Its the worst time of year to go.
Middle of the wet/monsoon season, middle of the cyclone season, middle of the marine stinger (deadly jellyfish) season - though with the jellyfish you can be kitted out with a full body stinger suit.
Even though February is one of the least desireable times to visit the Cairns region, plenty of people go then and enjoy themselves.
You can take a snorkel tour and the boat will provide you with a stinger suit to wear. You can take tours of (or self-tour) Daintree NP, Mossman Gorge and/or Kuranda, but you will have to be prepared for high humidity and rain. You cannot swim off the beaches. (Some areas have stinger nets and people will swim within the confines of the net. I would not do it.)
Is the condition in February any better farther south, such as at Lady Elliot Island?
Yes much better at LEI - it gets recommended a lot on this forum to visitors wanting to experience the GBR but are planning on visiting during the wet in the tropical north.
February is the worst time to be in Cairns unless you love extreme humidity or staying inside in the air conditioning. You won't be able to swim in the ocean due to marine stingers. There's every chance you will get caught in a cyclone or bad weather.Edited: 30 December 2016, 06:59
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