Great Barrier Reef Locations – Cairns Region
Agincourt Reef: This popular reef is suitable for divers of all levels and includes 16 sites to explore. Large reef clusters (bommies) have formed underwater canyons and tunnels. On display are Maori wrasse, giant clams, clownfish, sea anemones, unicorn fish, yellow-striped barracuda and turtles.
Ribbon Reefs: A part of the northern reef’s continental shelf, there are 10 separate reefs in a line housing different dive sites. The Cod Hole is the most popular and is home to large potato cod families.
Osprey Reef: An outstanding and world-renowned dive site off the coast north of Port Douglas, it is a kaleidoscope of soft coral trees that house tuna, mackerel, crabs, octopus, morays and sharks, among others. It is a submerged playground where the Reef’s most amazing marine life is in full play.
Hastings Reef: The reef covers around 10 sq km and offers a unique example of coral and marine life. Its coral display supports hundreds of varieties of tropical fish and visibility conditions are ideal for snorkelling and diving. One of the most popular in the northern marine park, it is 55 km from Cairns.
Milln Reef: Ideal for early experience divers and snorkel fans, its clear blue waters are conducive to a relaxing time on the reef. Fish abound in the shallows, and there are four separate sites that offer a range of reef walls and crevices. Night dives allow visuals of marine life asleep in the bommies.
Split Bommie: Popular with beginner and experienced divers and those wanting to relax, this large bommie split into two round shapes host amazing fan corals where small fish and lobsters hide. A wide range of marine life abounds.
Norman Reef Caves: Mini caves are found in the coral wall of this dive site which appeals to inexperienced divers in the shallows but also offers veterans a strong range of plant and marine life at greater depths. Spotted moray eels can be found in the alcoves and watch for reef sharks.
Norman Reef: Many tours head for this outlying reef on the continental shelf which is a favourite of experienced divers for its clear visuals and plentiful variety of marine life. There are also shallower sites suitable for less skillful divers.
Opal Reef: Plenty of great dive sites and rich coral colours make this a favourite for all types of visitors. It’s a wider, protected reef about 50 km out of Port Douglas and suits local holidaymakers wanting to get ‘out there’ to do some snorkelling and experience the essence of the Great Barrier Reef.
Turtle Bommie: An impressive dive site off Saxon Reef out of Cairns, the underwater world consists of coral gardens and a ranging size of bommies. Expect to come across families of turtles which are common to dive sites in this area.
Whale Bommie: This major coral growth is on the southern side of Milln Reef and is a popular Cairns site for divers of all skills. The main bommie can be explored up to 22 metres and better skilled divers will want to explore the various smaller bommies down to 25 metres.
Opal Reef (The Wedge): Known for its surrounding coral walls and wide sandy floor, the depth of this dive site near Port Douglas increases closer to the continental shelf. Divers can follow marine life in good visibility from wall to wall and encounter sharks and impressive stingrays.
Holmes Reef: This closest reef to Cairns has two sections, known as East and West. Safe anchorage is available at both in large lagoons.
Great Detached Reef: Up towards the Cape, north of Cooktown, it’s a complex assembly of many reefs affixed to an old fossil mountain range. Ideal for experienced divers, there are small caves through the reef walls which drop in places to 400 metres along a 46 km reef edge.
Eddy Reef: Divers traveling out to this reef on day boats off Mission Beach will find the journey rewarding. The many coral ridges down to 20 metres offer a kaleidoscope of beautifully coloured formations.
Thetford Reef: Closer to the mainland than other more popular but distant sites, this 2 km long reef seems to have it all. With good visibility, plenty of colours and many coral heads, there are several sites with canyons and passages to explore. It’s 70 km out of Cairns.
Upolu Cay and Reef: Popular for coral viewing, this 1,200 ha middle-shelf reef about 30 km out of Cairns offers a range of highlights on the western side’s sandy cay but they improve toward the north-eastern section and overall there is moderate coral cover.
Michaelmas Cay: Close to the Outer Reef, it’s the biggest of a trio of neighbouring coral sand cays. It features excellent snorkelling opportunities and supports the early learning of exploratory divers. It is vegetated with a beach conducive to paddling the waters among reef fish. It’s 40 km from Cairns.
Flynn Reef: Locked on the radar of reef trips out of Cairns, this smaller eastern location is big on well regarded dive sites. It has fine visibility, impressive expanses of hard coral, wall dives, deep canyons for the experienced and shallows for others. It’s 60 km out of Cairns.
Moore Reef: Close to Cairns, this dive paradise offers stunning experiences due to its large northern coral atoll’s plethora of bommies breaking the water surface. Walls on the Outer Reef plunge to over 30 metres where large schools of fish roam. The fixed marine base offers waterslide thrills.
Holmes Reef & Bougainville Reef: Holmes Reef, due east of Cairns, has impressive arched passages once divers negotiate white sand slopes to the shallow reef wall. Bougainville Reef, north east of Cairns, has a miasma of caves and caverns and impressive big fish. They’re about 240 km from the mainland and cover around 450 sq km. Visibility is strong, depth is around 1,000 metres encouraging wall dives, the marine life is typical of the Coral Sea, and the experiences are exceptional.