Which is the best airport in Australia to fly into for diving the Great Barrier Reef
Most travellers have heard of the Great Barrier Reef. But not all travellers would know how to get there. This article is about ‘where do you fly into to go to the Great Barrier Reef?’
The best airport to fly to for visiting the Great Barrier Reef is Cairns international airport. Cairns is in the northern part of the State of Queensland and is the closest coastal town to the Great Barrier Reef. You can either get a direct international flight into Cairns, or get a domestic flight from one of the other Australian cities, like Sydney, Perth or Melbourne.
The best way to dive the Great Barrier Reef, Australia is by a scuba diving liveaboard, especially the outer reefs. You can check the latest and best deals on Great Barrier Reef liveaboards using the following window:
What country is home to the Great Barrier Reef?
Just in case you’ve asked the question about what country is home to the Great Barrier Reef. Let’s first cover-off on that question.
The Great Barrier Reef is located in the Coral Sea,. The Coral Sea is located off the coast of Queensland, Australia. Queensland is north of Sydney and is a flight of three hours and 10 minutes.
More about the Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef system in the world. It is composed of nearly 3,000 individual reefs.
Over the distance of around 2,300 kilometres (1,400 miles) which the Great Barrier Reef stretches, there are around 900 islands too. Some of which you can visit from mainland Australia.
What is the closest city to the Great Barrier Reef?
If you are arranging your trip to visit the Great Barrier Reef, you need to know the closest city to fly to.
Cairns is in the tropical North Queensland area. Which is the easiest place to fly to for visiting the Great Barrier Reef. Plus it’s the closest coastal city to this wonder of the world.
Base yourself in Cairns and you’ll be able to use the day boats to visit the reef each day.
Cairns is often referred to as the ‘Gateway to the Great Barrier Reef.‘
Cairns airport is an international airport accepting flights from outside of Australia. You can get flights to Cairns from the UK and the United States and other places around the world.
But also, there are many internal domestic flights that fly from other Australian cities too. See below for more details on how to get to Cairns from other cities in Australia.
Day boats from Cairns are not the only way to visit The Great Barrier Reef
But of course, day boats are not the only way to get to and experience the wonders of The Great Barrier Reef.
In addition to day-visits, you can also join a live aboard boat trip too. The benefits of a liveaboard trip to the Great Barrier Reef includes seeing more of the reef. Plus you’ll get to visit some of the reef area that’s simply not possible to get to from a day boat.
If you would like to scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef from a liveaboard boat, you’ll see much more and scuba dive more.
Great Barrier Reef dive liveaboards table
This list of Australia Great Barrier Reef liveaboards is in descending customer rating order, followed by Scuba Diving Luxury Rating (SDE Lux Rating, see below), so the liveaboards with the highest customer rating and the best SDE lux rating will be at the top of the list. If you want to change the list order, use the “Sort by” dropdown below.
|SDE Lux Rating %
|Review: MY Spoilsport; Book: MY Spoilsport
|Review: MY Spirit of Freedom; Book: MY Spirit of Freedom
|Review: Coral Sea Dreaming; Book: Coral Sea Dreaming
|Review: MY Pro Dive Cairns; Book: MY Pro Dive Cairns
|Review: Rum Runner; Book: Rum Runner
|Review: MY Ocean Quest; Book: MY Ocean Quest
The Scuba Diving Earth Luxury Rating (SDE Lux Rating) is explained on each liveaboard review when you click the “Discover Liveaboard” link, and is my own Liveaboard Luxury Rating I’ve assigned to all liveaboards. Choosing between liveaboards is helped by customer scores, and if you get stuck choosing between two or three liveaboards, where each one has a high customer score out of 10, you can use the SDE Luxury Rating to help narrow down your choice.
Think about it like using Booking.com when searching for the best hotel. Booking.com also use a customer score where each customer rates hotels out of 10. This is similar to the liveaboard customer rating, which is also rated out of 10. But let’s say you only like to stay in hotels rated 8 and above on Booking.com, but you also want the hotel to have WIFI or parking, or to have a swimming pool etc. The features each hotel has is usually secondary to the score out of 10.
How long does it take to get from Cairns to the Great Barrier Reef?
