Explore the reef up close, watch vibrant marine life in their natural habitat and view colourful coral – all without getting wet.
Stay dry while you explore the Great Barrier Reef on a fun, safe tour for non-swimmers of all ages. Guests board a boat fitted with either a thick, clear floor or transparent walls that sit below the waterline. Each guided tour takes 15-30 people and cruises leisurely over the reef for 20-30 minutes.
These are our staff picks with each tour offering Glass Bottom Boat Tours:
This is a fun, safe activity the whole family can enjoy. It doesn’t matter if you can’t swim or snorkel, or even if you’re a little scared of fish, you can still enjoy breathtaking views of the Great Barrier Reef from the comfort of a Glass Bottom Boat. Learn more about this natural wonder from the expert guides on board who are more than happy to point out interesting sites, teach you about the history of the reef and share fun facts about the abundance of marine life you’ll see through the glass panels.
From sharks to shipwrecks to schools of tropical fish – whatever lies beneath the surface, you can see from the comfort of your cosy, dry Glass Bottom Boat. The Great Barrier Reef is 2300km long so what you see through the glass panels will depend on:
No two tours are ever the same! When the tide is low, coral appears brighter as the sunlight can better penetrate the water and bring the vibrancy of the reef to life.
Glass Bottom Boat tours glide leisurely through the water so there is plenty of time to marvel at the underwater wonders. Be sure to pay attention to the tour guides – some of whom are marine biologists – as they are a wealth of information about the reef. They can share fascinating insights about the coral, fish, turtles, clams and stingrays you’ll see as you glide past.
TIP: If you’re visiting a pontoon with an underwater viewing observatory, it’s worth visiting early in the day before swimmers and divers start splashing about. If it’s a clear day and visibility is good, you’ll get a taste of what’s below deck.
There are many wonderful ways to peek below the waves without getting wet.
Glass Bottom Boat tours are usually offered on half-day and full-day tours to the reef and occasionally from the mainland. The boats, kayaks and semi-submersibles are moored on large pontoons anchored at the edge of a reef or on islands dotting the Great Barrier Reef. Tour operators schedule several Glass Bottom Boat tours daily so check with a crew member when you arrive on the pontoon or island for departure times.
The Great Barrier Reef is a joy to visit at any time of the year, so Glass Bottom Boat tours depart year-round. Peak tourism season is usually from September to March – the Southern Hemisphere’s spring and summer months. It’s a little quieter after Easter so April and May are great if you want to avoid large crowds.
In winter, an injection of fresh water flushes out the reef and makes visibility crisper and clearer. These cooler months are the perfect time to take a Glass Bottom Boat tour as it will be easier to spot all manner of marine life and sea creatures under the surface.
TIP: If you’re eager to see turtles, check out the tours that leave from Bundaberg.
Absolutely! Glass Bottom Boat tours vary in length from 10 minutes to 30 minutes with operators scheduling several a day to cater to day-trippers. Some of the larger pontoons even operate multiple Glass Bottom Boats and semi-submersibles at the same time. If you’d like to take a Glass Bottom Boat tour, make sure you check the frequency of their departures, where they leave from and what time the last tour will be to ensure you don’t miss out.
Follow these guides to make sure you get the most out of your reef visit:
It is unlikely. Glass Bottom Boat tours operate in calm, shallow water and travel very slowly so you don’t miss a thing. But if you are prone to seasickness or worry there’s a chance you may fall ill, it’s best to be prepared and bring anti-nausea medication.
No. Glass Bottom Boats travel very slowly so would take far too long to reach the reef. There’s also not much to see though the viewing panels as you navigate the deeper waters between the mainland and the reef. A ferry, catamaran or sailboat is a much more efficient and faster way to reach the reef, whether your destination is a pontoon or an island.
Boats differ in size depending on the destination and operator. Typically, a Glass Bottom Boat can accommodate between 15-30 people at a time.
Again, the duration varies depending on the destination, operator and the demand for tours. They usually take 20-30 minutes.
If your Glass Bottom Boat tour leaves from a pontoon, you will have the opportunity to do the tour more than once as it is covered in the cost of your ticket. Keep in mind though, this is subject to demand and availability. Tour operators want everyone to have an enjoyable day on the reef so will often give priority boarding to guests who have not already taken a tour.
Some tour companies and operators cover the cost of Glass Bottom Boat tours in their travel packages, others offer it as an optional activity at an additional cost. The best thing to do is speak to a travel expert or tour operator about what activities you’d like to try on the reef then explore different tour options together.
Glass Bottom Boats have an open deck, but most are fitted with a canopy. However, the Queensland sun can be hot, even in winter, so it’s best to apply sunscreen before you go out on the water and wear a hat and appropriate clothing to protect your skin.
Yes! Glass Bottom Boat tours are a safe, fun and enjoyable way for young children to see the reef. They will enjoy unobstructed views from their seats making it the perfect activity for all ages.
Unfortunately, no. To board a Glass Bottom Boat, passengers must be able to negotiate two moving platforms – a walkway or gangplank and the boat itself – and climb a few stairs to the viewing platform. No chairs are permitted on the boat other than its fixed seating.
What you see depends on water visibility and the weather but in perfect conditions, you may be able to see as far down as 10m. Shallow water offers the best view of coral as sunlight can easily penetrate the surface and light up the reef.
Only the floor of the boat is made of glass and usually only a large panel in the centre. In semi-submersible boats, the walls and not the floor are made from glass. You cannot stand or walk on the glass.
Typically, you can only snorkel from the pontoon or the island, but this does vary between tours. Speak to a travel expert to see what packages are available.
Yes! The Great Barrier Reef is 2300km long and home to thousands of species of sea creatures and coral. The water temperature varies along the reef, enticing different varieties of marine life. The northern stretch of the reef is home to an abundance of tropical fish and vibrant corals while the southern end is home to colonies of turtles and manta rays.