October 5, 2020

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Snorkeling At Fitzroy Island | A Bucket-List Destination

Imagine yourself paddling in the clear, turquoise waters, watching the colorful, tropical fish go about their day in the coral reef below.  The shade of the mangrove trees provide the perfect relief from the warm sun, and the ideal sanctuary to enjoy a cool drink. 

Welcome to Fitzroy Island!

Fitzroy Island has always been one of my favourite places in Tropical North Queensland and it’s a place I visit with friends and family when they’re in the region. 

It also happens to be one of the most popular things to do while visiting Cairns.

There’s just so much to do there and the snorkeling at Fitzroy Island always puts on a show!

Even if it’s just a day trip, it can leave you feeling like you’ve come home from a secluded paradise!…

Fitzroy Island is just a 45 minute ferry ride from the mainland, leaving from the Cairns Reef Fleet Terminal. 

the ferry pulls up at welcome bay, fitzroy island, cairns
The transfer ferry pulls up at Welcome Bay, Fitzroy Island, Cairns

I wanted to share with you everything you need to know about snorkeling at Fitzroy Island so you can get the best possible experience during your time there. 

First things first though, I recommend catching this ferry to the island. It will give you the most possible time to not only snorkel, but also to enjoy some of the many other things to do on Fitzroy Island. 

The Coral Beaches of Fitzroy Island

Fitzroy Island is a continental island, meaning that it actually used to be attached to the mainland. Around 8000 years ago though, it separated, and dead coral started collecting on its beaches, 

While the coral can be difficult to walk on if not wearing shoes, it’s uniquely beautiful, and offers a unique advantage when it comes to snorkeling at Fitzroy Island. 

Less sand on the beaches mean that there’s less to be stirred up in water currents or winds. 

As a result, the visibility while snorkeling at Fitzroy Island is typically very good.  It’s one reason why those turquoise waters are crystal clear and so darn alluring! 

Snorkeling at Fitzroy Island, Queensland

If you’re intending to snorkel at Fitzroy Island, I recommend picking up a pair of reef shoes before you go.  You can buy them from Kmart or Big W for about AU$8, and they’re 100% a worthy investment. 

RELATED POST: Green Island or Fitzroy Island for Snorkelling?

Stinger Suits

During the warmer months, North Queensland sees more jellyfish in their waters which can sting the skin, and in some cases cause serious risk to humans. 

It’s recommended to wear ‘stinger suits’, which are essentially very thin wetsuits, between the months of November and May. 

Although they can make you look a bit like a sea lion, they prevent jellyfish stings, and also the added benefit of preventing sunburn. 

You’re more likely going to see stingers close to the mainland, which includes both Fitzroy Island and Green Island. 

In saying that, it’s certainly not impossible to see stingers at the outer reef and it is still recommended to wear stinger suits, regardless of where you’re jumping in. 

You can hire stinger suits from the Fitzroy Island Dive Centre when you get to the island, or, if you intend to spend a number of days at the reef and you prefer to have your own suit, you can buy them online

Snorkeling at Fitzroy Island

If you have your own snorkel equipment, bring it along and enjoy the beautiful reef that awaits just on the water’s edge of the island! If you don’t have your own, you don’t need to miss out on snorkeling on Fitzroy Island. 

Snorkel Hire Fitzroy Island

The Island Dive centre has snorkel sets available to hire for around $15 for the day, or you can even choose ferry transfers that include snorkel hire. 

If you’re not a confident swimmer, you can also hire lifejackets and VU boards (kickboards with viewing holes in them to see the reef from above) from the Fitzroy Island Dive Centre too as floatation devices. 

Best Places To Snorkel On Fitzroy Island

Welcome Bay to Nudey Beach

If you’re a confident swimmer, try snorkelling from Welcome Bay (where the ferry drops you off) all the way around to Nudey Beach. 

It’s like spending 20-30 minutes immersed in a magical underwater world that’s so beautiful that it’s difficult to explain. 

I’ve done this swim a few times and found a big beautiful red octopus that got a little shy and swished off under a rock to hide.  I’ve also been fortunate enough to see manta rays and turtles off the shores of Fitzroy Island. 

You’ll find an abundance of corals, fish and more which is close to the shore line.  You’ll then end up on the beautiful Nudey Beach where you can relax on the white coral sand beach.

Large ancient boulders and sandy beach at Nudey Beach, Fitzroy Island, Queensland

Take in the sights of the large ancient boulders emerging from the pristine turquoise waters before snorkelling your way back again.

If you’re travelling with others who would prefer to walk to Nudey Beach, you can meet them there. 

Northern End of Welcome Bay

The other spot I recommend snorkeling is down past the Turtle Rehabilitation Centre – turn left as you come off the Jetty and walk down about 5 minutes. You’ll find access down to the beach from the road on the left side.

If you follow down just past the sign marking the start of the summit hike, there’ll be a walking track down to the waterline which is easy to miss, but when you arrive you’ll find a rope swing that someone has made with driftwood. 

It’s great fun for the kids, and the perfect Instagram shot for the adults! 

This is normally where I see turtles the most, and because most people can’t be bothered moving away from the main jetty, you really get a lot more space to yourself. 

Nudey Beach

Nudey Beach is much sandier than Welcome Bay, making it easier to get in and out of the water. 

Overlooking Nudey Beach, Fitzroy Island, Queensland

It also means, however, that if Fitzroy Island has had some windier weather, it can get a little more stirred up. 

Being on the Southern side of the Island, Nudey Beach is also more likely to be exposed to wind compared to Welcome Bay which is sheltered from Easterly winds by the mountains on the island. 

You’ll also find that you need to go further from the water’s edge to see large amounts of coral and marine life. 

Typically, if I’m snorkelling at Nudey Beach, I’ll stick to the more Western edge where the large boulders are as there is more marine life to see, and on windier days it can be more sheltered. 

Fitzroy Island Snorkeling Tour

The Fitzroy Island Snorkeling tour steps it up a notch. 

You’ll jump aboard a small tender boat with your guide, a marine biologist where you’ll start your 60 minute journey on your Snorkel Safari Tour. 

He/she carefully navigates the boat to a ‘secret spot’ they’ve been saving just for you. You and your group jump into the warm tropical water, tilt your face down and suddenly you’re in a completely different world. 

Your personal marine biologist explains to you about the different types of corals, sea cucumbers, fish, turtles, and any other interesting things you might see while exploring this beautiful part of the reef. 

If you’re a first time snorkeller or a bit nervous, there is also a 35 minute Snorkel Experience Tour designed just for you where the guides will ease you into the technique of snorkelling and help you feel safe and secure. 

All In All

Fitzroy Island is an incredible paradise island. It’s home to many Green Sea Turtles, tropical fish, and the perfect place to explore the Great Barrier Reef without going too far from the mainland. 

Snorkeling at Nudey Beach, Fitzroy Island, Queensland

The snorkeling at Fitzroy Island is some of my favourite snorkeling in the region, and I believe it to be, in many cases, just as good as going to the outer reef, although the marine life can vary slightly. 

If you found this helpful, remember to save this pin to your Cairns and North Queensland board on Pinterest, and leave me a comment below to let me know when you plan on visiting the beautiful Fitzroy Island, Cairns, Australia!


the complete guide to snorkeling at Fitzroy Island Tropical North Queensland Australia

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 for all your great info. We are planning on visiting next week.
    Do you suggest packing a picnic ? Are there areas to leave bags etc

    Kind regards


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