying.


The town is small. I would not rely on public transportation but opt for walking to most of the places. If you are going on a dive trip, the dive shop will most likely be able to pick you up from your hotel.


I would opt for staying at a hotel since the town is pretty small. You will want to be close to the city center to walk there. You can also choose to stay on the reef on a liveaboard.


It is hot and humid in the summer around 80 degrees. Bring clothes so you can be comfortable in this type of weather.

The winter time is mild, temperatures average about 70 degrees in the day.

Local Cuisine

While we were there we tried the fish barramundi and kangaroo. Don’t order a Fosters beer thinking you are trying something really good and local. Fosters is similar to the State’s Budweiser or Coors. Try Coopers!

The Great Barrier Reef

Cairns, Australia

I am pretty sure no one goes to Cairns (pronounced as “cans”) to actually visit the town. The main reason to visit this tiny little town is to go to the Great Barrier Reef.

Prior to our trip we got SCUBA certified so we could actually dive down and see all the beauty under the surface. It was definitely worth the cost.

You can see the reef under the water

We chose to do a liveaboard through Deep Sea Divers Den and stayed a couple nights out on the reef. It was a few hours out  to the reef and luckily the waters were not too choppy so it was a nice and smooth ride. We made it to the reef and were able to do a couple dives before getting onto the liveaboard boat. We jumped into the water and were off on our own. As newly certified divers, this was probably not the best idea as we totally got lost (not realizing it until we surfaced). The dive shop will prep you and go over the map of the area but if you’re not familiar to the area, you might as well be reading Chinese. Once we surfaced, we were about 100 yards from the boat. Definitely further away than we expected and probably were supposed to be. We made it back to the boat to relax a bit before transferring to the next boat.

Being new to diving and not extremely comfortable with it quite yet, I kept using my hands to help swim and keep neutrally buoyant. I was using my hands so much, I kept hitting my husband knocking off hit goggles… several times. Woops.

Parrotfish we saw during our dive, you can see a giant clam at the top of the photo

I don’t know how we got so lucky but there were only two other small groups on the liveaboard boat; two people from Britain and a couple from  Scandinavia. Since there were not very many people on the boat, we were able to go on guided dives without the additional cost. (Winning!) We also did a couple more dives in the late afternoon then a night dive. This is the time when most of the reef sharks come out. As we were descending you can see all the glowing eyes of the sharks. One of the Brits was terrified of sharks and started to head back up to the surface. He finally calmed himself and continued on the descent with the rest of the group to enjoy the dive. This was absolutely an amazing experience and would love to do it again someday.

Sea cucumber
The blackwedged butterflyfish or falcula butterflyfish

Prior to heading home we made one last stop to the rain forest to help decompress from our dives.

Looking over Cairns


We Came, We Saw, We [Kinda] Selfied