If your decision is to dive the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns each day, you’ll enjoy a boat ride that takes anywhere from 45 minutes to 90 minutes to your first dive site.
The time your dive trip takes will depend on which area of the reef you are visiting for the day. Most dive boats depart from the port of Cairns at around 8:30 in the morning. You usually do two scuba dives on each trip, which means you’ll return to port by around 5:30pm.
In between scuba dives, you’ll also be able to partake in snorkelling too. You want to make the most of this most beautiful coral reef system whilst you are there.
What ocean is home to the Great Barrier Reef?
The Great Barrier Reef can be described as the largest living structure on earth. It is located in the Coral Sea, which is on the western most edge of the Pacific Ocean.
One of the seven wonders of the world and can be seen from space. The Great Barrier Reef is on most people’s bucket list.
It’s one of those places that I feel fortunate to have visited. In fact it’s where I did my very first scuba dive.
What about getting to the Great Barrier Reef from other Australian cities?
It’s likely that you’ll want to visit other Australian cities on your trip down under. For most, Australia is a long way away. If you live in the UK, and depending on the city you fly to, Australia can take nearly 23 hours to fly to.
If you live in the United States, it also depends on whether you live on the east coast or west coast of America. Plus then which city you fly to from the United States.
So for most, do to the long distance long-haul flight, they want to make the most of their once in a life-time trip. Let’s take a look at how to get to the Great Barrier Reef from places like Sydney, Perth and Melbourne.
How to get to Great Barrier Reef from Sydney
If your first chosen port of call is Sydney in New South Wales, the flight from there to Cairns is about three hours 10 minutes.
There are regular flights from Sydney. Plus these include a number of different airlines, like Qantas, Virgin Australia and Jetstar.
What about the time to drive between Sydney and Cairns?
You may be traveling around Australia and looking to drive between Sydney and Cairns. This is a 27 hour journey along the Gregory Highway. The distance is 2,419 kilometres (1,512 miles).
I suggest your journey from Sydney to Cairns takes in Brisbane, which is in the State of Queensland too.
How to get to Great Barrier Reef from Perth
Perth is my favourite city, as I lived there for a while. I know this sounds biased, but I recommend you visit Perth. Perth is situated in the State of Western Australia. It’s almost the furthest away from Cairns you can get across the other side of Australia.
Flying time from Perth to Cairns is just over four hours. The same airlines, including Qantas, Virgin Australia and Jetstar fly between these two Australian cities.
Driving from Perth to Cairns
If however you have decided to drive to Cairns from Perth, this is a mammoth road-trip. You would be recommended to go around the coast and to visit other places on-route.
The time it takes will depend on which way you circumnavigate Australia and where you stop on the way.
How to get to Great Barrier Reef from Melbourne
Melbourne is south of Sydney in the State of Victoria. The flying time from Melbourne to Cairns is about three hours 20 minutes.
The same airlines fly regularly between Melbourne and Cairns, as they do from Sydney and Perth.
Driving between Melbourne and Cairns
If you decide to drive to Cairns from Melbourne, you will probably want to stop on the way in cities like Sydney and Brisbane.
Straight driving time is around 32 hours along the Gregory Highway. The distance is some 2,966 kilometres (1,854 miles).
In addition to flying to Cairns, you can also fly to one of the islands situated near the Great Barrier Reef. For example, you can fly to Whitsundays.
What is the closest airport to Whitsundays?
One of the best ways to get to the Whitsundays is to fly from Brisbane. You could get a connecting flight to Brisbane from one of the other cities already mentioned in this article.
The Whitsunday Island has a coastal airport, which is located near Proserpine. There are three airlines that fly to the Whitsundays, which includes Virgin Australia, Tiger Airways and Jetstar.
I hope you enjoyed this article about where do you fly into to go to the Great Barrier Reef
I’d love to hear from you. Tell us about your adventures of diving and snorkeling, in the comments below. Please also share your photos. Either from your underwater cameras or videos from your waterproof Gopro’s!
If this article hasn’t answered all of your questions. If you have more questions either about snorkeling or scuba diving (or specifically about where do you fly into to go to the Great Barrier Reef), please comment below with your questions.
There will also be many more articles about scuba diving (and snorkeling) for you to read and learn about these fabulous sports.
Have fun and be safe!