Green Island vs The Outer Barrier Reef? Whats the Difference?


Green Island vs The Outer Barrier Reef? What’s the Difference?


Welcome to our latest article on Green Island vs The Outer Barrier Reef? What’s the Difference? Which one should you choose?


In this article, we are going to try to answer these very common questions. By the end of this article, you will be able to fully understand the main differences between visiting Green Island and visiting The Outer Barrier Reef from Cairns.


So come on let’s get started!


So if you have made it to this article then I’m guessing you have already decided to book a holiday to Cairns in Australia. Awesome that’s the first step to getting closer to visiting The Great Barrier Reef.


Did you know? Cairns is the closest point to the Great Barrier Reef on the entire East Coast of Australia!


Now it’s usually at about this time you will be totally overwhelmed by the amount of information there is on Cairns, Cairns Tours, and Cairns Reef Tours to The Great Barrier Reef!


Cairns has a large tourism industry, it has been this way for a very long time, that is why there are so many reef tour operators to choose from. The Cairns Tourism Industry really started to kick off in the early 1980’s and has been working hard ever since.


But the big question for most people is what is the difference between Green Island and The Outer Barrier Reef?


So you can find day trips to Green Island for $88.00 including snorkeling equipment or a glass bottom boat. Then you have Outer Barrier Reef tours for nearly $200! Wow that’s a big difference!



What are the Differences and How to Choose?


It all comes down to the value of fuel! Particularly diesel! That’s right the further the reef boats travel, the more fuel they consume therefore the more they charge.


Cairns to Green Island Distance is 27.9klm


So that’s where it pays to look at Google Maps! Yep that’s right the best way to understand is to actually have a look at the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns on Google Maps.


You will notice in the map below Green Island is located just 27.9klm from Cairns. With a fast high-speed boat, this only takes about 40 minutes to cross from Cairns to Green Island.




If you look at the distance between Cairns and The Outer Barrier Reef you will notice this is about 63.4klm between Cairns and The Outer Barrier Reef. In a fast high-speed catamaran boat, this takes about 1 hour and 15 min to arrive at the Outer Barrier Reef.


Cairns to the Outer Barrier Reef is 63.4 klm


So looking at the map below you can see the Outer Barrier Reef is a long way offshore, 63.4klm in fact. So this is one of the major factors in the price of Outer Barrier Reef day tours.




Now what do you get by traveling further and is it worth it?


Green Island – Ok so for starters let’s talk about Green Island. This is a beautiful tropical Island on the inside edge of The Great Barrier Reef. It is home to pristine tropical rainforest. There are 2 main companies that offer transfers between Cairns and Green Island. They are Great Adventures and Big Cat Cruises.


Green Island has amazing white sandy beaches and crystal clear tropical waters surrounding the Island. You can easily walk off the beach into the shallow waters and try snorkeling. This is a great first-time experience if you have never tried snorkeling before. If you are bit a scared of swimming or being in the water then you can choose the glass bottom boat tour. This tour goes for about 30 minutes.


There are many cafes, restaurants a swimming pool, showers, toilets and change rooms and even a little scuba dive shop where you could organise a first-time introductory scuba dive or scenic helicopter flight.


Conclusion – So a day trip visiting Green Island is more about the white sandy beaches, going for walks around the island, admiring the tropical rainforest. Enjoy some lunch at one of the many cafes and restaurants. But that’s about it! There is not allot of coral around Green Island. It does receive large amounts of tourists each year so this has pushed the coral growth much further offshore than it used to be.


So if you are looking for a relaxed beach style day then take a trip to Green Island. The white tropical island located on the inside edge of The Great Barrier Reef. It won’t break the bank at just $88.00 per adult and $44.00 for children at the time of writing this article.


The Outer Barrier Reef – So now we have discussed Green Island you should hopefully have a good idea about what to expect if you choose to take a day trip to Green Island.


Now let us get on to talking about the Outer Barrier Reef.


So what constitutes the Outer Barrier Reef you might ask?


Well it is the very outer reefs that grow closest to the Continental shelf of Australia.


