cairns island attractions
- green island
- fitzroy island
- double island
- scouts hat island
- frankland islands
- low isles
- lizard island
- cape york islands
- dunk island
- bedarra island
- hinchinbrook island
- orpheus island
- tips for cairns islands
Off the coast of Cairns are a number of spectacular tropical islands … the jewels of the Great Barrier Reef.
The closest island to Cairns is the coral cay, Green Island. This island underwent a major renovation about 10 years ago which saw it change from family cabins to a luxury resort which includes a number of restaurants and a helipad.
The majority of visitors to the island are day trippers who enjoy the white sandy beaches, public swimming pool, Marineland Melanesia – home to some of the largest crocodiles in captivity – an underwater observatory, island walks and glass-bottomed boats.
Green Island also offers diving and snorkelling tours as part of a number of dive sites in the area, a coral walk with a marine biologist, food outlets and some resort-style shopping.
Next closest to Cairns, and the larger of the two, is the idyllic tropical Fitzroy Island.
On Fitzroy Island, there are a number of beaches, a swimming pool, snorkelling and other water sports equipment available and diving classes as part of a number of dive sites in the area.
Fitzroy Island Resort is the only resort on the Island and offers guests the opportunity to intimately discover the magic of the Great Barrier Reef and rain forest combined. Fitzroy Island resort has been newly renovated and boasts various accommodations. Camping is also available, as is mooring facilities.
The accommodation at Fitzroy island resort is brand new boasting a hundred 4 star room made up from a combination of studios and apartment suites with ocean front balconies additionally there are also are 6, 4 star beachfront cabins.
The resort has pool with a swim -up bar, games room, a cinema and all the usual facilities found within a modern island resort. The dormitory accommodation no longer exists but is planned be developed.
The beach front campground has with shower and BBQ facilities and is fully open and operating. The resort also has a general store that sells grocery items, bbq packs, snorkeling gear as well as selling alcoholic beverages.
Foxy's beach front bar is now also open and features live music most weekends and is popular with the local boating, fishing and yachting fraternity that call into the island. Foxy's looks out over Welcome Bay and can be found along the trail that leads from the jetty and resort to Nudey Beach.
The National park is fully open and trails are open and being utilised every day.
A 35 minute ferry ride will get you from Cairns to Fitzroy Island and back daily, perfect for day trips to visit the Great Barrier Reef. Ferry services depart from Cairns Reef Fleet Terminal at 9:30am daily and return transfers depart Fitzroy Island at 4:30pm.Visiting the Island in your own yacht or boat gives you even more freedom to take things at your own pace, with the 15 nautical mile trip from Cairns offering a safe passage along scenic coastline. At Fitzroy Island you’ll find secure moorings in naturally sheltered waters for private vessels. Public moorings are located at Latitude 16 deg 93.0S, Longitude 145 deg 98.6E
The bulk of the island is a national park and there are a number walks across the island, including a track to a lighthouse on the north of the island. The walk to the summit is a more difficult track to the highest point on the island. There are usually two access points, the Lighthouse Rd and the Fitzroy Island resort access.
The lighthouse was built in 1970 and is currently used for an information display. This was the last staffed lighthouse purpose-built in Australia.
Fitzroy Island offers a unique experience for people of all ages.
Two private islands, Double Island and Scouts Hat Island sit close off the coast at Palm Cove, 20 minutes north of Cairns. Double Island Resort is available for hire and is quite expensive – Keanu Reeves stayed there for a few months after filming the Matrix movies.
There are no day-trippers to Double Island and this island offers a very private holiday. There are 10 rooms with marble bathrooms and private balcony and 10 apartments with lounges and dining area. There are also “safari” rooms located just metres from the water; these canvas tents offer a rustic, “back-to-nature” experience for visitors.
