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Southern Great Barrier Reef Tour - Is that area good?

Southern Great Barrier Reef Tour - Is that area good?

Feb 8th, 2010, 08:29 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 209
Southern Great Barrier Reef Tour - Is that area good?

We will be in Australia in January or possibly early February 2011. I understand that is "monsoon" time in Cairns and Port Douglas, so we don't think its practical to do a Northern Great Barrier Reef snorkeling tour from those ports.

Can anyone tell us about the Southern Great Barrier Reef? Is the snorkeling good there? Where's the best place to go? Any tours you recommend? From which towns/cities?

I looked at Heron Island, but it's REALLY expensive. Too much for us and they want a 4 night minimum. It would cost $1300-plus.

We'd probably want one full day of snorkeling, so two nights in whatever town is suggested.

Thanks for any information you can share.
Sue and Ron
SanDiegoSue is offline  
Feb 8th, 2010, 05:32 PM
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 1,116
I wouldn't necessarily rule out the northern reef in Jan/Feb, but having never been there at that time of year myself, I'll let the locals comment. There are fewer options on the southern end of the reef, which generally lies quite a bit further out to sea.

That being said I have been to Heron Island several times. It is really is a wonderful place, right on the reef, with superb snorkeling and diving close at hand. We've always gone for 4 days/5 nights, which is ideal.

I haven't been to Lady Elliot Island, but know it is a coral cay similar to Heron in size, but which offers cheaper "budget accommodation". That's one possibility. Another is Lady Musgrave Island to which I believe there are opportunities for day trips from the town of Seventeen Seventy.
RalphR is offline  
Feb 9th, 2010, 02:40 AM
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Heron Island has recently been offering very cheap deals because of the change of ownership. Maybe monitor their website to see what comes up. As Ralph R suggests Lady Elliot Island and day trips from 1770 are another option in that general area (near Gladstone).

The rain affects the southern and northern end of the reef. That said, I've been to Heron Island three times in January, there's a very small amount of rain each day, but it isn't a problem. It's a quick downpour and then just as quickly clears up.
Susan7 is offline  
Feb 9th, 2010, 03:25 PM
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Posts: 209
Thank you for the information.
I read somewhere that there is no air conditioning at the Heron Island Resort. Is that true? Wouldn't that make it pretty unbearable in January?
Also, what is the rain situation in this area? Does it rain all day, part of the day, on and off???
SanDiegoSue is offline  
Feb 10th, 2010, 11:19 AM
Join Date: Apr 2004
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As Susan suggests, I would expect more in the way of intermittent showers as opposed to continuous rainfall, with sun most days. Cairns gets something like 3 times as much rainfall on average does as Heron Island during Jan/Feb (~16 vs 6 inches). Average number of cloudy days in Cairns in Jan is ~17; Heron has ~10 on average, based on climate data from Gladstone on the coast.


Not sure about air conditioning at the Heron Resort - we have visited only in the "winter" months. In any case, being a small island well out to sea, I would cooler temperatures than on the mainland and refreshing sea breezes. Average high temp in Jan is about 85 F (30 C)

RalphR is offline  
Feb 10th, 2010, 12:19 PM
Join Date: Feb 2007
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It's an eco-resort so there is no air conditioning, there are ceiling fans in the rooms and public areas. I didn't find that a problem, but I don't particularly like air conditioning.
Susan7 is offline  
Feb 10th, 2010, 02:41 PM
Join Date: Jul 2003
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Its a long time since I've been to Heron Island, but see from its website it does have some airconditioning in the suites, doesn't appear to be anywhere else. Doubt if it would matter much even in January, as Ralph says, its open to sea breezes. I also hate sleeping in airconditioning, don't use it even in Cairns, ceiling fans and cross ventilation do the trick.

However, wouldn't discount the comparatively more northern parts of reef around Cairns or Port Douglas. Whilst Jan-Feb is wet season, much of the time rain falls on only coast and inland areas, can be pouring on mainland and bright and sunny out on reef. Unless there's a tropical cyclone about, rain usually falls in heavy bursts with brilliant sunshine in between, and often mostly a night. For the last week or so reef conditions out of Cairns/PD have been brilliant, very little wind, which makes for calm seas and good underwater visibility, however before that Tropical Cyclone Olga provided a very wet week, with reef trips cancelled for several days.

Wet season in north is best time for visiting rainforests, right now the Barron Falls near Kuranda are in full flood, tourists who come in winter dry season only see a mere trickle.
pat_woolford is offline  

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