Cairns Australia Scuba Diving and Tourist Attractions

Cairns, a major city in Queensland, Australia is the 14th largest city in the Down Under. Named after the former Governor of Queensland, William Wellington Cairns, Cairns is one of famous holiday destinations because of its world renowned tropical climate.

Cairns is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral reef system with about 2900 coral reefs and 900 islands within a stretch of 2300 kilometers (1400 miles). The Great Barrier Reef is also the world’s biggest single structure made by living organisms called coral polyps. A wide variety of marine life lives in the Great Barrier Reef so it was declared as one of UNESCO World Heritage Site in the year 1981.


Scuba Diving in Reef Systems off Cairns

Since Cairns is the way to get to the Great Barrier Reef, scuba diving is one of the most popular activities in the tourist hotspot. There are a number of dive sites off Cairns and all are definitely worth to visit if you are a certified scuba diver.

The following are the most famous dive sites off Cairns.

  1. Pellowe Reef

Located near the edge of the continental shelf, Pellowe Reef is a small and isolated reef and dive site that’s very popular among tourists who can dive. Because of the reef’s location, you can get to it from Cairns only with the

Pellowe Reef

Pellowe Reef

cooperation of the weather and the ocean tides. Strong currents can be expected when checking out Pellowe Reef.

If you’re a certified diver, you won’t be disappointed with Pellowe reef. You can wall dive and swim in this beautiful and majestic dive site and you can expect that majority of the dives will have depths ranging from 5 to 20 meters. You can also spot a pelagic fish here along with other marine animals like chevron barracuda, nudibranchs, and sea cucumbers. When the ocean is also suitable for a visit, you can spot jacks, sharks, rays, and dolphins here. Other residents you can possibly spot are octopus, moray eels, and the Napoleon wrasse. Pellowe Reef will definitely make your Cairns trip memorable.

Quick information for divers:

  • Rating: Novice – Intermediate
  • Moderate Currents
  • Visibility – 15 to 20 meters
  • Depth – 5 to 20 meters


  1. Milln Reef

There are a couple of dive sites that certified scuba divers seek when traveling to Cairns for the Milln Reef. They are the following.

  • Whale Boomie
  • Petaj Mooring
  • Swimming Pools II
  • Three Sisters

Milln reef offers exciting wall dives and swim throughs to make the most out of your ocean experience in Cairns. Some of the walls are filled with the presence of sleeping parrot fish, barracudas, turtles, and the occasional bull ray that you don’t want to miss while you’re in Cairns.

Whale Bommie also gives a good dive in depths exceeding 20 meters. Here is where you can see sleeping turtles, painted lobsters, reef crabs, and breathtaking soft corals and gorgonian fans. Milln reef, which is 55 km east of Cairns, can only promise you an abundant marine life interaction while you’re there.

Quick information for divers:

  • Rating: Novice – Intermediate
  • Mild Currents
  • Visibility – 15 to 20 meters
  • Depth – 5 to 30 meters


  1. Thetford Reef

Stretching for almost 2 kilometers from Cairns, Thetford reef is populated by a series of scattered coral bommies

Dive Sites Around Cairns

Dive Sites Around Cairns

with soft corals, making it an awesome site to dive in. You can also spot butterfly fish, damsels, angelfish, and giant clams here. You can also experience exciting wall dives plus swim throughs while in Thetford reef. It has two popular dive sites, Cathedral and Blue Lagoon.

Quick information for divers:

  • Rating: Novice – Intermediate
  • Moderate Currents
  • Visibility – 15 to 20 meters
  • Depth – 5 to 30 meters


  1. Flynn Reef

Whether you are a novice of a very experienced scuba diver, Flynn reef is sure to offer you a lot of unforgettable dives, wall dives, swim throughs, night diving and overhangs . You can also see moorings in the following dive sites at Flynn reef off Cairns.

  • Tracy’s Bommie,
  • Gordon’s Mooring,
  • Tennis Court
  • Coral Gardens

While in this reef 60 km off Cairns, you can spot a variety of marine life like hard corals. Hard corals can be a staghorn, plate corals, table corals, and boulder coral heads, along with soft corals.

Quick information for divers:

  • Rating: Novice – Intermediate
  • Mild Currents
  • Visibility – 15 to 20 meters
  • Depth – 5 to 30 meters


  1. Moore Reef

Located 55 km offshore from Cairns is the Moore reef. It primarily serves as a home to juvenile fish, staghorn thickets, and hard and soft corals. Moore reef is a wonderful photography site, more so at night. It’s also home to surgeonfish, emperors, butterfly fish, and parrot fish.

Quick information for divers:

  • Rating: Novice
  • Mild Currents
  • Visibility – 15 to 20 meters
  • Depth – 1 to 25 meters


  1. Elford Reef

Located about an hour travel by boat from the Cairns Coast, Elford reef is a beautiful and breathtaking reef system which stretches for about 15 meters and enveloped in coral growth and a wide variety of marine life. The marine population here is mostly comprised of rays, manta rays, dwarf minke fish, turtles, groupers, and reef fish.