Double Island is privately owned and is offered only on a “bare-island” tariff. This means the basic tariff doesn’t provide for food, beverages or staffing other than those involved in island transfers, water sports supervision and daily room servicing. Guests have the entire island to themselves other than the owner and manager’s accommodation areas. The management will assist guests with choosing suppliers and staff to meet the required needs.
Double Island is a fabulously exclusive holiday option for visitors who must have privacy and would make the perfect spot for a celebrity wedding.
Another great day trip is a visit to the Frankland Islands which is a ideal for snorkelling and some fantastic diving. There is only one tour operator that heads to the Frankland Islands group and numbers are limited so this is a great alternative to an island reef trip.
The lesser known, but extremely beautiful Frankland Islands are just off the coast of Cairns. The five Frankland islands – High, Normanby, Mabel, Round and Russell – offer visitors excellent beaches, snorkelling and a more exclusive getaway.
There is also some fantastic diving to be found at Round Island. Visitors can walk across the islands, but there is no accommodation and camping is only allowed by permit on Russell and High islands.
>> Permits can be obtained from Queensland Parks & Wildlife
Access to Normanby Island is restricted from September 1 to March 31 due to nesting seabirds. There is only one company that offers day trips to the Franklands. Frankland Islands Dive & Cruise operates out of the Reef Fleet Terminal on the Esplanade.
Other islands in the Cairns region include Low Isles, 15km off Port Douglas, home to an old lighthouse and lots of birds. The two coral cays situated on the western edge of a main shipping channel and a lighthouse was first recommended for the spot in 1876.
The current lighthouse is 18m high and was constructed on a timber frame with a galvanised iron sheath which was typical of the period. The building was finished in 1878.
Originally oil burners were used for the light but these were changed to vaporised kerosene in 1923 and to electricity in 1963. Its most recent upgrade was to solar power in 1993 when the last lighthouse keeper left.
The lighthouse island has thick tropical vegetation which makes for a great shaded area for visitors during day trips. The second island has little cover and is home to a number of seabirds. There is no overnight accommodation or camping allowed.
Low Isles is a Marine National Park and no fishing is allowed in the lagoon or within a buffer zone around the island. Diving and snorkelling tours to the isles are easily available with most leaving from Port Douglas.
Lizard Island’s remote location to the north of Cooktown, luxury resort and pristine surrounding reefs mean it is rated as one of the finest getaways in the world. No children under the age of 12 are allowed and there are no day-trippers on the island.
Discovered by Europeans when Captain Cook made his way up the coast, Lizard Island was a sacred place for the people of the Dingaal tribe and they called it “stingray” because of its shape.
About 100 years after Cook named the island, Captain Robert Watson and his wife Mary made the place their home and ruins of their cottage can still be seen.
Getting to Lizard Island is fairly easy. Daily flights from Cairns take about an hour to the island. Visitors in Cooktown can take a boat and private boats can anchor in the main bay near the resort.
Lizard Island offers brilliant diving and snorkelling thanks to the national park status of its surrounding waters. The resort can supply snorkelling gear, small boats, diving equipment and a glass-bottomed boat. As part of a national marine park, fishing and collecting artefacts, including shells, is prohibited.
The Lizard Island Resort offers luxurious accommodation and is popular with Australian and international celebrities. The open-plan villas are designed to bring the outdoors inside but include every conceivable luxury a visitor could desire. There are 40 villas of differing designs available.
There is an excellent restaurant at the resort and picnic hampers are available for guests to take on outings around the island.
Camping is also allowed on the island although facilities are fairly simple with a pit toilet, fireplace and water. There are no supplies available on the island including fuel for the fireplace as wood is protected.
For more information about camping on Lizard Island can be obtained from Queensland Parks & Wildlife
Just 35km north of the tip of Australia is Thursday Island, the business and trading centre for the Torres Strait’s 122 islands. It has a fascinating history with its role in World War II, the pearling industry and a rich island culture.
