Author – Ayla Wilde
Date Published 7/01/2020
Great Barrier Reef Tours From Airlie Beach
We all know that you can visit the world’s largest reef from Port Douglas and from Cairns, but what lots of people don’t realise, is that there are a few different ways to do Great Barrier Reef tours from Airlie Beach in the Whitsundays as well. Nestled on the east coast of far north Queensland, Airlie Beach is the main departure port for all tours to the beautiful 74 Whitsunday Islands in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Whether you have
- taken the kids out of school and you’re looking for a family-friendly trip to the reef,
- you’ve decided to leave the kids at home while you and your significant other take some romance time,
- you’ve got no kids so you’re making the most of the romance time,
- or you’re just looking for an adventure with your best mates,I can guarantee you there is a reef trip for everyone
Home to over 1500 species of fish, 400 species of coral and 4000 species of molluscs (who even knew there were that many?!)
The Great Barrier Reef is undisputedly a bucket list number and an incredible underwater wonderland. Be sure to pack your GoPro or underwater camera to snag that selfie with George the humpheaded Maori wrass, clothes to suit pretty much any season (it’s the tropics remember, four seasons in one day), pack the kids (or don’t), and tuck right in with your glass of wine as I list off your options.
Prosail Whitsundays sailing experts
Great Barrier Reef Tours From Airlie Beach Departures
Now, I should start by also mentioning that pretty much all tours that leave from either Airlie Beach or Hamilton Island will undoubtedly take you to the Great Barrier Reef.
The difference is there are two types; the fringing reef – which is the reef that hugs the islands and you visit by snorkeling the bays, or the outer reef; which is that giant organism so large you can see it from outer space. Both are absolutely incredible, they just offer different species of corals and fish so definitely worth checking them both out. To get us on the same page, the trips I’m talking about now are to the outer GBR.
If you’ve decided the kids can come along for the adventure, a very family-friendly option is to visit the reef by going on a Great Barrier Tour from Airlie Beach with Cruise Whitsundays. It’s a long day, leaving the marina at 8 am from Airlie and returning at 6 pm – but you’re on a large ferry style catamaran with lots of space to freely move around and morning, lunch and afternoon tea are all provided.
They even have a semi-submarine tour included in the price, which means even if you’re unable to get in the water you can still experience the underwater beauty and you can leave the towel at home. You can also go for a scuba dive as an optional extra if you’re really feeling like becoming one with the fish
• 100% family-friendly of all ages
• Semi Submarine
• Optional scuba dive extra
• Ideal for a short stay in Airlie Beach
Cruise Whitsundays also have an option to stay on a floating pontoon at the reef overnight – a real way to step up the romance if you’ve got a good amount of holiday savings stored up. It doesn’t come cheap but it’s an incredible experience dining and sleeping out under stars, and one that’ll be sure to win you some points on the romance card.
For more information on Cruise Whitsunday tours, please click here.
4 days Great Barrier Reef and Whitsundays Sailing departing Airlie Beach
However, if you’re riding solo, you’ve got your best crew together or you’re simply just after more of an adventure and an affordable liveaboard option, then an overnight trip on a maxi sailing yacht might be more your style
Clear your schedule four days and three nights and you can get a bit of a hybrid trip where you tick off all the boxes at once, if you’re keen on learning the sail the crew will teach you and get you involved in hoisting the sails as well. Prosail offer a Great Barrier Reef trip departing at 10am on day one from Airlie Beach and you’ll return at approximately 4pm, four days later
As with all tours, it’s obviously weather dependent, but the aim is to have you at the reef for an entire day and anchor up in one of the lagoons overnight. Again, sleeping at the reef and waking up to the blissful peace of the ocean is an experience unrivalled to any other. Along with your outer reef experience, you’ll also go to Whitehaven, do a couple of snorkels and maybe a hike on one of the islands.
By taking four days out around the islands you get the opportunity to really experience all the best parts of the Whitsundays without being rushed – sit back, relax, and take it all in.
• Full day/night at the outer reef
• Combination tour incl. Whitehaven and island snorkel
• Ideal for meeting people and making new pals
• Not rushed, plenty of time at each location
For more information on these overnight Reef Tours From Airlie Beach please click here.
Keep in mind that on any tours to the Whitsundays you will be in and out of reception- something I personally love but I know some of you won’t. So be sure to email the boss and mum to let them know you’re going full retreat-style on your reef adventure.
Hopefully, you’re feeling a little clearer on the tour you’re after, but if you have any further questions on Great Barrier Reef tours from Airlie Beach here’s a few FAQ’s to help you out.
Great Barrier Reef Trips FAQ’S
Is the Great Barrier Reef in the Whitsundays the same as the Great Barrier Reef in Cairns?
If I had a penny for every time I was told by someone “I’ve already snorkelled the reef in Cairns so I’ve seen it” from a passenger when I was working on the boats in Airlie, I would be rich. The reef is so large and different depending on where you are. There’s much diversity between even one bay of fringing reef, or one lagoon at the outer reef, to the next. Both are more than worth visiting if you’re a keen snorkeler as there is so much variety depending on what’s sheltered, what’s exposed at low and high tide, whether it’s a shelf or a bay, and many other reasons. It also will depend on what location you visit in Cairns and vice versa for the Whitsundays – I’ll touch more on this in the next question.
Do all companies visit the same parts of the reef?
Cruise Whitsundays always visit Hardy Reef as they have a permanent pontoon located there, however, Prosail will change location based on the weather conditions and personal favourite lagoons of the crew. As a result, you’ll often end up in some pretty untouched areas with Prosail.
Didn’t the cyclone destroy all the reef in the Whitsundays?
Another common misconception. Yes, Cyclone Debbie in 2017 did do significant damage to the reef in the Whitsundays, however, some of the bays and lagoons were not affected at all and are still thriving. Some were essentially destroyed however charter companies will not take you to those locations, and most of them will educate you on the cyclone and the effect in had whilst you are on your trip. Even in the 2.5 years, I lived in Airlie Beach until 2020 I noticed a significant regrowth of coral in some of the areas badly damaged by the Cyclone.
Why is the reef not as colourful and vibrant as what we see in documentaries and the movies?
We all know how much movies and pictures are edited and saturated by the time they get put on social media or in movies, as a result, this will sometimes sway our perception of what it is ‘supposed’ to look like. Colour also diffuses in water and red is one of the first to go, so the deeper you dive the less vibrant the colour will be.