Picture yourself snorkeling the colourful Great Barrier Reef reef and clear waters while your family or friends watch on from under the coconut tree-lined beach.
This is the reason why year after year, Cairns, Australia proves to be the destination of choice for millions of visitors.
Some aim to escape cold winters, others simply dream of visiting the magical tropics of North Queensland and creating . This incredibly picturesque place in the world is where both the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest meet. The culture and diversity in the region makes Tropical North Queensland a bucket-list destination for any traveller.
Visiting the Great Barrier Reef is a dream for many, and for good reason.
There’s something truly inviting about dipping your toes into the tropical waters and witnessing the magical underwater world that awaits below the surface.
Fitzroy Island is my favourite island off the coast of Cairns Australia.
It also proves to be the choice of many others who are visiting and want to experience those unforgettable moments of snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef.
Fitzroy Island lands squarely in my list of best things to do in Cairns…
And while snorkeling on Fitzroy Island is an experience you should NOT miss, there so many other things to do on Fitzroy Island too.
I wanted to share these with you so that you can get the most out of your time on the island and create some truly remarkable memories.
First things first though I want to fill you in with everything you need to know about visiting Fitzroy Island.
To get the absolute most out of your day on Fitzroy Island, I recommend booking these ferry transfers for the most time possible to explore the island for a day trip (9 hours 45minutes)
Where Is Fitzroy Island Located?
Fitzroy Island is just 29km (18miles) off the coast of the beautiful Cairns, Far North Queensland, Australia.
You can get to the island by transfer ferries which only take around 45 minutes and run multiple times a day and are air-conditioned for comfort.
Alternatively, if you’re fortunate to have your own yacht, you can actually hook onto a mooring at Welcome Bay and access the island that way.
The island sits nestled into the inner Great Barrier Reef, and is home to many sea animals including turtles, parrot fish, clown fish (nemos).
If you’re visiting in the cooler months (July-September), you might even be be fortunate enough to see whales on their migration path.
Being so close to Cairns, it means that it’s possible to visit Fitzroy Island for a half-day if that’s all that your itinerary allows or if you are travelling with young children that would struggle with a full day.
Getting To Fitzroy Island
Fitzroy Island Ferry Booking
There are a few different companies which offer ferries across to Fitzroy Island and back, each running at slightly different times… The rates for all the companies are all quite comparable at around $83 per adult.
All of the ferries leave from the main Pier/Reef Fleet Terminal in Cairns City. Aim to be at the terminal/boat at least 30 minutes before your departure time.
You can get a full comparison table of Fitzroy Island Ferry times and optional extras here. Each option has a link for you to check rates and availability and book your tickets online.
Fitzroy Island Ferry Parking
When we travel to Fitzroy, we always park in the underground Shangri La car park beneath the Pier.
Parking is ticketed, so you’ll grab a ticket on the way into the car park, and pay the balance before you leave.
The first 2 hours of parking here is free, but a full day at Fitzroy Island will cost you around $10-$12 in parking.
I also recommend parking here if you are heading out for dinner on the Pier because it’s the most convenient car park, and it won’t cost you a cent if you’re there for less than 2 hours.
There is additional parking in an open air car park beside the Pier, but this costs about the same amount. And, we prefer to have our car under cover so that it is secure and isn’t a hot box when we return.
Once you’ve parked your car under the Shangri La, you can take the lift up to the ground floor and you’ll come out in the Shangri La lobby.
Head out the doors and straight across the gardens to the Reef Fleet Terminal and check-in where specified on your ticket.
If you’re feeling lost, the staff at the Shangri La are always helpful to point you in the right direction.
Fitzroy Island Dive Shop
Fitzroy Island Resort has a dive shop where you can hire a range of different equipment to keep you busy exploring this magical island.
It can be the perfect time to try something you’ve never done before like Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP), sea kayaking, Vu Boards, snorkelling or even scuba diving for certified divers… you’ll be with a guide.
21 Things To Do On Fitzroy Island
1. Fitzroy Island Scuba Diving
There are a few different dive sites on Fitzroy Island – either straight from the beach, or from a tender boat, giving you the best possible experience on the day.
Which location you end up going to will depend on weather, and the season. Although, it doesn’t really matter which location you dive at, because the dive sites are equally beautiful and full of marine life who seemingly love being on display.
