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Port Douglas or Cairns vs. Heron Island - less/more sea creatures?

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The cost for a couple to actually get on a boat to go snorkeling is shocking, on Heron Island we can just walk out the door. We are avid snorkelers, I am trying to compare the pricing between the two options. Heron looks lovely, my friend says staying in Cairns as compared to PD is not so great, but the boat options are better.

Is the sealife roughly the same in the two areas? We would be going mid-November, is there much weather difference in the two places?

Also, if we go to Heron I need to consider flying to Brisbane and driving to Gladstone to catch the Heron boat, vs. flying to Gladstone. We don't have a lot of time for this area, just 3-4 days.

Opinions please, thanks.

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