How to get to Reef Encounter and luggage requirements

Getting to Reef Encounter is easy.   Enjoy greater flexibility with your travel plans and start your holiday on the day that suits you – and stay on the Reef as long as you like! Reef Encounter trips depart from Cairns daily via our transfer vessel ‘Reef Experience’.

Alternatively, you may choose to transfer to and/or from Reef Encounter by helicopter. The helicopter transfer is an optional extra that you may select during your booking process online.

By Boat Transfer

Reef Encounter’s daily transfers to and from Reef Encounter are provided by its sister vessel, Reef Experience, from the Cairns Marina. Check-in is directly at the boat, Reef Experience – at 7.30 am.

On the morning of your tour, please be at Cairns Marlin Marina – ‘A-Finger’ at 7.30 am to check in on board Reef Experience – your transfer vessel will take you directly to Reef Encounter.


7:30 am Check-in. Boarding time onboard Reef Experience
Breakfast served before DEPARTURE
8:00 am Departure
4:30 pm Approximate daily arrival time returning into Cairns


Bus transfers to and from your accommodation to Cairns Marlin Marina are available at an additional cost. See below.

Shuttle Bus to Cairns Marina

Bus pickup and/or drop-off is an optional extra that guests can select during booking.

City Return (Bus) $12 per person
Outer City / Northern Beaches Return (Bus) $25 per person
Port Douglas One Way (Bus) $70 per person
Port Douglas Return (Bus) $140 per person

Map of Where Reef Encounter departs from

Our sister vessel Reef Experience transfers Reef Encounter guests; Boarding commences at 7:30 am on the Marlin Jetty.  If you have excess luggage, you can drop it off at our office; Cairns Tour Booking Centre marked on the map, open from 7 am to 5 pm, 7 days a week (except for Christmas Day).

how to get to Reef Encounter

Where Can I Park?

Several parking stations throughout Cairns are within walking distance of the Cairns Marina.  Click here to see where

By Helicopter Transfer

A helicopter transfer is an optional extra you may select during your online booking process. You may choose to transfer to or from Reef Encounter with one of our birds-eye helicopter tours – low-flying scenic excursions over the coral reef that are a fantastic way to start or end your Great Barrier Reef adventure! (Minimum two guests required for helicopter transfer)


Helicopter One Way* $790 per person (minimum two people required)
Helicopter Return* $1580 per person (minimum two people required)


*Helicopter transfers depart and arrive at Nautilus Aviation, located at Cairns General Aviation. Transfers are available to and from your accommodation at an additional cost. Reef Encounter work in conjunction with industry experts in Queensland air touring – Nautilus Aviation – leaders in luxury helicopter experiences in North Queensland, Australia

Please note that strict luggage and weight restrictions apply for air travel. You will need to provide our team with the weight of each passenger to confirm your booking. Storage on the helicopter is limited to under-seat storage, such as a small carry-on or backpack size. If time permits, we can have luggage items transported on our fast boat, Reef Experience. Free luggage storage is available at Reef Encounter’s office in the city – 100 Abbott Street, Cairns, Qld 4870. Office opening times are from 7 am – 5 pm, 7 days a week. 


Luggage Requirements

Please bring only a small to medium overnight bag with personal items – casual clothes, toiletries, sun hat, swimming clothes, sunscreen, sunglasses, medication if needed etc. As the air-conditioning is a set temperature for the heat during the day, it can become quite chilly in the evenings – even just being on the Great Barrier Reef can be cool at night.  We, therefore, recommend bringing something warm to wear for the evenings (jumper/pullover/cardigan).

Large Luggage

For large luggage pieces that are not required at the reef, we offer a free luggage storage facility at Reef Encounter’s office in the city – 100 Abbott Street, Cairns, Qld 4870. It is about a 15-minute walk to the Cairns Marina from our office.

Office opening times are from 7 am – 5 pm, seven days a week. If you have selected a bus pick-up option on the morning of your tour, you may leave any large items with the bus driver, who will deliver them to our office storage facility.


What to Bring

  • For safety reasons, Reef Encounter has a ‘no shoe’ policy. Therefore, there is no need to bring extra pairs of shoes – socks are great.
  • Personal dive/snorkel equipment if you would prefer to use your own. While equipment hire is included in your booking, you are welcome to bring any personal dive/snorkel items if you wish to. (Optional extras for hire are wetsuits and prescription lens masks)
  • Cash or credit card for purchases
  • Proof of certification if you are a Certified Scuba Diver (must be equivalent to Open Water Level or above) – the Dive Supervisor will check this at the start of your trip. All persons intending to scuba dive should read the Scuba Divers Important Information page.
  • Dive medical if you intend to Scuba Dive and require one to comply with Australian Dive Regulations – See our SCUBA Divers Important Information page to avoid disappointment on your trip. IMPORTANT – dive medicals will only be accepted if they are conducted using the Australian Medical Examination Form AS4005.1 and clearly state this on the medical Certificate that you provide the Dive Supervisor onboard Reef Encounter