Alternatives to boat trips in Cairns, for snorkeling?
May 21, 2009 9:59 AM   Subscribe

Alternatives to boat trips in Cairns?

We are going to Australia next week and heading up to Cairns to check out the Great Barrier Reef. Or, at least, for my husband to spend time at the Great Barrier Reef. This is my problem: Although I don't dive, I would love to snorkel...BUT I have a real problem with motion sickness.

Dramamine in the past has helped for maybe ONE hour and then faded away. The boat trips from Cairns out to the GBR usually are all-day trips so if I get sick I'm hosed and am stuck on the boat all day.

Aussies or anyone else who's been to Cairns, is there anywhere I can go where I can get some decent snorkeling in without having to take a boat all the way out to the GBR and risk being stuck all day seasick? Has anyone been to Whitsunday Islands, and if so, can you go snorkeling there without boating all the way out? Are there any similar options closer to Cairns?

Suggestions to help with motion sickness are also welcome (if I do decide to do the boat trip, I'll probably take Dramamine and wear motion sickness wrist bands, which have helped me in the past--please do not tell me they only work via placebo effect, I need all the positive thinking I can get!).

Thanks everyone!
posted by choochoo to Travel & Transportation around Cairns, Australia (6 answers total)
Alternatives to snorkeling: I very much enjoyed the Australian Butterly Sanctuary on a trip to Cairns right around this time of year in 2000. My friend and I also went to Fitzroy Island, had a nice walk and sat on the coral beach there. The trip to Fitzroy is about 45 minutes. As I remember, there was scuba gear to rent on Fitzroy, but the weather was too chilly for it when I was there in June.
posted by jocelmeow at 12:31 PM on May 21, 2009

How are you taking the dramamine? My husband gets very seasick, and so when we go out for a day on a dive boat he takes a dramamine the night before, and then one first thing in the morning, and then I think a couple more times throughtout the day. The key is to get them started the night before, and not wait until you are under way.
posted by lemonade at 5:48 PM on May 21, 2009

You could check out Green Island. It's a shorter trip than out to the reef proper, and you can do some snorkeling right off the shore (although it isn't as good as fully out on the reef). While I don't think it compares to other parts of the reef, it is a good option for a shorter boat ride (it is only ~30km from Cairns) with decent snorkeling options and other activities for those who don't want to snorkel (including a nice loop through the rainforest there).
posted by langeNU at 7:01 PM on May 21, 2009

When I went to the reef it was in a huge twin-hull catamaran, so there was little or no motion. I usually get seasick very easily, even on the relatively calm waters between the coast and the reef, but didn't get sick on that trip at all.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 7:19 PM on May 21, 2009

Definitely don't go on the boat trip from Cairns to the GBR if it's very choppy that day - we did a trip like that where half the boat was sick. One thing that helps me with motion sickness on boats is to not go downstairs, but to remain standing on the deck. Somehow the wind blowing and standing in the fresh air seems to help me. it's the sitting below deck in an enclosed space that makes me feel ill.

We also did Green Island - I loved it, but I don't remember any good snorkelling there (we probably didn't hit the places langeNU went to.)
posted by gt2 at 8:20 PM on May 21, 2009

I lived in Cairns and Port Douglas for a couple of years - just moved away in the past month. And I only ever went to the reef by plane because I get so motion sick. Seriously. Queasy on the pontoon. So I feel for you!

Some flight options you might try are Cairns Seaplanes or Great Barrier Reef Helicopters. There's also Quicksilver Helicopters and Port Douglas Reef Charters.

Re Green Island, it's a ten minute sea-plane trip, or a 45 minute ferry ride. The ferry ride can be choppy and people do get sick. Also the snorkelling, while very easy in very shallow water, is not that great. And it's very crowded. Depending on what you're into, it might be a plus that there's a decent restaurant on the island for lunch and a quirky crocodile tourist attraction thing.

As an alternative, you might like to try Low Isles, 50km or so off Port Douglas. Port is an incredible scenic ocean-view drive 70km north of Cairns. Unless the weather is truly terrible, it's a very calm easy boat ride from Port to Low Isles on a big cat or sailing cat and the snorkelling is amazing - turtles, fish, and gorgeous pristine beaches. And you won't have to contend with a million other tourists. This was the one time I broke my No Boat rule - with great trepidation - and I was fine. It was one of the big Quicksilver catamarans, if that's any help in your decision.

The two best-known operators who go to Low Isles are Sailaway and Quicksilver. They both put lunch on and you're off the boat and on the island/in the water, so you don't have to stay on the rocking floaty thing all day.

If you're still unsure when you get to Cairns, go and visit the Visitor Centre. It's a not-for-profit hub staffed by little old ladies who've lived in Cairns for ever and who know every tour guide since the place was reclaimed from mangroves. It's on the Esplanade in the main part of town.
posted by t0astie at 1:26 AM on May 22, 2009

« Older Help me find a new barbeque grill.   |   Vista or Windows 7? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.