Posted October 24th, 2013, 11:47 PM
Last edited by GradUT; October 24th, 2013 at 11:49 PM
I've been to Port Douglas 5 times and snorkeled with a variety of providers. Our "go-to" company is Wavelength and we have snorkeled with them on each of our 5 visits. I think they are the best at what they do--provide a snorkel-only trip in a small boat (30 passenger maximum) to the Outer Reef.
BUT....that may or may not be the best choice for your family. On our first visit to Port Douglas, our kids were 12 and 9 years old and had never snorkeled before. The 12-year-old was a confident swimmer, but the 9-year-old was not. We decided to take them on a trip to the Low Isles first to give them a chance to snorkel off a beach as opposed to snorkeling in deep water at the Outer Reef. Also, it gave us the chance to explore the island so we weren't snorkeling the whole time. While the coral, as reported by Murgat, is not the best, it is still acceptable and you will see plenty of fish and, perhaps, even sea turtles. We went out with Sailaway and they had a glass bottom boat ride included which I did with my son and he really liked that. Both kids ended up enjoying the snorkeling and did it so well that we did a trip to the Outer Reef with Wavelength a couple of days later.
AND....while I'm not a fan of the big boats that go to fixed pontoons (too many people for my tastes), they do offer amenities which appeal to families--glass bottom boat rides, semi-submersible rides, underwater viewing platforms and a larger area to spread out (Wavelength does not have that luxury.) If you want to go to the Outer Reef, but you don't think your kids will want to be in the water the entire time (as you would do on Wavelength), then a boat like Quicksilver may be a good choice for you.
SO...it all comes down to a few factors: 1) confidence of children in water, 2) amount of time kids are likely to want to be in the water, 3) desire for more amenities than just snorkeling, 4) deep water (Outer Reef) vs. beach snorkel (Low Isles), and 5) small boat vs. medium boat vs. large boat. There's no one "best" choice of boat--you just have to choose what's best for your family.
(Also, since you only have 2 days in PD, I would not wait until you get there to book, especially if you are going out with one of the smaller boats. Book your trip in advance and hope for good weather. BTW, when are you going?)