A designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, Queensland's gorgeous Great Barrier Reef stretches 1,400 miles down the east coast of Australia. Endless diving adventures can be had around its 600 islands and 2,900 individual reefs.
As the earth's largest reef system, you can see just about everything when you go diving at the Great Barrier Reef. Dwarf minke whales, manta rays, sharks and cuttlefish parade around in abundance. The turtles and sea snakes are supersized.
Outer reefs explode with color as clownfish dart in and out of their anemones. Electric purple anthias and schools of yellow snapper swim in all directions. Keep your eyes peeled for bumphead parrotfish and giant potato cod. The reef's wrecks have so much to see, you'll need several dives to take it all in.
In tropical Queensland, diving the Great Barrier Reef is superb year-round. Different seasons offer different rewards and the best time to go diving depends largely on what you want to see.
December-February has great visibility and warmer water, while June-November pays off with minke and humpback whale spotting and coral spawning.
Water temperatures are around 85°F/30°C during summer throughout the Central and Northern Reef. Expect this to drop to around 75°F/24°C in winter and even cooler water around the south's Sunshine Coast.
Tides, current and surge all affect water clarity inside the Great Barrier Reef, but it averages 15-21m and can soar to 30m on good days. It's safe to say you can dive the Great Barrier Reef any time of the year and leave with fantastic memories.
Find local PADI dive shops and explore the top dive sites with our map.
The Great Barrier Reef is located off the coast of Queensland, Australia. Cairns - a city in Far North Queensland - is often referred to as the heart of the reef as it welcomes visitors through its international airport. For many, this gateway is the easiest starting point to access diving in the Great Barrier Reef.
You can fly direct to Cairns from Auckland (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, diving the Great Barrier Reef is in easy reach. Dozens of boats depart daily from Cairns out to the local reefs (30m - 1h 30). If you're after a quieter reef experience, try departing from Port Douglas - the boats in this harbor tend to travel further out to more remote sites. Port Douglas is an hour's drive from Cairns but worth the extra travel time for fewer crowds.