Family Snorkeling trip from port Douglas

As the Great Barrier reef is so large there are a number of options where you can book an excursion.  We were looking for a family snorkeling trip on the Great Barrier Reef which offered a small boat, informative, easy access to the reef and plenty of swimming time.

Most commonly the departure points tend to be from Cairns or Port Douglas (mainly, because these are the areas with multiple sites). But there are other options too, such as lady Musgrave, Lady Elliott, Magnetic Island and Whitsundays.


Which tour?

You can spend hours researching, and even when we arrived, we were unsure which boat and your ticked all our boxes. I was originally swayed towards quiksilver, but Keith less so. After our discussion with the campsite manager we were sold. Here was our pros and cons:

Both tours offered free equipment, such as stinger suits, snorkels and flotation devices.

Quiksilver cruise


  • Larger boat with bigger capacity
  • Good for non swimmers due to ‘extra activities’
  • Pontoon base for ease and rest time, especially good for sufferers of sea sickness as you get off the boat
  • Microbiologists on board
  • Snorkeling tour available (additional cost)
  • Additional ‘non swimmer’ activities (additional cost)


  • Large group sizes
  • Restricted snorkeling area
  • Only 1 snorkel base
  • Departure is at 10am so you only arrive at 11.30am when buffet lunch is served immediately. (A family who went said they wanted to get snorkeling so missed the best lunch selection)


Wavelength cruises


  • Local, but modern, boat run by locals
  • Microbiologists on board
  • Snorkeling tour (included in price)
  • Max 40 passengers
  • Departure 8am, arriving at first site around 10.30am.
  • Option to move around to 2 more sites.
  • Flexibility to go where the best conditions are.
  • Dedicated snorkeling boat, no divers


  • Minimum age 8 years
  • No changing facilities, so come prepared.
  • Not great for non swimmers. Although floatation aids are provided – it’s best to have a fair level of fitness and swimming. I’m not a pro, but I can swim lengths in a pool (as a gauge).

Other boats in the area were Reef runner, which claims to have quicker transfer times but there’s no facilities on board!.  Posiedon was very similar to Wavelength but it also catered for divers so wasn’t a dedicated snorkelling boat like we wanted.

Wavelength cruises

So yes, you may have guessed we chose wavelength. It ticked all the boxes!

We boarded in an orderly fashion.  The boat was full on our outing but we didn’t feel crowded. There was a seating area upstairs (mainly outdoor) and tables and chairs downstairs.  

Lunch was served after the first five. There was a selection of salads and vegetarian dishes with breads. Plus there was tea, coffees and cake at snack times.


Marine Knowledge

This was a big plus for us. All the staff on board were marine biologists. But there was one guy that Ethan made a bee-line for – Paul. He was the lead on the (free) snorkel tours.

Not only was his knowledge phenomenal but he’s also worked with Steve backshall, who is Ethan’s Idol. Needless to say, he spent the whole time filtering this poor man around the boat asking questions!

Luckily, he didn’t mind. Anyone with that much passion loves someone who listens and he had Ethan’s undivided attention!

In addition to this, he also gave talks to the passengers to explain what we might see, where to go and what we find after. It was very informative!

Ethan was very pleased and immediately looked up one of his favourite finds (pictured here).


Sea sickness

We chose a day when there was a swell of up to 2m – you can’t choose the weather. So, it was recommended to take sea sickness tablets. They won’t force you, but it’s a once in a lifetime experience – and I didn’t want to take the risk. As it was we were all fine. I find fresh air, looking at the horizon and distraction are good tools to prevent illness.

I do worry that the kids will get sick and then that has a dominoes affect, but actually after taking the tablets – we were all ok.  I take kwells (there is a kwells junior).

Unfortunately there were a number of people who were not so lucky and did suffer. However, they still got out snorkelling so didn’t miss out.  Bear this in mind if you do suffer, as there is an alternate low isles tour which is a shorter journey – but less reef views.


When it came to getting into the water there was a platform at the back for you to put your fins on slide or jump in.

I had 2 woggles for the boys as the waves were quite choppy and so they could use them as and when they needed to. As it happens, they hardly used them and I spent most of my time chasing them around.

Jasper snorkeling

Jasper snorkeling

They were having a blast!

Ethan snorkeling

Ethan snorkeling

The snorkelling was everything we expected and more. There were some shallow areas and some deeper sections.  The crew guided us to where we should go and the best areas to head to.

Colourful fish

We saw so many fish and the reef was in fairly good condition – better than I expected!

Clown fish

We saw clown fish, bat fish, angel fish, sea cucumbers, giant blue starfish, loads of huge parrot fish, a group of massive barracuda’s, a turtle and do much more!! Woo hoo. It was like swimming in an aquarium.

Bat fish

Unfortunately, we didn’t see any reef sharks but others on the boat did. It was great fun!!

During our third snorkel, the boys and I did start to tire! It was a fun packed and energetic day!


Epic!! Just a thoroughly fun, family friendly activity. The amount of marine life we saw was brilliant. It was life swimming in an aquarium. We were well looked after on Wavelength and the trip was a great success! The boys were just grinning!!

Happy snorkeling

Highly recommended!!

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