If I had a bucket list prepared and well written, snorkeling on the great barrier reef would most certainly be up there in my top 20.

Even though I am a terrible swimmer, who’s more likely to be seen drinking a cocktail and reclining in a hammock than in the water!

So while between jobs and generally feeling reckless, a girlfriend and I decided to head up to Cairns for some much-needed sunshine, ice cream and time away from Melbourne. Our first agenda item was to get into these swimsuits and out into the water.

Cost of snorkeling on the great barrier reef:

$190 includes all fees, cruise, tours, gear and food (morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea). Soft drinks, beer, wine and extra snacks are available for purchase onboard. Optional extras include scuba diving introductory lessons. There is also a glass boat tour for those who don’t want to get into the water.


This is an all day, physical cruise. The boat leaves at 7.30 am and returns around 5 pm.


Take warm clothes! After so much time in the warm water, it was cold back on the boat. A jumper and a big beach towel would have made my day.

Take seasickness preventative. These aren’t a cure, though. They are purely preventative and can be purchased on the boat or easily from any chemist. For the $6 you’ll pay for a packet, it’s worth the investment. Take this first thing in the morning and just after lunch.

Book early! These cruises are really small, limited to 35 guests. They sell out rather fast. You could also research different great barrier reef snorkelling tours if you want something different.

About Seatstar Cruises:

Seastar Cruises premium reef cruise combines the outer Great Barrier Reef with a coral cay island.

In only 1¼ hours the fast air-conditioned Seastar 1 can take you from Cairns to magnificent Michaelmas Cay, the largest of the local uninhabited coral cays. Cruising past Green Island, Upolu cay and Oyster reef Seastar is the first boat to arrive.

After an enjoyable time here it is a short 20 minute cruise to the splendid Hastings Reef, sitting on the very outer edge. This is where the corals thrive, well out from the coast away from the influence of the rivers and streams, adjacent to the clear waters of the Pacific Ocean.

Snorkeling on the great barrier reef, Australia
Snorkeling on the Great Barrier reef

Michaelmas Cay:

Located 22 nautical miles from Cairns – 40 km – the distance across the English Channel, and close to the outer reef systems, Michaelmas Cay is the largest of the uninhabited coral cays in the Cairns region; in fact it is huge in comparison to the others. Being so large it can sustain a permanent low grassy area the size of 2 football fields, approximately 3½ metres high (11’ 6”) and is home to up to 35 different species of sea birds.

Environmental restrictions placed on the cay have considerably reduced the numbers of people who can visit, creating the unique situation, where the island and reef remain essentially untouched in a pristine state. Those visiting will notice when diving or snorkelling that the corals appear wholly unspoiled.

Similarly the birds are not intimidated by people on their island, as chicks they see people every day and consider these harmless creatures to be a natural part of their environment. Likewise the fish are accustomed to people swimming around, so much so you can approach most very close, usually within an arm’s length, before they move slightly away, just to keep that “comfortable” distance.

Hastings Bay:

Hastings Reef 30 nautical miles out from Cairns, during the last ice age some 15,000 years ago is where the Australian coastline reside. It was here that the reef began to grow.

This is the preferred location for corals, well away from the coast and the effect of the rivers and streams; out here on the very edge of the Pacific Ocean is where the corals thrive. It is here you can experience the true wonders of this Outer Edge Reef, there are the coral caves, coral overhangs, deep water drop offs, coral canyons, swim throughs and shallow coral bays. Snorkelling the great barrier reef was an amazing experience, especially at Hastings.

All in all, my experience of snorkeling on the great barrier reef was excellent and I would highly recommend giving it a go!


  • Travel Dudes

    I'm sure you've had similar experiences I had whilst traveling. You're in a certain place and a fellow traveler, or a local, tip you off on a little-known beach, bar or accommodation. Great travel tips from other travelers or locals always add something special to our travels. That was the inspiration for Travel Dudes.