Staying in Cairns to Experience the Great Barrier Reef

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When it comes to visiting the Great Barrier Reef, there are so many options of how to and where to stay. The Great Barrier Reef spans approx. 2300 kilometers across the eastern coast of Australia – that’s a lot of territory to cover! From staying on a yacht, to hopping from island to island, or staying on the mainland – you can never see it all as it’s endless!

cairns plate

I decided to keep my accommodations simple and on a budget so I decided to stay at the Beach House in  downtown Cairns. It was just a little outside of the downtown area (10 minute walk),bars around, hotels, restaurants and the marina to get on the boats for day trips around the Great Barrier Reef. Port Douglas was my second choice which I did not go with only because of timing. I was traveling to Bondi Beach and Sydney first, so with about 4 days left for the Great Barrier Reef, I did not want to spend extra time renting a car and driving up further north from the airport. I heard great reviews about Port Douglas and that people prefer it, but Cairns was much easy- maybe a 10 minute ride from the airport.

beach house outdoors

There are hotels everywhere in Cairns. The rooms at the Beach House where I stayed were big and studio-style and free breakfast was included. It went for maybe $35 per night per person. There was a tropical outdoors with palm trees, an outdoor bar, tables, pool, and games. From looking and checking out other bars at other hotels, the Beach House catered to my “away and tropical” feel I was looking for.

Walking around downtown Cairns is easy and there is stuff to do on every corner. Always remember that Australia is expensive as a whole, but Cairns did have pretty good deals on food and drinks. There were easier happier hours to find here rather than in Bondi Beach. Curiously, on some blocks there would be trees full of bats! They were safe and stayed in the trees so no worries about them.


The marina is located right at the beach and it’s super easy to find your boat for a day trip on the Great Barrier Reef. I went with two different ships on two separate days to scuba dive, and both I enjoyed. Check out this post on the dives. Generally, you get a hot and cold fresh lunch included, with soft drinks, and alcohol after diving is done. The day trips are from 8am to 6pm majority of the time – depending which reefs you want to visit. Most reefs take 1 hour to reach from when you leave the dock.

cairns marina

The waters aren’t rocky, and the ride to the reef is beautiful. Accessing the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns worked out well as everyone would go downtown after spending the day on the boat.

Cairns also has the Esplanade which is infinity pool style at the Lagoon – a famous spot to hang out at. You can always continue to go for a dip there as there is no real beach access – the land is dried up and crocs live there so do not enter the beach!



All in all to take away from this is – Cairns is very budget compared to other parts of Australia by the Great Barrier Reef and it was super easy to get around!

If you’re ready to dive the Great Barrier Reef- check out the Angelfish I saw underwater!

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5 Replies to “Staying in Cairns to Experience the Great Barrier Reef”

  1. […] to Cairns was the easiest as I was flying out of Sydney. Cairns was not my favorite spot although it did the deed and accommodations were cheap. I kept hearing about Port Douglas, which was another hour north and […]

  2. peggy greco says:

    Wow this looks like great fun and adventure to visit at great barrier reef!

  3. Going to the Great Barrier Reef is high on my bucket list never mind the fact that I hate snorkeling and don’t know how to scuba dive. I’ll figure out a way somehow! Looks like Cairns is a great place to have as a home base.

  4. Would love to check out the Barrier Reef, I will keep this place in mind. Thanks!

    1. It is lovely and if you see an airline sale, go for it! There are sometimes really discounted flights on Jetstar within Australia to get to the Reef.

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