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Wanting to make decision on October trip to include GBR

Langley, Canada
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Wanting to make decision on October trip to include GBR

I posted this question previously on the Cairns forum but as I have had no replies, I am trying here with hopes that I can get some suggestions and answers. Looking for some help in advance planning for a trip in October 2014. We are looking at renting a car to do the Pacific Coastal drive from Sydney up to the Great Barrier Reef and then would finish the trip with a flight for a few days in Ayre's Rock area before returning to Sydney and homeward. We have previously been to the Surfer's Paradise area and Brisbane in October and the weather was lovely so we were thinking this could be a good time of year to return to Aus. I have also read that snorkeling at the GBR in late September or October should be good. GBR is a must do for me for this return so I want to make sure that we go at a time of year that will be favourable conditions. Can you experts confirm for me that late September or October is a good time to go? Also would you suggest Cairns or Port Douglas as a base for 1 or 2 snorkeling day trips. Hubby will not snorkel but would accompany me on the boat and hopefully be able to see something from the surface as I understand much of the reef is close to the surface. Do any of the snorkel tour operators offer non-snorkel options? I would particularly love to see colourful coral and some of the splendid staghorn type coral formations that I have seen in Bali before. For now my main questions are:

Do you think late September and October will be a good time of year for snorkeling conditions GBR (would be a bonus to see humpback whales too)?

Given our itinerary to drop the rental car off and fly out of Cairns to Ayre's Rock, would Cairns be the best location to base for 1-2 snorkeling tours?

What GBR location would be recommended for colourful coral including the staghorn types?

What tour company would you recommend for myself as the snorkeler and my husband the non snorkeler who would still like to see some of the reef from above and possible would swim a little?

Arlington, Virginia
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1. Re: Wanting to make decision on October trip to include GBR

1. Yes, late September and October are good time of the year for the GBR

2. If you are only going to be in the region for 1-2 days for snorkeling, then Cairns is fine. If you have more time for this portion of the trip, then I would go to Port Douglas as it is a smaller town and has an excellent beach (Four Mile Beach). You have to go to one of the northern suburbs of Cairns, e.g. Palm Cove, to find a beach as Cairns itself does not have one.

3. All of the Outer Reef tour operators will take you to a location with colorful coral.

4. None of the GBR boats are going to anchor in the coral itself, so your husband won't be able to see anything from them unless he gets in the water and snorkels. His only option to see anything without getting wet would be to go on a boat that goes to a fixed platform on the Reef. Two choices for this are Reef Magic out of Cairns and Quicksilver out of Port Douglas. These offer underwater viewing areas and semi-submersibles that allow you to see the coral while staying dry. I'd recommend you do one of these for one trip to the GBR (for your husband) and then leave him behind for the second trip and go out by yourself on another boat. (My choice would be Wavelength out of PD as it is a small, snorkel-only boat.)

Finally, I'm not sure I would waste the time it takes to drive from Sydney to Cairns. That's 1600 miles of driving, much (if not most) of which does not actually provide coastal views. There are several threads here on TA that address this exact drive and the consensus is that it's not worth the time. You would probably be better off flying and staying longer in Cairns or Port Douglas.

Brisbane, Australia
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2. Re: Wanting to make decision on October trip to include GBR

Welcome back ! And yes October is perfect QLD weather, well usually anyhow though who can guess the weather patterns anymore.

I recommend Port Douglas and also as abovevthe snorkelling boat called Wavelength which will take you to three snorkel sites on the reef, fantastic snorkelling and hubby will enjoy as well. 3 days would be minimum stat I would say.

Enjoy!

Edited: 10 July 2013, 21:38
Australia
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3. Re: Wanting to make decision on October trip to include GBR

That's a very long boring drive, flying would give you extra time to spend at either destination...I'd stay in Port Douglas over Cairns or even Palm Cove...we did the GBR with Quicksilver out of PD and it caters for all, your husband can go on the semi sub and still get to see the most spectacular sights with out getting wet, the boat moors up against a huge pontoon so he can walk around to some viewing areas...

Oz
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4. Re: Wanting to make decision on October trip to include GBR

Hi,

Further to the excellent advice there isn't any need to drive all the way to Cairns from Sydney to see the GBR.

Other options are to skip the long dull drive and fly or drive the bst bit from Sydney to Bundaberg calling in at the great coastal locations on the way and stay at Lady Elliot Island which is accessed from Bundy or 1770.

Cheers

Langley, Canada
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5. Re: Wanting to make decision on October trip to include GBR

Thank you for the replies so quickly! All the ideas are much appreciated. I truly value the knowledge you share! I had started to wonder about the full Pacific Coastal drive from Sydney and coincidentally a few of you have now confirmed what I was starting to think. We have also seen the immediate coastal area around Brisbane, Surfer's Paradise, Byron Bay etc. so wouldn't need to see that area anyway. I am happy to rethink our plans. we would likely start with a few days of acclimatization to the time change in Sydney with opportunity to do some side day trips to Blue mountains and other local sights, then fly to either Ayre's Rock area next and then to GBR area (Port Douglas is sounding quite appealing) or vice versa and then onward home (probably via Sydney again for the international round trip). I will look into the specific GBR tour companies you have all mentioned. I definitely want to spend more time experiencing things rather than just flying by on a drive!

Langley, Canada
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6. Re: Wanting to make decision on October trip to include GBR

OZRCFLYER

You mention driving from Sydney to Bundaberg and then spending time at Lady Elliot. What is a recommended number of days to make that portion of the drive? Also, if we drove that portion, would we then fly from Lady Elliot Island up to Port Douglas?

Perth, Australia
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7. Re: Wanting to make decision on October trip to include GBR

Hi, I can only answer part of your question but me and my partner did a day trip from Cairns to the GBR with Silver Swift last March. We chose this company because it is a faster boat so you they can take you further out unlike a lot of the smaller boats (to the outer reef where larger species are found-we are going to the whitsundays to see fringing reefs now). Downside was it was a large boat and so not a very personal experience. We are a younger couple so might have enjoyed a bit more of a social aspect and this was generally a more mature, holiday maker crowd. But we got to a lot of sites and saw a good variety including turtles, some people even saw sharks.

As for weather in October, we are actually planning another trip to Queensland in October ourselves and have been told that the weather should be decent as it won't be wet yet. It was extremely wet when we were there in March but luckily we had a good day for our reef trip and visibility was good. Once you are there whoever you book with should look up the weather for you and be able to advise a good day based on visibility, if you don't mind booking last minute.. :) have a good trip!

8. Re: Wanting to make decision on October trip to include GBR

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