Sailing#6 in Best Things To Do in Great Barrier Reef
Picture it: As the wind-powered craft clips along the Coral Sea, a tropical breeze teases your hair while the ocean spits sea spray on your arms. You drop anchor within swimming distance of an uninhabited island or cay and spend an afternoon exploring. Whether you're on a multiday cruise or a quick jaunt off the mainland, sailing along the Great Barrier Reef is a must-do.
If you're looking to sail north of Cairns, you'll enjoy the best cruising weather between June and November. For optimal conditions year-round, head farther south to the waters surrounding the Whitsunday Islands. A bevy of operators – including ISail Whitsundays and OzSail – offer trips on tall ships, maxi yachts and catamarans to destinations all around the region. Past visitors especially enjoyed sailing excursions by Hamilton Island and Whitehaven Beach. Trips start at 474 Australian dollars (or about $352) per person and include two or more nights at sea, water sports equipment and all meals.
If you'd rather be at the helm of your own vessel, you'll find several local bareboat operators (no crew, no supplies – just you and the boat) that offer five- to 14-night charters. Rates from providers like Charter Yachts Australia and Queensland Yacht Charters depend on the boat but start at AU$485 ($360).
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#1 Diving and Snorkeling
Many visitors say the Great Barrier Reef is best seen through a scuba mask, but it's no small feat to traverse the area's dive spots. When choosing which regions to explore, consider your skill level, the amount of travel involved and the trip length in that area. Two of the most popular diving and snorkeling locales are listed below:
Hosting a kaleidoscope of fish, sea turtles and humpback whales, Cairns' reefs are teeming with wildlife. Known locally as the Outer Barrier Reef, these reefs are ideal for first-time divers and families because of the one- to three-hour travel times from Cairns' Reef Fleet Terminal. Popular spots by Cairns include Michaelmas Cay, Moore Reef, Green Island and Hastings Reef. Ocean Free, Seastar Cruises and Tusa Dive all offer a variety of half- to full-day cruises; diving and snorkeling cruise packages start at 205 Australian dollars ($152) per adult and AU$120 ($89) for each child.
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