Small tropical fish swim near bright pink sea anemones & green coral in bright blue waters during the Great Barrier Reef Cruise.
adventure travelers relax on a desolate beach at sunset with a skiff anchored on shore during the great barrier reef australia cruise
travelers lean over a railing looking through the window of a glass bottom boat during the great barrier reef australia cruise
Maori wrasse multi-colored fish seen on a Great Barrier Reef cruise.
Aerial view of sudbury cay on the great barrier reef australia cruise on a sunny day.
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Asia / Pacific Australia Cruise

Great Barrier Reef Cruises

This classic 8-day Australia small ship cruise uncovers the secrets of the Great Barrier Reef—an incredible underwater world hidden just beneath the water’s surface. Whether you experience the reef by glass-bottom boat, snorkeling or diving, it is a mystical world filled with coral, marine life and vibrant tropical fish. The informative crew will always be on hand to provide assistance and information about the fascinating reef life and habitat. An experienced dive instructor will also be there to support the exhilarating experience of scuba diving around the Great Barrier Reef.  

Discover a paradise of remote and uninhabited islands. Become a relaxed beachcomber or an inquisitive adventurer. The starkness of the remote and unique coral cays will fascinate you. Go snorkeling and coral viewing among teeming fish life on pristine outer reefs and exclusive mooring destinations, offering a unique and unmatched experience of the Reef, all abundant with marine life and dancing corals.

In Cairns, take time to independently explore the city. Discover Cooktown’s fascinating historical museum, offering artifacts including the original anchor and cannon that was jettisoned overboard after Captain James Cook’s ship Endeavour struck a reef and began taking on water. Or visit the Botanic Gardens, where you may catch a glimpse of native Australian wildlife including kangaroos and wallabies. Top off the adventure with a stop on a private island for special sunset drinks.

Board either the 120-guest Coral Geographer or the 72-guest Coral Discoverer for your 8-day Great Barrier Reef small ship cruise and enjoy one of the most comprehensive reef tours in Australia. Both expedition ships offer an onboard atmosphere of Australian hospitality, with stylish furnishings, generous public spaces and updated technology. Appreciate opportunities to kayak; snorkel; and cruise in a Zodiac, glass-bottom boat or the ship’s special Xplorer tender.

Read on for details about this trip, or learn more about AdventureSmith’s Australia cruises and Australia trips.



Itinerary

Outerknown Adventures on the Great Barrier Reef Itinerary

The Outerknown Adventures on the Great Barrier Reef cruise operates round-trip from Cairns. First cruise north to Osprey Reef, then cruise south to Sudbury Cay.

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Day 1
Embark Cairns, Australia

Board the ship at 4:00pm and take time to settle into your cabin before the 5:00pm departure. Become acquainted with all the facilities on board as the ship cruises northwards from Cairns toward Cooktown. At day’s end join fellow explorers and crew for the captain’s welcome drinks.

Accommodations

Coral Discoverer, Coral Geographer

Meals

dinner

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Days 2 - 7
Great Barrier Reef Exploration

No two Great Barrier Reef cruises are the same. Each expedition is crafted by experienced captains and expedition leaders around weather and sea conditions. Below is a selection of the key destinations visited.

Fitzroy Island

At Fitzroy Island, enjoy a walk through the Secret Garden rainforest or for the more adventurous, a walk to the de-commissioned lighthouse rewards hikers with panoramic views of Coral Sea, islands and mainland mountain ranges. Snorkel over the fringing reef, relax on the beach and lend a hand to the volunteers while learning about the turtles at the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Center, where sick and injured turtles are cared for before being returned to the wild.

Sudbury Cay

Late in the afternoon, arrive at Sudbury Cay, a tiny sand cay that barely rises above the Coral Sea. Far removed from the bustle of civilization, slip off your shoes and feel the sand between your toes as the tropical waters of the Coral Sea lap gently against the shoreline. Surrounded by glistening sea and bathed in the glow of twilight, enjoy sundowner drinks and the company of like-minded explorers while relaxing and watching the sun gently sink below the horizon.

*Sudbury Cay only accessible on Coral Discoverer departures.

Mackay Reef & Cay

Relax on picturesque Mackay Cay and enjoy snorkeling the pristine reef that surrounds it. Mackay Reef is a mid-shelf platform reef, with vibrant hard and soft corals. The northern side enjoys additional protection from the cay, making it the perfect playground for turtles. A giant clam garden also resides in the area, with some clams growing as big as four feet, all with their own unique colors and patterns.