Award-winning Poruma Island Resort is a 25-minute flight from the Strait’s airport on Horn Island. It has two Polynesian style bures at the ocean’s edge.
Haggerstone Island, 600km north of Cairns, is so remote it requires a charter flight and a boat trip to get there. The four guesthouses all have magnificent sea views and welcome children.
Just a short boat journey from Mission Beach are Dunk and Bedarra islands which both have resorts. Day trippers are welcome at family‑friendly Dunk where there is a range of water sports, golf and rainforest walks.
The rainforest on Dunk Island is a unique experience in the Great Barrier Reef area, only matched by Hinchinbrook Island further south.
Dunk is a popular spot for family holidays offering a range of activities to keep the entire family entertained including horse-riding, tennis, all watersports, squash, an artists’ colony and a children’s program with its own meal times and structured activities.
There is a variety of accommodation available with configurations for families or more romantic spots tucked away on the beachfront.
Bedarra Island, on the other hand, is for the exclusive use of guests who can help themselves to French champagne from the 24-hour self-service bar.
Children under 12 years are not catered for on Bedarra Island and, as only 32 guests allowed at any one time, this is the spot for complete relaxation and exclusivity. Bedarra is a popular spot for celebrities from Australia and around the world.
The accommodation villas are hidden from each other and have their own lounge rooms and balconies. The cuisine is particularly enticing and the five-star menus are changed daily with emphasis on locally produced tropical foods and seafood.
There are great opportunities for diving, snorkelling, sailing and day trips to the outer Great Barrier Reef as well as in-house massage and romantic beach picnics.
Hinchinbrook Island, just 5km from Cardwell, is the largest national park island in the world and is uninhabited except for one low-key environmental resort.
It attracts thousands of bushwalkers each year with bookings taken a year in advance for the world-class 32km Thorsborne Trail.
The Hinchinbrook Island Wilderness Lodge caters to a limited number of guests and although children are welcome, there are no child-minding facilities or scheduled activities.
The lodge is an eco-friendly operation with a rustic, natural feel but service is complete with excellent dining options. Likewise, guests are expected to make their own entertainment but if visitors are interested in pristine nature, tropical rainforest walks, empty beaches and great fishing, Hinchinbrook is the perfect spot.
The world-famous Thorsborne Trail was named after naturalists Margaret and Arthur Thorsborne. Only limited numbers of people can walk the trail at any one time and it must be booked at least 12 months in advance.
Visitors can camp on the island at the Macushla or The Haven campsites which offer toilets, picnic tables and barbecues but water is not available. Camping permits are necessary and need to be booked in advance.
>> Permits can be obtained from Queensland Parks & Wildlife
A 60-minute scenic flight from Cairns will take you to Orpheus Island, 190km to the south. The resort offers its 42 guests a world without telephones, television, day trippers and children under 15.
Orpheus Island is north of Townsville and just east of Ingham and can also be accessed by boat. There are also camping sites on the island which is a national marine park. Camping sites need to booked and fees apply for camping permits.
The resort facilities are only available for guests but there are plenty of walks, pristine beaches and excellent fishing available on the island.
Resort facilities include small boats, snorkelling gear, fishing gear, tennis and canoes. For an extra charge, guests can go diving, charter a seaplane or do an outer Great Barrier Reef trip.
>> Permits can be obtained from Queensland Parks & Wildlife
- Trips to Fitzroy and Green islands are great for kids and access for people with mobility issues can be organised – Green Island is especially good for this
- Boats leave for Fitzroy and Green islands twice a day and return twice a day from the Reef Fleet Terminal on Pierpoint Rd at the Esplanade
- Visitors can combine a half day on an island with an outer reef trip to a pontoon or with another activity
- Although it may be wet in Cairns, it is often dry on the island; or vice versa. Take a jacket just in case, particularly if travelling home on the last boat
- Visitors can fly to Lizard Island from Cairns in a light aircraft
- Tours to the various islands in the region can be booked from Cairns