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Great Barrier Reef helicopter tours – tickets, prices, what to expect

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Gracing the coast of Queensland, Australia, is the Great Barrier Reef, the largest coral reef system on the planet.

As one of the world’s most ethereal natural wonders, the Great Barrier Reef is one of the seven natural wonders of the world.

Owing to its grandiosity and the vibrant marine life, the attraction is on the bucket list of most travelers and tourists.

While diving remains the all-time popular way of exploring the underwater paradise, helicopter tours are the go-to choice for people who want a unique, larger-than-life perspective of the reef system.

Moreover, let’s face it- diving doesn’t come easy to everyone.

Great Barrier Reef helicopter tours strike the right balance between adventure and playing it safe.

This article covers everything you need to know before booking a Great Barrier Reef helicopter tour.

Best heli tours over Great Barrier Reef

Numerous helicopters fly over the grand reef, ensuring that there’s a perfect option for every type of traveler.

The tours include a variety of choices in terms of itinerary, duration, and much more.

Here are some of the best helicopter rides over the Great Barrier Reef:

Great Barrier Reef Scenic Flight from Cairns

Embark on this 40-minute helicopter tour for a perspective of the Great Barrier Reef that few get to experience.

Set off on this scenic flight from Cairns.

Hovers above the vibrant coral formations and crystal-clear turquoise waters of the reef.

The unparalleled views of this natural wonder are sure to overwhelm you with its beauty.

Witness sights such as Green Island, Upolu Cay, Vlassof Cay, and Michaelmas Reef.

Take in the unforgettable views of Oyster, Arlington, Vlassof, Cape Grafton, False Cape, Double Island, and the Northern Beaches of Cairns, including Palm Cove.

The tour promises every passenger a window seat.

Cost of the tour (2+ years): A$219 per person

Ultimate Great Barrier Reef and Rainforest helicopter tour

Soar above the lush rainforest and thundering waterfalls of the Barron Gorge and the vast Great Barrier Reef on this 45-minute helicopter flight.

Soak in the exhilarating sights of Stoney Creek Falls, Green Island and Arlington Reef, Northern Beaches, and Palm Cove.

Beholding the aquatic masterpiece from the sky is a hard-to-come-by moment for the tourists who take this tour.

Cost of the tour (3+ years): A$506 per person

This tour also comes in the 30-minute option for guests who are short on time.

Whitehaven and Great Barrier Reef heli tour

If you want to see both the Great Barrier Reef and the idyllic Whitehaven Beach on your trip but don’t have enough time, this tour is for you.

In a span of 60 minutes, you will see both attractions (and much more!) from the luxury of a helicopter.

As you approach Whitsunday Island, Whitehaven Beach and Hill Inlet will come into full view to take your breath away.

Buckle up for the next destination bound to stun you, The Great Barrier Reef, where you see some of its most famous reefs, including Hook Reef, Bait Reef, Hardy Reef, and the Heart Reef.

Make way to the Shute Harbour, where you will fly past Hayman Island, Hook Island, and Molle Island Group, with Whitsunday Island and Long Island adorning the horizon.

Fly over Mount Rooper as you see some ferries and smaller reefs and islands along the coast.

A hotel pickup facility is available for this tour.

Cost of the tour (2+ years): From A$725

Inner Reef Explorer helicopter flight

Gear up for the most exciting 30 minutes of your life on this private helicopter ride over the Great Barrier Reef.

Marvel at the aerial views of Green Island, its forest canopy, Mount Yarrabah, and False Cape.

Keep an eye out for marine life, like rays and sharks from above.

Your pilot will point you to the Arlington Reef, the Queensland coastline, and the Great Dividing Range.

You can also purchase an in-flight video of your trip after landing.

Cost of the tour (2+ years): A$399 per person

This tour also comes in the 45-minute and 60-minute option.

Outer Reef Odyssey Reef Scenic Flight

Take it to the skies with the 40-minute helicopter flight over the edge of the Great Barrier Reef.

On your way to the UNESCO World Heritage-listed attraction, gaze upon the Vlasoff Cay, Green Island, and Arlington Reef.

You can purchase the personalized in-flight video after landing.

Cost of the tour (3+ years): A$499 per person

If you want to combine the experiences of cruising and flying over the Great Barrier Reef, you can get the best of both worlds in the Outer Reef cruise plus heli flight.


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Airplane tours of Great Barrier Reef

You have other aerial tour options if your choice of aircraft is an airplane instead of a helicopter.

These tours span 60 minutes.

The Great Barrier Reef plane tours offer a hotel pickup facility and, alternatively, allow you to reach the meeting point.

These tours take off from the Whitsunday Airport.

Address: 12 Air Whitsunday Rd, Airlie Beach QLD 4802, Australia. Get directions

Here are some of the best plane tours over the Great Barrier Reef:

>> Whitsunday Islands and Heart Reef Scenic Flight

>> Great Barrier Reef, Heart Reef, Whitehaven Beach & Hill Inlet air tour


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What to expect

Departure point 

Depending on the tour you have selected, Great Barrier Reef heli tours can depart from the following locations:

Address: Tom McDonald Dr, Aeroglen QLD 4870, Australia. Get directions

Address: 2 Pier Point Rd, Cairns City QLD 4870, Australia. Get directions

Address: 12 Air Whitsunday Rd, Flametree QLD 4802, Australia. Get directions

Address: 21 Bush Pilot’s Avenue, Cairns Airport, Aeroglen QLD 4870, Australia. Get directions

The heliports are near public transportation.

The tours end back at the meeting point.

There are multiple take-offs daily, so book early to get your preferred time slot.

Timings of the air tours

Most Great Barrier Reef heli rides are operational throughout the week.

The Great Barrier Reef Scenic Flight from Cairns does not run on Sundays.

The first batch of these tours may take off as early as 8 am.

The tours may continue departures in slots up to 6 pm.

Ticket Exclusions

Gratuities and food and drinks are not included in your Great Barrier Reef heli flight tickets.

These tours also exclude any personal expenses you incur during the trip.

Restrictions strictly followed

Weight limits apply for safe and comfortable Helicopter rides over the Great Barrier Reef.

A minimum and a maximum of passengers are required on these tours, failing which, they will be canceled.

The tours are not wheelchair accessible.

These tours are not recommended for people with heart problems or other serious medical conditions.

No other animals except service animals are allowed onboard.

Infants must be seated in the caregivers’ laps throughout the flight.

You must arrive at least 45 minutes prior to your scheduled time.

A valid passport or ID card is required.

Flight times are approximate subject to weather conditions.

Seating arrangements may often be in the hands of the tour organizers for a safe and stable flight.

Cancellation policy

For a full refund, cancel at least 24 hours before your tour date. 

If you cancel less than 24 hours before the experience’s start time, a 100% percent cancellation fee is applicable.

No changes are allowed within 24 hours of the experience’s start time.

Helicopter tours require good weather. 

If the tour is canceled due to poor weather or non-fulfillment of the minimum number of passengers, you may be offered a different date or a full refund.

Related Reading

Melbourne helicopter tours
Sydney helicopter tours
Uluru Helicopter Tours

Recommended Reading

How to prepare for first helicopter flight
What to wear for helicopter tour?
How to overcome fear of flying?
Why helicopter tours are fun
FAQs about Helicopter tours
Helicopter tour – how long to wait after scuba diving?

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