1 Day Scuba Diving Tours

Are you short on time but still want to see as much of the Great Barrier Reef as you can? A 1 Day Scuba diving trip is a golden ticket to the reef’s best underwater vantage points.

Best 1-day Great Barrier Reef Scuba Diving tours

  1. 1 Day Reef Magic Moore Reef Tour from Cairns

  2. 1 Day Cruise Whitsundays Hardy Reef Tour from the Whitsundays

  3. 1 Day Outer Barrier Reef Experience from Cairns

  4. 1 Day Adrenalin Dive Yongala Wreck Scuba Tour from Townsville

  5. 1 Day Poseidon Outer Reef Cruises Tour from Port Douglas

What happens on a Scuba diving day trip?

There is a huge variety of day trips available to Scuba divers depending on:

  • where you’re leaving from
  • what you want to see
  • how long you want to spend on the reef
  • your level of Scuba experience
  • what other activities you want to try

Day trips generally depart early in the morning – any time from 7am, weather permitting – and return to the mainland before sunset. Depending on the tour, day trips visit at least one and sometimes up to three different dive sites on the reef. Most day trips stick to the inner reef or islands closer to shore however, some tour operators have fleets of faster vessels that can ferry divers to the outer reef in a day.

The most popular dive spots either have a permanent mooring where tour boat tie up or even a large pontoon or platform anchored at the reef’s edge where boats can dock and passengers can disembark.

TIP: Most day trips provide meals, either included in the ticket price or as an option to purchase onboard. Morning tea is taken on the boat trip out to the reef, lunch is served between dives and afternoon tea is dished out on the return journey.

Types of 1-day Scuba Diving Tours (click to explore)

How long will it take to get there?

Journey times to the reef depend on:

  • where you depart
  • the location of each diving spot
  • how fast the boat is

A trip to the outer reef, even in a high-speed catamaran, can still take two hours while some islands and inner reef dive spots can be reached in 30-60 minutes. On average, it’s best to factor in 60-90 minutes travel time each way. Rest assured, all tour operators are committed to maximising your time under the water, not just on it!

Where do I leave from?

One-day tours depart daily from major ports and towns along the central and north coast of Queensland including:

How long do I have on the reef?

Again, this depends on the tour operator and the type of day trip you’ve booked. Most One-Day Scuba Diving Tours aim to spend five to six hours on the reef, not including the journey to and from the mainland. This is ample time to Scuba dive several times as well as snorkel, swim and even try extra activities such as Glass Bottom Boat Tours or a scenic helicopter tour.

How many dives can I do in one day?

Many one-day tours aim to visit two dive sites, giving you a chance to dive at least twice. You may even be able to squeeze in a third dive, depending on the tour you’ve booked and the time you have available. Talk with your tour operator to plan the best day trip for you. Some tours offer all-inclusive Scuba diving while others book Scuba dives on a pay-as-you-go basis so you can choose how many times you dive once you’re out on the reef.

What sort of dives can I do?

Instructors will factor in your level of experience as well as the time available at each site when helping you plan your day. Novice divers can take part in guided dives of the reef, partnered with an instructor one-on-one or in a small group while more experienced, certified divers can explore the Great Barrier Reef at their leisure with a dive buddy.

Some parts of the reef are relatively shallow and dives rarely descend lower than 15-18 metres while other sites, particularly at the outer reef, can reach down to 35 metres and are suited to people with Advanced Open Water Diver certification or higher.

TIP: The deeper waters of the outer reef are rich with unforgettable experiences for adventurous and seasoned divers. As well as an abundance of marine life, the coral reef is home to a dazzling array of caves, walls and drop-offs as well as spectacular formations you can swim through.

Do I need to be certified to join a 1-day Scuba Diving Tour?

The Great Barrier Reef is the most breathtaking of classrooms in which to learn the basics of Scuba diving and a one-day tour provides a wonderful opportunity to master those new skills. Many tours cater to first-time and uncertified divers and offer specially-tailored Introductory Scuba Diving experiences but it’s vital you confirm this with the operator before booking a tour.

Some day trips are designed specifically for experienced divers and these dedicated dive boats offer very little for passengers who aren’t certified.

What should I bring?

As most day trips leave early in the morning, it’s best to take your time and pack a small bag the night before with a few essentials to ensure your day trip is comfortable.

Use this checklist to ensure you don’t forget anything:

  • A copy of your ticket or booking confirmation
  • Your diving certification and log book
  • Your Dive Medical Assessment papers, if required
  • Sunscreen – even in winter the Queensland sun can burn
  • Firm-fitting hat or cap that won’t blow off on your boat transfer
  • Sunglasses – the water is quite dazzling when sunlight hits the surface
  • Swimwear, including a protective lycra sunshirt or spare t-shirt
  • Towel
  • A light jumper or jacket – you’d be surprised how cool the afternoon trip back to shore can feel after a full day in the water
  • A water bottle you can refill throughout the day – it’s important to stay hydrated
  • Extra snacks in case you work up an appetite
  • Any medication you need as well as anti-nausea tablets if you’re prone to motion sickness.
  • A credit card or small amount of money in case you’d like to buy drinks, snacks, souvenirs or additional services and activities such as an on-board massage or scenic helicopter flight
  • A book or small game – some boats can take up to two hours to reach the reef and young children, in particular, may need a distraction
  • Any Scuba equipment of your own you’d like to use
  • Cameras and video equipment

What shouldn’t I bring?

  • Leave your jewellery, watches and any other valuable or non-essential personal items behind.
  • Avoid bringing electronic items such as game consoles, laptops and tablets – there’s no network coverage at sea, just a lot of salt water and sea air that can damage components.
  • If you do bring valuables or large amounts of cash aboard, be sure to leave them with staff while you’re Scuba diving or swimming.

TIP: Many of the boats and pontoons do not permit smoking or restrict smoking to certain areas and times. Be prepared to leave cigarettes at home and pack alternatives such as patches or gum if needed.

Do I need my own equipment?

The World Heritage-listed reef draws divers from across the globe and lugging a full Scuba kit halfway around the world isn’t always practical. Tour operators understand this so most stock their boats with all the equipment you’ll need to Scuba dive, from masks and fins to stinger suits and full air tanks. The cost is usually included in the tour price. Some specialised day trips and charters require divers to supply their own equipment but operators are happy to help you hire what you need.

Can I bring my own equipment?

Of course! Let your tour operator know when you book your day trip what equipment you plan to bring and whether you need anything from them, for example, an air tank refill. That way, they can make room for your gear on the dive deck.

What else can I do on a 1-day Scuba Diving Tour?

If you’re not sure you can spend a whole day Scuba diving or if you’re just looking for a way to while away the time between dives, many tours offer a host of extra activities. Larger tour boats and those that moor on pontoons anchored next to the reef provide the most variety. Some are included in the tour price and others are available for a small fee:

  • Snorkelling
  • Glass Bottom Boat and Semi-Submersible Tours
  • Underwater viewing platforms
  • Talks and tours by marine biologists and reef experts
  • Massage
  • Seabob Underwater Jet tours
  • Scenic helicopter flights
  • Seaplane flights

If your boat anchors near an island, other activities you can try include:

  • guided walks and organised tours
  • hikes and trail walks
  • swimming

Talk to your booking agent and speak with staff onboard if there’s something you’d like to try.