On a clear day, look back at the mainland to see tall mountains covered in UNESCO world heritage Daintree rainforest. See Cape Tribulation and Mount Sorrow as named by Captain Cook during his eventful sail through the Great Barrier Reef. The Kuku Yalangi tribe are the traditional owners of this region and have lived in harmony with the environment for over 50,000 years. Dream time stories explain the unique shape of Mount Peter Bot.

*Mackay Reef & Cay only accessible on Coral Discoverer departures.

Cooktown

Come ashore in historic Cooktown and learn the history of the Guugu Yimithirr, the first people of this ancient country. Discover recent European history with a visit to the site where Lt. James Cook beached HMB Endeavour to effect repairs in 1770. Wander through the rare flora collection at the Botanic Gardens and visit James Cook Museum, where the story of Cook’s landing is told from an Aboriginal perspective and where artifacts are on display. Later, cruise towards Lizard Island, arriving in time for sunset.

Lizard Island

Spend a whole day at Lizard Island, where there is time to hike to the summit of Cook’s Look and enjoy the same view Lt. James Cook did when searching for safe passage through the maze of coral reefs. Snorkel over giant clam gardens from the beach at Watson’s Bay, relax on the white-sand beach beneath shady oak trees and learn about the tragic story surrounding Mary Watson. There may be an opportunity to visit Lizard Island Research Station, operated by the Australian Museum to facilitate coral reef research and education on the Great Barrier Reef.

Stanley Island (Yindayin)

Go ashore at Stanley Island and walk to an aboriginal rock art gallery. This is a unique art site seldom visited due to its isolated location, and shows unique examples of contact period rock art. Later depending on tides, go ashore at Cape Melville, a remote national park characterized by the massive, tumbled boulders of the Melville range. This area is known as Othawa to the aboriginal traditional owners.

*Stanley Island only available on Coral Geographer departures.

Osprey Reef

One of the world’s best dive sites, Osprey Reef is a submerged atoll in the Coral Sea. The top of a mountain which rises from the seafloor, surrounded by a vast ocean, it draws many beautiful and rare marine creatures to its plummeting walls. Osprey Reef is a highly prized tropical dive location amongst scuba divers, called an “oasis for living creatures of all kinds” by Sir David Attenborough. The vibrant corals and crystal-clear waters make it an unforgettable place to discover. Spend time in the water exploring the 100-foot-deep lagoon and drift diving the walls, where you may see large pelagic fish, rays and sharks drawn in from the surrounding deep blue to enjoy the richness of this ocean oasis. Osprey Reef is a true expedition-style destination and our visit is subject to appropriate weather conditions.

Ribbon Reefs

The Ribbon Reefs are a narrow line of outer coral reefs on the edge of the continental shelf and are renowned for their prolific marine life and extensive coral species. Enjoy the rare opportunity to snorkel and dive on the Ribbon Reefs, which sit on the edge of the continental shelf.

Due to their location far offshore from the Australian coast, the Ribbon Reefs offer excellent diving and snorkeling opportunities with Ribbon Reef #9 a favorite for its wide variety of marine life and pinnacles cloaked in coral. Join a guided snorkel tour led by the expedition team and witness this extraordinary ecosystem up close. These northern reefs are renowned for spotting iconic marine species such as potato cod, wrasse, sharks and turtles.

*Visit Ribbon Reefs #9 & #10 onboard Coral Discoverer, and #3 & #5 on Coral Geographer.

Accommodations

Coral Discoverer, Coral Geographer

Meals

breakfast, lunch, dinner

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Day 8
Disembark Cairns, Australia

The Great Barrier Reef adventure concludes in Cairns this morning. Bid farewell to new-found friends and crew, disembarking at 8:00am.

Accommodations

n/a

Meals

breakfast

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Details
Inclusions, Terms & Notes

Included

Accommodations and meals on board; captain’s welcome and farewell drinks; house wine, beer and spirits, juices and soft drinks with lunch and dinner; all meals on board; 24-hour coffee/tea station; use of snorkeling and scuba equipment such as masks, fins, flotation vests and wetsuits plus a free scuba skills lesson; guided marine biologist glass-bottom boat tours; services of expedition staff & Great Barrier Reef expert marine biologist, including daily presentations/lectures; all entrance fees to national parks and ports; group transfers during the cruise; tips and gratuities; voyage photos; and Australian Government Goods and Services Tax.

