Cairns is privy to some of the best diving sites on Earth and home to the largest reef system in the world, the Great Barrier Reef. Attracting visitors from all over the world to this incredible slice of heaven, the oceans off Cairns are brimming with life, being one of the richest ocean habitats known to man. Composed of over 2,900 individual reef systems and 900 islands, the Great Barrier Reef presents a wealth of marine life just waiting to be explored. Join us as we run you through some of the best diving spots off the coast of Cairns.
Flynn Reef, approximately 60 kilometres off the coast of Cairns, is often referred to as the great allrounder, offering divers a little of everything in this vibrant reef system. Crystal clear waters, deep canyons, wall dives, and vast expanses of hard coral headline proceedings in an area teeming with schools of fish and other colourful marine life. Visibility is often manageable up to 20 metres below the surface, with the towering reef wall a feature, terracing down a slope of 10-20 metres. An underwater city brimming with life, here you can spot Nemo and his friends hiding amongst the anemone as you scale from canyons to reef walls, swim throughs, and reef flats. Keep your eyes peeled for resident sea turtles, lionfish, octopus, reef sharks, giant clams and so much more lurking within the depths of this underwater sanctuary. A popular spot for snorkelers and novice divers alike, this bucket list-worthy dive can be accessed by a private charter or one of the many local tour groups currently servicing the area. With many smaller reefs residing within the Flynn Reef system, you can be sure to experience something new and exciting every time you visit.
The ‘Big Norm’ or Norman Reef, is a popular dive site off the coast of Cairns on the outer edge of the Great Barrier Reef. Lying 80 kilometres from Cairns, this extraordinary place is a picture of health due to its protection status and ongoing conservation efforts, creating the optimal environment for a wealth of marine life to thrive. This biodiversity hotspot is home to over a million types of coral, thousands of fish species, blue spotted rays, garden eels, green sea turtles, and the majestic minke whales (during the winter months). Featuring a sea of coral gardens, underwater caves, swim-throughs, and even a small wreck, the reef is blessed with incredible visibility (often up to 30 metres deep) adding to the overall appeal of this ocean paradise. Scale the underwater caves embedded within the coral walls or scour the seafloor for a close encounter with something larger. One of the most popular dive sites in Australia, this is one place you can’t miss on your next adventure to Cairns.
The legendary Osprey Reef is a scuba divers delight, stretching nearly 195km² top to bottom in the large expanses of the Coral Sea Marine Park. Best suited to more advanced divers, this titanic reef system (also known as Wall Heaven) extends 2000 metres tall, perched atop a massive underwater mountain. An oasis for budding marine life, Osprey Reef showcases many rare and mysterious creatures that are either passing by or have taken up residency. Explore popular dive sites like Admiralty, North Horn, and False Entrance for close encounters with green turtles, trevally, moray eels, mackerel, giant potato cod, and a plethora of inquisitive shark species. Osprey Reef is one of the largest reef systems in the region, with 100 metres of visibility offering front-row seats to the shark feeding frenzy occurring below. A haven for underwater thrill seekers, spy dozens of white tip reef sharks in their element, munching down on schools of fish and other tasty menu items.
One of the world’s most celebrated dive sites, Cod Hole is nestled within the ribbon reef system, 96 kilometres north of Cairns. Residing within the vast expanses of the Great Barrier Reef, the site is home to some famous friends – the Giant Potato Cod. Having warmed to divers over the past few decades, these mysterious giants can grow over 2.5 metres long and reach masses upwards of 100 kilograms due to continuous hand feeding by inquisitive visitors. Accustomed to the sounds of mooring boats, Potato Cod are often seen lingering around the lines, patiently waiting for new friends to join the fun. Acclimatised to human interaction, these gentle giants swim right up to your face, often only centimetres from the tip of your mask. These extremely photogenic and friendly cod have been stopping by for a mid-morning snack for the better part of 30 years, with several licensed operators offering visitors the incredible opportunity to hand-feed these local celebrities. With many other sizable reef fish on hand to spoil the party, a peaceful interaction can quickly escalate into a feeding frenzy. Keep an eye out for resident maori wrasse, flowery cod, puffer fish, reef sharks, blue starfish, and the occasional rare pygmy seahorse gliding through the shallow coral gardens. Explore various channels, caves, and canyons on your journey through the site, often accompanied by the curious cod, chauffeuring you around like an underwater guide.
To explore the best diving spots in and around Cairns, hire a car from Cairns Airport today.