The visibility at FItzroy Island will depend on the season and the weather. If we’ve had a few windy days or it’s around coral spawning time, visibility can drop. But typically you can expect visibility somewhere between 5m and 15m which is plenty to have a good experience snorkeling.
Keep in mind that the depth of the water is generally quite shallow, typically maxing out at around 15metres, so visibility is rarely an issue.
All of the equipment and paperwork for scuba diving on the island is provided by the operators, so you don’t need to go lugging your own equipment on the ferry and trying to find somewhere to store it throughout the day.
2. Fitzroy Island Snorkeling
Snorkeling is easily the most popular thing to do on Fitzroy Island because the reef is simply spectacular and it’s right on your doorstep.
You can either bring your own snorkeling equipment to the island, or hire it from the dive shop and return it before you leave.
There are some seriously breath-taking places to snorkel on Fitzroy Island that will no doubt leave you with incredibly fond memories.
3. Island Snorkeling Tour
If you’re wanting to take the snorkeling up a notch, join in on the 60 minute snorkeling tour. They’ll take you and your group on a tender boat to some secret spots with a private marine biologist who will teach you all about the different corals and marine life that you come across.
4. Fitzroy Island Sea Kayak Hire
Hire a Sea Kayak from the dive centre and explore Welcome bay. You can either hire your own kayak, or hire a double and get your significant other to do all the paddling while you take in the views!
5. Fitzroy Island Sea Kayaking Tour
The Sea Kayaking Tour on Fitzroy Island goes for 60 minutes and the guide will take you all the way from Welcome Bay where the ferry drops you off, all the way around the other side of the island to Little Fitzroy Island.
You’ll also have the unique opportunity to snorkel off of Little Fitzroy Island and Shark Fin Bay before making your way back to Welcome Bay.
You can read more about my experience with this tour here.
6. Fitzroy Island Kayak Hire
If you want to go kayaking but you want the freedom of exploring yourself, rather than a guided tour, you can hire kayaks from the Fitzroy Island Dive centre.
Keep in mind, that when hiring the kayaks, you’re asked to stay within Welcome Bay and not make your way around the other sides of the island including Nudey Beach and Little Fitzroy Island.
7. Stand Up Paddleboarding on Fitzroy Island
Stand up Paddleboards are also available for hire on Fitzroy Island Dive Centre.
Welcome Bay is quite sheltered from the wind, so even on windier days, paddleboarding is still possible and incredibly beautiful.
8. Giant Ocean Trampoline
As your ferry pulls onto the Fitzroy Island jetty, you certainly won’t miss the intriguing looking ocean trampoline waiting for you in front of Foxy’s Bar.
It sounds like a bit of a challenge doesn’t it? A big ocean trampoline in front of a bar?
Either way, the giant ocean trampoline is a big hit with the kids, but adults definitely take their turn at it too!
9. Fitzroy Island Glass Bottom Boat Tour
Glass bottom boats are a perfect option for families who don’t want to get wet or are nervous swimming in the ocean.
Traveling as a family with young kids, elderly or people with mobility impairments can leave you wondering if the things to do on Fitzroy Island are actually going to be suitable…
If you can relate to this, the glass bottom boat is the perfect option!
You’ll see loads of marine life and coral as the guide navigates over some of their favourite parts of the reef. One ferry company will bundle up the Glass Bottom Boat into a package deal with your ferry to the island.
10. Fitzroy Island Turtle Rehabilitation Centre
The Turtle Rehabilitation Centre on Fitzroy Island is run by volunteers, and was set up to help nurse sick and injured turtles back to health before returning them to the Great Barrier Reef.
The tours of the Fitzroy Island Turtle Rehabilitation Centre only run at 1pm, and the spots book up really fast.
If you want to join in on the Cairns Turtle Rehab Centre Tour, make sure you either pre-book your tour or get on the earliest ferry to the Island. Make sure you head straight to the desk to secure your spot.
I’ve heard many people say that they missed out on seeing the Turtle Rehabilitation Centre because they booked the 9am boat instead of the 8am boat and didn’t know they could prebook a spot.
If you have your own boat, you can cruise the fringes of the island of Fitzroy Island and snorkel its reef.
I also know people who have cruised over to the island, had dinner at Foxy’s Bar, then went back to their boat to sleep (they had a 2 berth yacht)!
Of course, if you have a boat, you also have the luxury of doing a spot of fishing!