Exclusions

Pre- and post-cruise flights, transfers and accommodation; bar and shop purchases; Australian entry visas or travel permits; optional scuba diving costs; museum entry fees; items of a personal nature, including but not limited to internet and bar charges; travel insurance, medical insurance and insurance of any kind. All rates may be subject to a fuel surcharge.

Payment & Cancellation

In order to confirm this trip, a deposit of 20% of the total trip cost is required per person at time of booking. The balance of the trip price is due 90 days before the departure date. Special holiday payment and cancellation terms may apply. Guests who must cancel their trip for any reason must do so in writing. A name change/transfer of the booking to another person is considered a cancellation and cancellation penalties will apply. A $200(AUD) per person fee may be charged for any amendments not requiring a date change after booking is confirmed. There is a $500(AUD) per person fee if a date change is made more than 90 days before departure. Standard cancellations are subject to the following per-person penalties, based on number of days prior to departure:
Up to 90 days – 100% of deposit
89 to 60 days – 50% of total trip cost
59 to 0 days – 100% of total trip cost

Terms & Conditions

This trip is subject to AdventureSmith Explorations Terms and Conditions. Please read this information carefully and call us if you have any questions. A Traveler Information Form, which includes a release of liability, must be completed and signed by all travelers. Your Adventure Specialist will send you a unique link to complete this form along with a packing list and extensive pre-departure and travel insurance information upon booking confirmation.

Vaccination Requirement
To join this trip, all eligible guests must provide proof of being fully vaccinated (at least 14 days after your final COVID-19 vaccine shot). There may also be COVID-19 testing or other requirements to participate; your Adventure Specialist will provide details of current policies upon booking.

Arrival & Departure

The Outerknown Adventures on the Great Barrier Reef cruise begins and ends in Cairns, Queensland, Australia (CNS). Plan flights to arrive to Cairns in time for the 4:00pm embarkation and 5:00pm departure on Day 1 of the itinerary. Luggage may be dropped at the ship starting at 1:30pm. We highly recommend arriving one day prior to your trip start date in case of any flight delay, cancellation or lost luggage issues. Plan flights to depart Cairns no earlier than 3:00pm on Day 8. If you would like assistance with international flights, please visit our Booking Flights resource page.

Activities

Whether you are looking for light activity options or more challenging outdoor pursuits, the ship’s crew can tailor most excursions to suit your skill level. Adventure activities may include kayaking, inflatable boat/skiff excursions, wildlife observation, land treks, beach combing, cultural visits, glass-bottom boat tours, snorkeling and diving.

Included in the cost of your cruise is the use of full snorkeling and dive equipment (additional charges apply for scuba diving). Please remember, if you are a certified diver, to bring your certification card and logbook. Snorkeling is free of charge. An introductory scuba skills session is complimentary for first-time divers.

Room Configuration

Limited double occupancy cabins for solo use may be available at a sole use rate in the Promenade Deck B category (Coral Discoverer) or the Coral, Promenade and Explorer Deck categories (Coral Geographer). Bookings made via the sole use rate are confirmed, with the option to request a cabin share; share requests made without a solo use rate booking are not guaranteed unless a match is found, accepted by both travelers and confirmed by the reservations team.

If you would like to share accommodation with another guest of the same gender, we will be happy to take your details and try to connect you with a suitable match. This program allows you to pay the per person double-occupancy rate if a match is found. Contact AdventureSmith for further details and availability.

Families & Children

Children 0-3 years of age at time of the cruise are free of charge. Children ages 4-14 receive 25% off the applicable adult rate (excludes “To The Heart of The Reef & Outback” departures). On Coral Discoverer,  two adults and one child traveling together can be accommodated in two staterooms only (there are no pullman bunks). On other ships, two adults and one child traveling together may request a triple share stateroom (containing a double/or two singles and a Pullman bunk for the child). On all ships, two adults and two children traveling together may request two rooms next door to each other.

Great Barrier Reef Cruises are great for families of all ages, with a range of included activities to appeal to parents and children alike. From snorkeling and glass-bottom boat tours, beach and rainforest walks to scuba diving with a marine biologist, families will enjoy the opportunity to fully immerse themselves in one of the world’s great natural wonders.

