Cairns and its Great Barrier Reef represent some of the best scuba diving in the world. A dazzling rainbow of coral and sea-life, the Outer Reef is a 90-minute boat ride from Cairns. This popular section offers easy and relaxing dive sites, perfect for beginners. Liveaboards offer shark action to more experienced divers at the remote Osprey and Ribbon Reefs.
In terms of marine life, Cairns scuba diving offers a host of cute characters to swim with. Among them: inquisitive Nemos, turtles, stingrays, giant Maori wrasse and rare dugongs. Humpback whales, minke whales and dolphins cruise through at various times. Diving in Cairns is just as spectacular by night, especially if you're lucky enough to witness the dazzling display of coral spawning - a phenomenon that happens only once a year.
Cairns offers very good diving conditions year-round. Water temperatures range from 75°F/24°C in winter (June-August), peaking at 86°F/30°C in summer (December-February). Even in the depths of winter you can get away with just a 5mm when diving in Cairns.
The water is always clear but sparkles brightest in June and September-November (up to 30m). In June and July minke whales can be seen as they migrate over from the Antarctic. June-November is humpback season and manta rays are most commonly spotted from April-October.
As the sea warms up from September-December, coral reef species spring into breeding mode with coral spawning en-masse in October and November. Described as an underwater snowstorm, this world-famous phenomenon is one of the ocean's biggest highlights and can't be missed.
Find local PADI dive shops and explore the top dive sites with our map.
Cairns is a city in Far North Queensland and is often referred to as the heart of the Great Barrier Reef. Cairns Airport is home to domestic and international terminals which are serviced by major airlines within Queensland, Australia and overseas.
You can fly direct to Cairns from Aukland (5h 35m), Tokyo (7h 30m), Hong Kong (7h 10m), Singapore (6h 50m), Manila (10h 25m) and Papua New Guinea (1h 33m). From Europe you'll arrive at Melbourne, Brisbane or Sydney and take a connecting flight to Cairns.
Once in Cairns, it's easy to get around by bus, taxi or hire car and the city is cycle-friendly. Try the 2h Crystal Cascades route on a non-diving day to swim under waterfalls and in fresh creeks. Dozens of boats depart daily to local reefs with journey times from 30m-1h 30m. Drive to Port Douglas an hour outside Cairns for fewer crowds.