Fitzroy Island has an abundance of marine life surrounding it, with many reef fish that provide excellent fishing opportunities.
Keep in mind, though, that the waters surrounding Fitzroy Island are part of the national parks, so there are strict rules for zoning, sizes and bag limits.
You can find out more about what you can and can’t do in terms of fishing from the GBR Marine Park Authority Website.
13. Enjoy A Beer and Lunch at Foxy’s Bar
Foxy’s Bar is in the most idyllic location overlooking the calm turquoise waters of Welcome Bay, Fitzroy Island.
For many, one of their favourite things to do on Fitzroy Island is simply sitting back, enjoying a cold beer and connecting with their friends and family as they watch the day go by.
You can check out more about food on Fitzroy Island here.
Take A Hike
On the flip side, there are the people who just love to be active.
Bring your hiking shoes and your sunscreen!…
Because, Fitzroy island is large enough to have a few really good hiking tracks for you to jump on.
14. Secret Garden Track 1km return – 45 minutes
15. Nudey Beach Track 1km return – 45 minutes
16. Boulder Lookout 300m return – 30 minutes
17. Lighthouse Road 3.6km return – 2 hours
18. Summit Track 2.6km return – 3 hours
You can learn more about these hikes here.
Stay the Night – Fitzroy Island Accommodation
19. Fitzroy Island Resort
Fitzroy Island Resort is the only resort on the island.
It has 99 rooms, a resort pool, Zephyr Restaurant, spa, swim-up pool bar, in-room and poolside massage service, a tour desk, movie theatre, kids games room, table tennis and a kids playroom.
The resort simply has everything you need whether you’re travelling solo, as a couple, or as a family.
It’s the perfect location for a honeymoon, babymoon, or any other type of moon!
Fitzroy Island Resort has a number of different room types including studio apartments, suites, cabins and bungalows. Some of these have kitchenettes and laundries, others do not.
20. Fitzroy Island Camping
Fitzroy Island also has a camping ground on the island. You can sleep up to 4 people in a tent, which costs $37 per night for an unpowered site.
There’s a well-maintained shower block, beachfront BBQs, and an eating area for you to use while camping.
It’s just a short walk to the jetty and straight across from the beach.
The campsite only has space for around 20 tent sites so bookings are essential.
21. Junior Marine Biologist Program
Fitzroy Island run an educational junior marine biologist program where you kids can get involved and learn about the beautiful Great Barrier Reef.
There are both wet sessions and dry sessions, so even if your kids don’t want to get in the water, or are a bit nervous to do so, there are activities for them on land.
The sessions are suitable for kids aged 6yrs+ (8yrs + and confident swimmers for the wet sessions)
These sessions are run on Sundays and are available regardless of whether you are staying at the resort, or whether you’re a day visitor.
If your kids want to get involved, you can pre-book your tours here.
The sessions last around 3 hours.
Final Tips Before Visiting Fitzroy Island, Cairns
The Main Beach Is Not Sandy
Fitzroy Island beaches (other than Nudey Beach) are mostly made of coral that has died and collected from winds and water currents. This has nothing to do with global warming or coral bleaching.
The Island was believed to have formed around 8000 years ago when it separated from the mainland.
Because the main beach is made up of coral, it isn’t very comfortable to walk on without shoes.
I highly recommend bringing reef shoes, aqua socks, Crocs, or some sort of waterproof sandal with you to make getting in and out of the water easier.
You can pick up a cheap pair for around AU$8 before you go from either Kmart or BigW.
Although walking on the beach is more difficult, it actually means there is less sand to be stirred up on windy days.
For this reason, Fitzroy Island often has better water clarity when snorkeling than other islands around Cairns.
Wear Stinger Suites In Warmer Months
During the months of November through to May, the water temperatures are higher, and therefore there are higher numbers of stingers (jellyfish) in the waters.
To stay safe from being stung from jellyfish, it’s recommended that you wear stinger suits while in the water.
To Sum It Up
If you’re looking for that true paradise island experience, Fitzroy Island is your go to! There’s so many things to do on Fitzroy Island, regardless if you’re the ‘relax by the bar’, or the ‘adventure seeker’ kind of person!
Remember to pre-book your ferry to Fitzroy Island to get your first choice in ferry times.
If you found this helpful, let me know in the comments below what you plan on doing during your trip to Fitzroy Island!
And, remember to save this pin to your Cairns, North Queensland board so you can refer back to it later!