Travel Insurance

Protect your travel investment with insurance. Our partners at Travelex Insurance offer a variety of plans and policies to fit every trip and budget. Coverage for a pre-existing medical condition is also available if you purchase the Travel Select plan within 15 days of the initial trip payment; refer to plan details. Learn more about travel insurance or get a free quote.

As a condition of travel, guests must provide evidence of travel insurance with medical evacuation coverage OR complete a credit card authorization form for expenses incurred during a medical evacuation. Proof of travel insurance with medical evacuation coverage OR a completed authorization form must be provided prior to boarding.

Itinerary Notes

Use the itinerary as a guide only. Itineraries may be altered due to weather, wildlife, National Park regulation or at the captain’s discretion. The ability to be flexible makes this type of small ship cruising unique.

Rates & Dates

Cruise Rates & Details

Listed prices for this trip are based on foreign currency exchange rates and may vary. USD pricing will be calculated at the time of final payment based on the market conversion rate plus a 1% banking conversion fee of total invoiced amount. Please contact AdventureSmith for current pricing.

Dec 01 - Dec 08, 2021
Coral Discoverer • 8 days
From $3535USD
Per Person
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Jan 04 - Jan 11, 2022
Coral Geographer • 8 days
From $3680USD
Per Person
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Jan 11 - Jan 18, 2022
Coral Geographer • 8 days
From $3680USD
Per Person
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Nov 02 - Nov 09, 2022
Coral Discoverer • 8 days
From $3535USD
Per Person
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Nov 09 - Nov 16, 2022
Coral Discoverer • 8 days
From $3535USD
Per Person
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Nov 16 - Nov 23, 2022
Coral Discoverer • 8 days
From $3535USD
Per Person
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Nov 23 - Nov 30, 2022
Coral Discoverer • 8 days
From $3535USD
Per Person
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Nov 30 - Dec 07, 2022
Coral Discoverer • 8 days
From $3535USD
Per Person
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Nov 07 - Nov 14, 2023
Coral Discoverer • 8 days
From $3785USD
Per Person
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Nov 14 - Nov 21, 2023
Coral Discoverer • 8 days
From $3785USD
Per Person
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Nov 21 - Nov 28, 2023
Coral Discoverer • 8 days
From $3785USD
Per Person
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Nov 28 - Dec 05, 2023
Coral Discoverer • 8 days
From $3785USD
Per Person
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Accommodations

Learn About the Small Ships on Your Great Barrier Reef Cruise

Expedition Ship
Coral Discoverer

The 72-guest Coral Discoverer has set a benchmark standard for luxury small ship cruising in Australia and the South Pacific.

Expedition Ship
Coral Geographer

Launching in 2021, the 120-guest Coral Geographer Australian expedition ship offers six balcony suites, a showcase galley, a passenger elevator and advanced navigation and propulsion systems.

Expert Review

Reviews from Our Experts So You Know What to Expect

Todd Smith • November 15th, 2018
Expert Review: Great Barrier Reef Cruise

Learn why remote small ship cruising and snorkeling are some of the best ways to see the Great Barrier Reef and its famous coral in this detailed family trip review from AdventureSmith's founder.

Testimonials

Hear It from Travelers Who Have Explored Australia's Reefs with Us

"Sites On Great Barrier Reef Were Amazing"

The cabin was comfortable, the food was delicious, the itinerary was well-planned and the sites on the Great Barrier Reef were amazing. The crew were super-friendly and went out of their way to make sure we were having a wonderful time. I will definitely use AdventureSmith in the future and have already recommended them to friends.

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"Trip Was Amazing & Fulfilled a Lifelong Dream"

The trip was amazing and fulfilled a lifelong dream of snorkeling and diving on Australia's Great Barrier Reef. The reef is alive and fantastic so go see it.

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"The Great Barrier Reef Was Amazing to Snorkel & Dive"

We were able to get away from the dive spots that the majority of tourists go to so we were allowed to be in spots where the reef was much more healthy and populous with pretty fish. If you want to go to the Great Barrier Reef, do not bother with a day trip.

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Book with the confidence that comes from experience.

100+ combined years of experience, 7 continents explored, decades of expedition cruising around the world & here to help you find & book your dream trip.

Extend Your Trip

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