September 16, 2020

fitzroy island queensland australia aerial shot

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A lot of people visiting Cairns have limited time to see as much of this beautiful region as they possibly can. This typically means they really only have one chance to experience the beauty of one of Cairns’ tropical islands. Because of this, it’s a fair question to consider whether it’s Green Island or Fitzroy Island for snorkeling. So in this blog, I’m going to break down which of the Islands I’d recommend because choosing the right island could make or break your time visiting the island.

Green Island or Fitzroy Island For Snorkeling?

In terms of what you’re likely to see in the waterwhile snorkeling, I believe that Fitzroy Island win this hands down.

Nudey Beach at Fitzroy Island offers some of my favourite snorkelling in FNQ!

However, there are some circumstances where I would recommend going to Green Island over Fitzroy Island.

Other than Nudey Beach, the majority of Fitzroy Island’s beaches are actually made up of coral, rather than sand.

Other than Nudey Beach, Fitzroy Island has coral beaches

Because Fitzroy’s beaches are coral, if you’ve had some windy days on the reef, the water is more likely to have better clarity than the sandier Green Island.

The coral beaches mean you can see further and the colours can appear brighter. However, I recommend picking up a pair of reef shoes to make getting in and out of the water more comfortable.

Green Island, however has sandy beaches, making it much easier to get in and out of the water.

Sandy beach at Green Island, Cairns Queensland

Both islands are around 45 minutes ferry ride from the Cairns Reef Fleet Terminal, but in terms of size, Fitzroy Island is much larger than Green Island.

Related Post: Top Ten Things To Do In Cairns Australia | The Ultimate First Timer’s Guide

The ferry to Fitzroy Island will drop you to a small jetty on the western side of the island which provides protection from Easterly winds. As a result, the snorkelling is normally much more comfortable than Green Island even when the weather is windy.

Day Trip Passengers arriving at Fitzroy Island, Cairns, Queensland

What Marine Life Will You See At Fitzroy Island Vs Green Island?

Marine Life at Fitzroy Island

I’ve been to Fitzroy Island countless times, and every time seems to be a new experience. I’ve seen everything from clown fish (Nemos), to turtles, black tip reef sharks (don’t worry, they won’t eat you!), parrot fish, turtles, red octopus and everything in between.

Because the island is so large and the reef is so close to the edge of the water, you have an enormous region to explore and discover.

Marine Life at Green Island

Green Island is much flatter, so the water actually stays shallower off the beach of Green Island than it does on Fitzroy Island.

There is less coral off the beaches of Green Island, so you aren’t as likely to see the same variety in marine life as Fitzroy Island. However, you will still find colourful fish parrot fish swimming around you. I promise you’ll never forget the sound of a parrot fish grinding it’s ‘teeth’ together underwater, it’s a crazy experience!

Parrot Fish, Queensland Australia

Although there is less coral at Green Island than Fitzroy Island, Green Island has an abundance of sea grass. This is essentially a grazing platter for Green Turtles.

Green Sea Turtle, Queensland Australia

Seeing turtles at Green Island obviously can’t be guaranteed, but if your dream is to swim with wild green sea turtles while visiting the Great Barrier Reef, you have the best chances of doing this on Green Island.

Green Island or Fitzroy Island for Snorkeling with Kids

Both islands are just a 45 minute ferry ride from the Cairns Reef Fleet Terminal, and can be visited in a half day. This is perfect for families with young children who may not cope with a very long day.

Fitzroy Island has really beautiful coral reef and marine life. However, I typically recommend visiting Green Island if you’re visiting with young children.

The reason for this is that sandy beach is much more comfortable for young children to walk on compared to the coral beach.

The only sandy beach area on Fitzroy is Nudey Beach which takes around 10-15 minutes to walk to on a bitumized walking trail.

The view from our picnic rugs with kids on Nudey Beach, Fitzroy Island, Queensland

The track is not suitable for a pram, but if you’re happy to carry small children (plus any of your baggage) Nudey Beach is a beautiful option for the kiddies.

It’s also worth considering that the water gets deeper much more gradually on Green Island than Fitzroy Island.

It’s much safer to let the kids paddle in the water if they aren’t confident swimmers. It’s also a really good practising ground for kids who are snorkeling for the first time and need without coral and rocks to worry about.

Sun and Stinger Protection on the Islands

During the hotter months (approx Nov – April), it’s recommended that people swimming wear ‘stinger suits’ which are essentially very light weight wetsuits. This is to protect the skin from jellyfish stings.

Keep in mind that the Australian sun can be quite hot, and sun protection is obviously very important, especially with young children.

These stinger suits are also really useful for preventing sunburn.

However, if you’re travelling with very small children, there often aren’t any stinger suits available in such small sizes, which can be really disappointing if you’ve made all the effort to go over there and you can’t take them for a swim.

As a workaround, we take a set of Bonds Wondersuits with us which essentially does the same thing as a stinger suit. It fits them perfectly and it does the job!

During the cooler, winter months, it is not necessary to wear a stinger suit while snorkelling.

In Conclusion

When it comes to choosing either Green Island or Fitzroy Island for snorkelling, I personally prefer Fitzroy Island. This is because of the greater variety of marine life that I’ve seen compared to Green Island.

In saying that, as mentioned earlier, there are circumstances where I would recommend going to Green Island, as both the islands and the experience they provide are quite different.

If you found this helpful, remember to save this pin to your Far North Queensland, Australia board on Pinterest and let me know in the comments below which island you’ll be travelling to!

About the author 

Kate Mannion

Hi, I'm Kate! Mum of 2, and Cairns local for the last 7 years. I love taking photos (although I still have a lot to learn) and taking the drone up to see this beautiful region from a different perspective. I hope to help you have a once-in-a-lifetime experience while visiting the region! 

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  1. Thanks, Kate.
    Good information. I am wondering how accommodation and facilities stack up? Which is the more comfortable and affordable stay- Green Is or Fitzroy?

    1. Hi Sherry! Thank you for your comment! I’m glad you found this useful.

      Green Island definitely has more facilities on the Island – it’s the more ‘touristy’ of the two, although there is less International travel at the moment, so there are less ‘day travellers’ around.

      It is typically more expensive to stay on Green Island than Fitzroy Island. I have not stayed overnight at Green Island because the price range is quite a bit higher – so it’s just been day trips for us.

      Many who choose to visit the islands will stay there for one or two nights then spend the rest of their time in Cairns.

      Fitzroy Island has a reasonable sized resort. They have a bar called “Foxy’s Bar” which has typical pub meals, as well as a restaurant called Zephyr which is a bit more of a ‘dining experience’. They also have a kids play room, swim up bar, cinema, etc.

      The resort at Fitzroy have self-contained accommodation, which is what we normally opt for. You’re welcome to bring your own food onto the island (just no alcohol as you can buy it as takeaway from the bar). They also have bungalows and a campground… depending on what type of experience you’re looking for.

      I have always had a good experience at Fitzroy Island and I highly recommend it to friend and family whenever they visit.

      I hope this helps 🙂

    1. Absolutely! Green Island’s a great choice for kids. The sandy beaches make it so much easier for the kids to get in and out of the water. Glad you love it as much as I do!

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