Day Trips to the Islands
Cairns has several coral cays and reef-fringed islands within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Less than an hour from the city wharf, Fitzroy Island is a rainforest-covered national park, with a coral beach and great snorkeling right off the shore. Green Island is a coral cay with snorkeling equal to that of most other places on the Great Barrier Reef. It is also a popular diving spot. You can visit it in half a day if time is short.
Fitzroy Island Scenic Fitzroy Island is 45 minutes from Cairns. Daytrippers visit the island for snorkeling and diving, glass-bottom-boat rides, watersports, rainforest walks, or hikes to the lighthouse at the top of the hill. A day trip can cost as little as the round-trip ferry fare: A$74 adults or A$47 for kids 4 to 14 (for a little extra you can order a picnic lunch pack, too). A kiosk on the beach hires snorkeling gear, coral viewing boards, paddle skis, and stand-up paddling boards, or you can book aglass-bottom-boat tour. Check the website for packages that might save you a few dollars. Departure from Cairns is at 9am, returning at 4:30pm daily. Make reservations through Raging Thunder Adventures ( tel. 07/4030 7990; www.ragingthunder.com.au). Raging Thunder also runs daily guided sea-kayak expeditions around the island. These include snorkeling gear, lunch, and stinger suits (Nov–May), the return ferry trip, 3 hours of kayaking, and then you can stay on the island for the rest of the day. Tours cost A$134, but you must be at least 14 years old.
Green Island This 15-hectare (37-acre) coral cay is just 27 km (17 miles) east of Cairns. You can rent snorkel gear, windsurfers, and paddle skis; take glass-bottom-boat trips; go parasailing; take an introductory or certified dive; walk vine-forest trails; or laze on the beach. The beach is coral sand, so it’s a little rough underfoot. Day visitors have access to one of the Green Island Resort pools, its main bar, the casual or upscale restaurants there, and lockers and showers. Ask the beach staff to recommend the best snorkeling spots. The island has a small attraction called Marineland Melanesia( tel. 07/4051 4032; www.marinelandgreenisland.com), where you can see old nautical artifacts, a Melanesian artifacts collection, a turtle and reef aquarium, and live crocodiles, including Cassius, at 5.5 meters reputed to be the largest croc in captivity in the world. Admission is A$18 for adults, A$8 for kids 5 to 14; croc shows are at 10:30am and 1:30pm.
Great Adventures ( tel. 07/4044 9944; www.greatadventures.com.au) and Big Cat Green Island Reef Cruises( tel. 07/4051 0444; www.greenisland.com.au) run to Green Island from Cairns. Both offer a range of half-day and full-day trips with lots of options. Half-day trips with snorkel gear or a glass-bottom-boat cruise with both companies cost from A$84 for adults and A$42 for children 4 to 14. Both pick up from hotels in Cairns, the northern beaches, and Port Douglas for an extra cost.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.