Fodor's Travel Talk Forums

Fodor's Travel Talk Forums (
-   Australia & the Pacific (
-   -   Great Barrier Reef in early Jan. (

3Texans May 15th, 2004 01:56 PM

Great Barrier Reef in early Jan.
We are flying into Cairns by way of Brisbane arriving in late afternoon. We are spending 3 nights in the area but have been told by Aussie friends this is not a good time to go to GBR. We feel we must see GBR unless it is going to be a miserable experience in very early Jan. We were considering Green Island but see very mixed reviews. Our only purpose for going to the area is to see the reef. We will be spending a couple of days in Sydney just to see the main sights since the head of the household has been there several times on business. We really want to spend the majority(9 nights) of our time on South Island in NZ. I know someone will tell us we are moving too fast but we have been told that on other trips.

Judy_in_Calgary May 15th, 2004 03:46 PM

Hello 3Texans,

I've only been to Far North Queensland in July, not in January.

From what I've read here at Fodors, it helps to have a few days in the area if one visits during The Wet (or most times of the year, for that matter). This means that, if there is some stormy weather that precludes going out in a boat for a couple of days, one can afford to wait to get out to the GBR. There are some people who have gone to Queensland for a short time, specifically to visit the GBR, and have not been able to get out to it because of weather.

If you are not already committed to flights to Cairns, you might consider accessing the GBR from a more southerly point, which might be more suitable in summer.

There's another discussion thread in progress in which RalphR has suggested that Atlhorn visit Heron Island. Other posters disagreed with Ralph because, heading into the southern hemisphere winter, they thought a more northerly island would be a better bet.

But, to state the obvious, you won't be heading there in the winter. On the contrary, it'll be the height of summer. So I think a more southerly latitude might make sense.

In the other thread Ralph describes Heron Island and the logistics of getting to it. It doesn't look like a cheap exercise to me. Nonetheless, it may be of interest.

Here's the thread to which I'm referring:;tid=34498297

Here's a website, mentioned in that thread, that provides good information on Queensland's islands:

3Texans May 15th, 2004 04:31 PM

Judy in Calgary

Thanks for the suggestion about staying further south. We are using free miles for the trip and really were taking whatever destinations were available. After a little research, I had thought perhaps we should stay furter south but had been hesitant to even try to change the reservation. It might be worth paying for different flights out of Brisbane just to be at a better location. Thanks for your ideas and I'll see what the possibilities are.

fivestargirl May 15th, 2004 05:00 PM

January can go either way.
Very wet or very beautiful.

Even if it is wet the reef will still be very good.

There is usually very little to no wind in January.

Marine Stingers are a problem closer to the coast in January.

However if your primary objective is to see the Great Barrier Reef
the stingers along the coast will not bother you as you will be on the outer reef.

Cairns is very accessible from any major centre in Australia.

Be careful booking into expensive Islands along the Queensland coast too far in advance between the months of December and April.

I once sat on an Island for three days and watched the rain and wind.

At $700.00 a night that can be heartbreaking :-)

At least on the mainland you can visit rainforests and the hinterland if the weather is nasty.


pat_woolford May 16th, 2004 05:40 AM

Hi 3 texans - Whilst no-one can predict the weather - particularly 7 months out - have to agree with 5 star girl - January can actually be a wonderful month to visit the reef in the north. In fact, it's my favourite. Despite what those southerner Aussies say- they don't know -they mostly only come in July-August when it becomes too cold for them "down south". There is usually no wind - just a little before the rainy season begins -the best reef trip I've ever had was on our own boat for a week north of Cairns in January, hopping from one uninhabited island to the next - sea was like glass and not a cloud in the sky. And the fishing would blow your mind! But the temperature is hot! I'm not saying every January is that perfect, but the last few have been pretty good. The last February had intermittent rain, March had more and April was a disaster.

RalphR May 16th, 2004 11:46 AM

3Tex: Yes, Green island does get mixed reviews. I went once - five nights - and that was back in 1984. It is a very beautiful, small coral cay. There are daily boats to Green Island from Cairns for day trippers....not so much the feeling of having the place to yourselves as on the more exclusive islands, at least during the day. As I remember, the snorkeling was great. However, I can't speak for what it is like now, some 20 years later. I had heard of a bloom of algae that had damaged the reef there, the result of waste emamating from man's "activity" on the island so to speak. But that doesn't mean that all is not well now.

As Judy points out, Heron Island is indeed a possiblility. It is very similar to Green Island in size and origin, but is much further south. No daytrippers. It is a fantastic place to see the reef, countless fish, turtles, manta rays, all kind of stuff. However, I'm not sure Jan is a good time for Heron in that the only consistent complaint I've heard about Heron Island is the birds that nest there by the thousands during the summer months. On the other hand, Jan is also turtle nesting season and, with good timing, you can see turtle hatchlings dash for the sea. (Best times for Heron are probably April-May; Sept-Oct; even the winter months are pretty good too).

And for the most part, everywhere in Australia, except possibly Tasmania, is HOT in January. The further north you go, the more humid and monsoonal it gets. Regardless, I don't think Heron is immune from the sort of weather the folks up in Cairns get in the summer.

SO, based on all that, and from what others have written, I'd take my chances, fly to Cairns and see the reef by boat from there. As fsg says, stingers are not a problem out at sea where the reef is.

margo_oz May 16th, 2004 01:33 PM

Don't even consider substituting Green Island for the Reef proper. There is no comparison.

3Texans May 16th, 2004 05:45 PM

Thanks for all the advice. I realize eventually we will have to make a decision and take our chances. I am looking into info on Heron Island. Think our university senior son who is majoring in environmental science would really enjoy it. Perhaps it will be worth the expense of changing flights even with all the birds. I thought we would use less travel time going to Green Island and could take a day trip to the outer reef. I can see the pluses and minuses for both.

RalphR May 16th, 2004 07:51 PM

3Tex: Besides the resort on Heron Island, the only other development there is the University of Queensland Research Station. I'm not sure how you would arrange it, but perhaps your son would find a tour of that facility quite interesting. On a couple of occassions we happened to be on Heron when the UQ staff and students were out in boats collecting green turtles, bringing them to shore, tagging them and examining the females for egg counts. It was quite facinating and the researchers went out of their way to explain things to us. No guarantee you would witness that activity but maybe some other sort of research will be going on.

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 04:40 PM.