Taking a day trip to Fitzroy Island is a must-do when visiting Cairns.
Fitzroy Island National Park is in Far North Queensland, Australia. It’s about 22 kilometers (14 miles) east of Cairns. The local Aboriginal people are known as the Kobaburra.
I took two trips to the island while living in Cairns. It’s one of my favorite places for a relaxing beach day, a quick snorkel, and a glimpse at lesser-seen Aussie wildlife (like cute little sea turtles — Crush and Squirt, duuuuude!)
How to get to Fitzroy Island
There are SO MANY different ways to get to Fitzroy Island. Lots of tour companies in Cairns, as well as the island resort itself, have boats. If you feel a little bit overwhelmed by choice, don’t panic. You get a similar experience with each option.
Your choice depends on what you want to do and what supplies you already have. When I lived in Cairns, I went twice with two different suppliers.
Here are the main differences:
This option includes
- Round trip boat from Cairns to Fitzroy Island
- Boxed lunch on the island
- Snorkeling gear and access to the water trampoline
If you are looking for more of an all-inclusive type of deal, go with this one. There won’t be any surprises as you’ll spend the day swimming, snorkeling, and sunning yourself without worrying about food or equipment.
Just bring a few things along with you:
- bathing suit
- change of clothes if you want to be dry
The last one is completely optional. Plenty of folks just ride the boat back to town in their swimmers wrapped up in a towel. Cairns is a beach town, after all. So you won’t stand out.
One last thing about this option: you can’t eat the boxed lunch provided at the tables in the local restaurant. Even though the tables are outside, they are still part of a licensed venue, so no outside food or drink is allowed. I got yelled at by security for eating there. Save yourself the grief and go down to the beach instead.
Book your all-inclusive day trip to Fitzroy Island Resort by clicking here.
Fitzroy Island Resort
This is more of a DIY option.
If you don’t want to go snorkeling or have your own equipment to bring, there is no use paying for a package that includes a rental. You can also just bring your own lunch if you want, or eat at the restaurant on the resort’s property. I remember it being pretty delicious and having classic Aussie pub food. There was also a small shop to buy snacks.
If you only want to go for a half day, this option also works because there are a few more departures throughout the day.
Bring along the equipment for whatever you would like to do.
Book your transfer-only day trip to Fitzroy Island by clicking here.
What happens if I miss the boat on Fitzroy Island?
Try your best not to miss the boat. I know we typically don’t do things like this on purpose, but sometimes we get sick, there is traffic, or we oversleep. It’s a good idea to have some travel insurance to cover your butt, just in case.
If you miss the boat going to Fitzroy island, you might have a few options.
Call your tour provider or stop by their office in Cairns ASAP. You might be able to go on a later boat that same day. You might also be allowed to transfer your reservation to the next day. In some cases, you might be eligible for a partial refund, or use your credit towards traveling with another company.
If you miss the boat on your way back, it’s a lot harder to sort out.
You might be able to call a water taxi to come to get you in some extreme cases, but this tends to be pretty expensive. In this case, it’s better to just book a room at the resort and enjoy your night on the island.
In any case, call your tour provider to see if you can take the boat back to Cairns in the morning. I remember two of the employees for the scuba diving boat I worked at while living there missed their shift because they missed the boat.
That was an awkward phone call for them to make. I think they ended up sleeping on the beach.
Things to do on Fitzroy Island
Fitzroy Island Summit hike
The hike was hard.
It’s only a 3.6 kilometer (2.2 mile) hike, but the gain in elevation was insane. It is a loop, but no matter which way you decide to go, you’ve got a big climb ahead of you. I chose to climb up the side with the roads and come down the steps. I ran into a group of gals who did it the other way near the top.
Both of us wanted to throw up with effort. Although there was also a gentleman who ran past us. Apparently, he runs to the summit all the time. If you are quick and fit, you can probably do the circuit in about 90 minutes, but it took me twice the time.
If you are on the slower end like me, do the hike first thing, so you don’t risk missing the boat later on. It offers great views of Cairns, nearby Green Island, and of course, the Great Barrier Reef.
Fitzroy Island is a national park in and of itself. However, it is part of the Great Barrier Reef National Marine park, too. By snorkeling Fitzroy Island, you can tell all your friends back home that you really did try and find Nemo.
If you struggle with seasickness, it’s a great option to snorkel here because you can look at fish and coral right off the shore without hours on a boat or pontoon.
You will see lots of great marine life, like sea turtles, colorful fish, and probably even a jellyfish or two. I had an unfortunate run-in with one. Luckily, it wasn’t one of the deadly kinds and I was just left with an itchy thigh instead of a trip to the hospital.
I don’t think that scuba diving on the inner reef is as good as taking one of the dive boats to the outer reef. Snorkeling off the island is likely your best bet, but if you want to go diving, you can. Just stop by the tour desk on the island first thing in the morning to book a time.
Kayaking and Stand Up Paddle Boarding
You can rent these on the island if that’s more your thing. You have lots of freedom and can even circumnavigate the entire island if you are up to it! Just be sure to return your rentals on time, so you don’t pay any fees.
No, it’s not a nude beach. It’s actually super family-friendly! And, Nudey Beach is constantly ranked as one of the most beautiful beaches in all of Australia. This is saying a lot because there are thousands of them.
The short walk from the boat terminal to the beach is easy, although there is a little bit of scampering over rocks at the end. The beach itself is picture perfect and a can’t miss on your day trip to Fitzroy Island.
I was swimming here on my own and taking a few photos, when a black tip reef shark ran right into my leg! Luckily, he was more startled by the encounter and swam right away, but I’ll never forget the encounter.
Whether you bring your own, enjoy a box lunch from your tour provider, or stop into the resort restaurant, the views during your Fitzroy Island day trip make everywhere the perfect place to grab a bite.
Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Center
My friend had a contact at the center, so we got to visit and learn about the work they do there for free. It was one of the highlights of my trip, as we learned the story of the turtles currently in care there.
Currently, you can book a Turtle Talk through the Fitzroy Island resort. Availability is always changing, so if you are interested, be sure to speak to the resort in advance of your visit to confirm the most updated advice.
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