A guide to seeing to Great Barrier Reef – for non swimmers (yes, it’s possible!)

Do you want to see the Great Barrier Reef, but feel a bit worried because you aren’t able to swim? You’d be surprised how many times I’ve had someone tell me they feel they can’t see the reef because they don’t want to get wet. Don’t worry – lots of people feel this way and there are many options for non-swimmers.

Scenic flight

I’m a big believer that you can’t really grasp the full scale of the GBR until you’ve seen it from the air. With 3,000 reefs stretching 2,300km it’s almost impossible to grasp from seeing just a tiny portion on a day trip. So why do the day trip at all if you can’t swim anyway – splurge your cash on a scenic flight!

If you’d like to see the reef via helicopter then GBR heli are my favourites. For those who’d like to save a little cash consider flying over the reef with GSL aviation.

great barrier reef non swimmers sunlover pontoon

The Sunlover boat and pontoon from above – look how much more reef there is to explore!

Glass bottom boat

This is like snorkelling but staying dry, as a boat with a glass section in the middle drives over the shallow parts of the reef. It’s usually accompanied by an informative talk and you can ask questions at the same time. This is a great option if you also get seasick as there’s no enclosed sides meaning lots of fresh air!

When you travel on Ocean Freedom you can take as many rides in the glass bottom boat as you’d like! However the rest of the day is very water based, so might not be for you.

great barrier reef non swimmers glass bottom boat

Seeing the reef and staying dry


If a glass bottom boat is the non swimming equivalent of snorkelling, then this is the non swimming equivalent of scuba diving! You sit in an enclosed area underneath the surface of the water, getting almost 360-degree views out at the reef. It feels more immersive than the glass bottom boat and you can see a lot further and get a better scale of the reef.

OceanSpirit offer a trip on a semi sub included in their price – as well as a free glass of bubbly on the way home!

great barrier reef non swimmers semi sub

So, it’s super hard to get a photo in a semi sub you guys.

Pontoon and underwater observatory

Of course to take a glass bottom boat or semi-submersible you need to get out to the reef first! Many people think there’s reef just off the coast, but in actual fact you need to take a boat out around30km before you start to get any reefs. There are lots of large pontoons you can travel to on a day trip, which are like big semi-permanent structures on the reef with plenty of space to walk around. These often have an underwater observatory underneath where you can sit and watch the fish like an aquarium – except they’re free range fish this time!

I love the underwater observatory on Sunlover. If the staff find broken coral on their snorkel tours they bring it back to the ‘coral garden’ where it was grow ready to be implanted back in the reef!

great barrier reef non swimmers underwater observatory

What do you mean I’m a poser, this is totally natural!


Many people would love to scuba dive but just don’t have the swimming ability. Enter the seawalker, a modern version of the old timey helmets that divers would use. You simply walk along underneath one of the pontoons, assisted by divers and breathing as you normally would. Get the experience of breathing underwater without needing to swim!

You can take a seawalker on any of the pontoons, and there’s also the option to do it on Green Island! Prices areusually around $140-$160.

great barrier reef non swimmers seawalker

So, I’m pretty sure that’s a fake turtle in the basket. Pretty sure.


This activity might look absolutely hilarious but it’s a great way to explore more of the reef if you can’t swim! Much like the seawalker you are breathing with your head in a special helmet, only this time you are on a device that allows you to scoot around the Great Barrier Reef.

You can take a scuba-doo ride on the Great Adventures platform!

great barrier reef non swimmers scuba doo

The most hilarious mode of transport you can use – fact.

If you really don’t want to get wet (or don’t have a choice!) then I would absolutely recommend a platform for your trip. There are going to be a huge variety of activities for you to choose from and you’ll be able to see the reef in a number of different ways.

So there you go – there are so many ways to see the reef if you can’t swim! Can you think of any more?

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