Quick information for divers:

  • Rating: Novice
  • Light Currents
  • Visibility – 30 meters
  • Depth – 15 meters


Diving Season while in the reef system in Cairns

With Cairns’ tropical weather, any time is always a good time for diving in Cairns. The water temperature is often between 22 – 29°C.

If you want to witness humpback whales, you have a higher chance of getting to see them when you visit Cairns during the months of June to November.

On the other hand, if you are aiming for perpetual and unmatched visibility, then pack your bags and fly to Cairns between the months of September and November.

In general, the sea condition is calm with the exception of winter months in Cairns, when sea condition rises up to moderate.


Diving Safety in the reef system off the Cairns Coast 

It is recommended to invest in travel insurance if you are planning to visit, travel, and dive in Cairns. This is because you’ll never know what will happen, especially if you’re planning on more than one scuba diving trips.


Top Tourist Attractions in Cairns

  1. The Cairns Botanic Gardens

Cairns Botanic Gardens is renowned for being a tropical paradise. It has thousands of native and exotic plants which grow around Cairns. It exhibits around 4000 tropical plant species that came from different countries all over the world. The Cairns Botanic Gardens is open daily to the public from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 a.m. and has no admission fee.

  1. Michaelmas Cay

Located 43 km northeast of Cairns, Michaelmas Cay is a low lying vegetated sand cay and is a National Park where migratory birds can be found. It is home more than 23 species of seabirds. Michaelmas Cay is also rich with a myriad of marine life including molluscs, green sea turtles, and all kinds of reef fish.

  1. Barron Gorge National Park

Part of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, Barron Gorge National Park can be visited through one train runs from and returns to Cairns every day. Barron Gorge National Park is home to the Wooroonooran Important Bird Area where a population of a variety of bird species can be found as well as nocturnal animals. It’s also home to the flora diversity like elkhorn ferns and False Sandalwood trees.

  1. Cairns Wildlife Dome

Cairns Wildlife Dome is your zoo in the city. It’s one of the leading zoos in Australia with spectacular all-weather

Cairns Wildlife Dome

Cairns Wildlife Dome

wildlife. You can get a feel of the tropical rainforest environment as you get to have an encounter with lorikeets, parrots, cockatoos, and doves.

  1. Cairns Regional Gallery

Located in the old Public Curators Building, Cairns Regional Gallery hosts exhibitions of international and local collections where you can purchase quality glassware, jewelry, ceramics, and prints from the Gallery Shop. You can take this home as a souvenir of your memorable trip to Cairns.


Other Things to Do While In Cairns

Cairns is not just a place for scuba diving and other water activities. Below are just some of the things you can do while in your Cairns trip.

  • Bushwalking
  • Boar Cruises
  • Adventure Activities
  • Day Tours and Trips
  • Fishing Tours and Charters
  • Golf Games
  • Horse Riding
  • Markets
  • Pubs and Bars Hopping
  • Restaurant and Dining
  • Scenic Drives
  • Scenic Flights
  • Snorkeling
  • Shopping
  • Water Adventures and Rafting
  • Wineries


Money Saving Tips While in Cairns

It can be expensive to tour around Cairns without proper planning and advanced booking. With this in mind, the following are the top tips while traveling in Cairns, guaranteed to save you money while making the most of your travel adventure in Cairns.

  1. Book a tour package before going to Cairns.

There is so many things to do in Cairns. Before flying for your trip, research for the best deals and tour packages available online. Since there are many travel agencies where you can get so many deals from, you can narrow down your choices by prioritizing the hotspots you wanted to visit first over other places you don’t really want to go to.

  1. Cook instead of eating out in Cairns.

Dining in Cairns can be very expensive so choose to eat on sandwich shops instead of sit down restaurants. You can also go grocery shopping and cook at your hotel, if you know how to.

Redspot Car Rentals

Redspot Car Rentals

  1. Take taxi cabs while going around Cairns.

Taxi cabs are the most common form of transportation in Cairns. Normally, taxis are metered and you shouldn’t bargain for the cost of the travel. If you want to tour around the center of Cairns, you can do so on foot. The place is small enough to cover without your feet getting tired of the walkathon.

If you’re not fond of walking, you can also travel around Cairns and stop by surrounding attractions by car. You can go to the following reputable car rental agencies.

  • Redspot Car Rentals
  • Avis Car Rentals
  • Europcar Rentals


Cairns: The Perfect Paradise in the East

Cairns is a paradise on earth you should visit, especially if you live in the East. From the adjacent reef systems to a plethora of attractions, you won’t have any dull moment in Cairns. With so many things to do in Cairns, you’re going to need to plan carefully to make the most out of your trip to this paradise in the East. Make sure to book in advanced and carefully plan your itinerary for a hassle-free, convenient, safe, and adventure-filled trip.

Visit the Australia destinations category to explore other places to visit in Australia!