In the Google Map below you will notice the dark line, this line represents where the outside edge of The Great Barrier Reef meets the Coral Sea. It is called the Continental Shelf of Australia.


You will also notice that South of Cairns you will see the reef actually turns further away from Australia. Making Cairns the closest point to visit the Outer Barrier Reefs!




That’s right the Continental shelf of Australia is a giant drop off that extends down deep into the Coral Sea. In fact some say the Continental Shelf of Australia is like a giant wall that drops away to over 1000m below sea level!


Now don’t let that scare you, what this means is you have very deep blue water coming in from the Coral Sea. This fresh pristine Ocean current brings with it nutrient rich, crystal clear water.


Where does that water arrive? At the very Outer Reef systems that lay closest to the continental shelf.


So this offers a perfect natural environment for corals to grow. This natural eco-system allows pristine reef systems to grow on this outer edge wall, we call this no man’s land.


Conclusion – The Outer Barrier Reefs are exposed to minimal human impact and because they are also located so far away from land, farming, and any other man-made pressures. They are regarded as the healthiest reef systems on The Great Barrier Reef.


This is what we are talking about when we say the Outer Barrier Reefs and they are truly spectacular!


Don’t take my word for it, David Attenbourgh from the BBC in the UK has just devoted an entire series to The Great Barrier Reef in all her glory. Keep an eye out it is due for release Worldwide early 2016.


Which Day Boats Visit the Outer Barrier Reef from Cairns?


So hopefully by this point in time you now understand what we mean when we say The Outer Barrier Reef. With this new found knowledge you might be asking yourself, How do I get there?


Hopefully, by now you will have worked out that you should try to go out and see these reef systems! Luckily there are two great tour companies that can get you there, see below:


There are two great day boat companies that operate day tours snorkeling & diving on The Outer Barrier Reef from Cairns. The first one is Silverswift Dive & Snorkel.


This vessel visits three Outer Barrier Reef sites from Cairns in the one day! They visit Flynn, Millne and Pellowe Reefs. Departing Cairns at 8:30am in the morning and returning to Cairns at 4:30pm in the afternoon. Silverswift gives you 5 hours at three different reef sites.


All snorkeling equipment, lycra suit (stinger suit) is included in the price. Along with morning, afternoon tea and hot and cold buffet lunch. They also offer a guided snorkel tour at the second reef site of the day. This is a great opportunity to learn more about The Great Barrier Reef.


The second boat worth mentioning is TUSA Dive & Snorkel Cairns. This vessel has a roaming reef permit which allows the crew and the skipper to choose the best reef sites based on that days weather conditions.


Departing Cairns at 8:00am in the morning and returning to Cairns at 4:00pm. TUSA Dive & Snorkel also include all snorkeling equipment, lycra suits (stinger suits) morning and afternoon tea and cold buffet lunch.

If you are interested in comparing the top dive/snorkel boats in Cairns see our article Silverswift Vs Silversonic Vs Poseidon Vs Tusa Dive Learn the Truth!


In Conclusion:


By now you have equipped yourself with enough knowledge to choose a reef tour from Cairns, and now you understand the difference between visiting Green Island and The Outer Barrier Reef. You should now understand why there is a price difference and with that knowledge be able to choose a reef tour that is perfect for you and your family!


If you have any questions or would like help choosing a reef trip please send us an email or fill out the booking inquiry form – Contact Us.



Clint Carroll

Clint Carroll is the Manager of Cairns Tour Advice & Booking Centre. An adventure travel enthusiast, travel blogger, avid scuba diver and founder of based in Cairns, Australia. Connect with Clint on Twitter.

Clint Carroll

Clint Carroll - Chief Travel writer and Scuba Diving enthusiast at Cairns Tour Info. Follow him on Twitter.

Do you need help choosing?

Can't decide? We have personally been on every Cairns reef and diving trip. We can help you choose the best tour, to suit your experience and budget.


Go back to Cairns News


Cairns Airport Ironman

This weekend Cairns will host the Cairns Airport Ironman, it starts this Sunday 08th JUNE…

Read More

Cairns Tourism News

After many months of planning and preparation we have finally launched our brand new website…

Read More