Great Barrier Reef Tours From Port Douglas for Families

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There are many options for Great Barrier Reef tours from Port Douglas Australia. Some trips are full day and a few are half day. The question I’m most asked about snorkelling on the reef, by readers, is this one.

February 2024 Update. At the time of writing Cyclone Jasper is still causing a few problems in this part of the world but the reef boats are running. I can tell you for certain that Wavelength is running, book here, the Outer Reef is looking good, but the Inner Reef and Low Isles, apparently took damage. Quicksilver are also operating, for a reef pontoon experience, book here. The Daintree Rainforest is open partially, and the Cairns to Port Douglas highway is open. I’ll keep this post updated as often as possible. You can be sure we’ll keep you up-to-date!

What Are The Best Reef Tours From Port Douglas For Families with Kids?

In our opinion, Wavelength Reef Cruises offers the best reef tour from Port Douglas for kids and families. Here I’ll tell you why. To make your search a short one, just go here to book online, or read on for more information!

If you’re looking for a pontoon-based reef trip from Port Douglas you need Quicksilver, more on that below.

For disclosure, I’ve known the owners of Wavelenth Reef Tours for a long time. My husband works for them out on the reef from time to time. As a mum, a lover of the marine environment, a keen snorkeller, scuba diver, and family travel blogger with 12 years in the industry, this company is my pick for the best family day snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef from Port Douglas.

Did I mention that we’ve been based in Port Douglas since 2007? My kids grew up snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef and worldwide as part of my work.

Great Barrier Reef From Port Douglas Kids Families
Yes, you can see dolphins and whales from these reef boats departing Port Douglas Australia. Smaller boats, like Wavelength can give you more time to see them.

A US reader of ours had a day out on Wavelength recently and told us her day snorkelling with her family was better than anything she’d experienced in Hawaii, and cheaper.

My family has snorkelled extensively, a day on The Great Barrier Reef is our favourite day, maybe except for swimming with manta rays in Bali. The snorkelling and water clarity are undoubtedly better here.

Snorkel with kids Great Barrier Reef
Kids and Families snorkel Great Barrier Reef

I think this company is the best for families and kids because it’s a family-run business, with great crew, and great safety. This company cares about the reef and giving their passengers the best day they can. They’re also currently the cheapest day cruise to the reef from Port Douglas.

Obviously, prices change, but right now (at the time of writing) we think they offer the best value day out. Take a look and reserve your spot here.

Cheapest Day Tours To The Reef From Port Douglas

Great Barrier Reef Snorkel Family Boat
Wavelength at one of the snorkel sites on the Great Barrier Reef. A day out with my family.

Some of the half-day tours are the cheapest, of course, but to do the reef justice and create a family day out to remember forever, I’d recommend a full-day Outer Great Barrier Reef cruise from Port Douglas.

Families have to pay for a lot of people, so cheap is often good for families. In this case, cheap does not mean inferior, and you get a lot of extra included value on this day trip from Port Douglas.

For a more expensive day on a luxury sailing catamaran, we recommend you book that day tour online here and check out the gorgeous boats. Again, this cruise is family-owned and eco-certified. This is a great day out, no doubt about it, but usually more expensive and with less time snorkelling. I took this tour recently with my teens and had a great day.

If you have time and money you should see the Outer Reef and the reefs off Low Isles. Take a full-day tour to the Outer Reef, and take a half-day trip to the Low Isles. For Low Isles snorkelling we’d recommend the small Calypso boat half-day tour. This gives you access to the island and beach, plus glass glass-bottom boat. Book This one online here.

The outer reef and Low Isles are very different sites to snorkel and it is certainly interesting and worth doing both.

What Does a Day Snorkelling on The Great Barrier Reef Cost For a Family?

Full-day trips to snorkel on the Great Barrier Reef are not cheap, prices start at about $260 AU or $170 US dollars. Kids normally have a discount and age cut-offs vary between boats and tour operators.

reef trips from port douglas families kids
One of the huge Quicksilver reef boats, the biggest vessels departing Port Douglas for the Great Barrier Reef. These boats are fast and will take you to a permanent pontoon on Agincourt Reef.

These tours aren’t suitable for very young children, babies, tiny tots and toddlers, either speak directly to the companies, or book Quicksilver because they operate from a pontoon on Agincourt Reef (Outer Reef). Quicksilver is usually more expensive, take a look at what Quicksilver offers here, check if they will take small children.

For a family of 4 a day snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef won’t leave you much, or any, change from $1000 Au, or about $650 US depending on exchange rates.

Then you need to consider the extras. Do you want to take a guided snorkel tour? Will you want souvenir photos of your family underwater? These can be extra costs on some boats.

On Wavelength these are included in your ticket price. Everyone gets access electronically to the photos taken on the day and marine biologists, master reef guides and experienced crew lead guided reef tours.

outer reef tours from port douglas with kids
Wavelength Reef Cruises takes visitors to the Outer Reef, this map demonstrates that. The crew will take you to the best sites on the day, depending on tide and weather conditions. Snorkel sites are on Opal Reef, (usually) and sometimes Tongue Reef and St Crispin’s Reef, these are all Outer Reef Sites, ie near the open cea “The Drop Off”. Don’t worry, your kids won’t be close to the edge. All of these reefs are visible on Google Maps, see our map here.

Have I convinced you to book this tour for your family yet? Check prices and availability here, they do sell out, so book as early as you can.

We think the snorkelling is better from Port Douglas than Cairns, if that’s a decision you’re trying to make.

Batt Reef, as a point of interest, was where Steve Irwin was tragically killed by a sting ray in September 2006. Batt Reef is off Port Douglas. You can see the Low Isles on the map above too.

What Other Tours and Activities Are Suitable For Families in and Near Port Douglas?

We have a full guide to Port Douglas with kids if you click through. Of course, families can enjoy the beach, take a trip to Mossman Gorge and visit the lagoon in Cairns. There’s the railway or cable car up to Kuranda from just north of Cairns and Cairns Aquarium is very good.

The Daintree Rainforest is just up the road, you can hire a car or take a tour but I’d imagine young kids may not enjoy that so much.

Instead, take them to taste chocolate on the Tablelands or let them swim in a freshwater swimming hole. All of this is on our site. And don’t forget to take them to the Wildlife Habitat, you can even get in the water with a crocodile there.

As I said, I’m a local mum with 2 kids and I’m here to help. You should find related posts below or you can always reach out to me directly. Have a fantastic vacation in Port Douglas! You may want to read our Stinger Season post too.

If you'd like to hire a car during your stay, use this car rental comparison tool to find the best deal!

We also suggest you take a look at this company to get a quote for all kinds of the more tricky adventure or extended travel insurance.

Try Stayz / VRBO for an alternative way to find rentals on homes/apartments/condos in any country!

About the author
Alyson Long
Alyson Long is a British medical scientist who jumped ship to chase dreams. A former Chief Biomedical Scientist at London's West Middlesex Hospital she started in website creation and travel writing in 2011. Alyson is a full-time blogger and travel writer, a published author, and owns several websites. World Travel Family is the biggest. A lifetime of wanderlust and over 6 years of full-time travel, plus a separate 12 month gap year, has given Alyson and the family some travel expert smarts to share with you on this world travel site. Today Alyson still travels extensively to update this site and continue her mission to visit every country, but she's often at home on her farm in Australia.

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