Looking at spending some time on a tropical island on the Great Barrier Reef during your stay in the Cairns area? Two of the most popular Islands off the coast from Cairns is Green Island and Fitzroy Island; both with lovely tropical vibes, and within close proximity of Cairns, making them hot spots to visit for the day or stay a few nights at the Island Resorts. Both Green Island and Fitzroy Island have full day or half day ferry transfer options, and resort style accommodation if you are considering a romantic or a family getaway.
So Which Island Is Better, Green Island or Fitzroy Island? What Is The Difference?
Both Green Island and Fitzroy Islands are well sought after tropical destinations, and unfortunately most visitors are unable to visit all the islands and reefs off Cairns, so they have to make the choice between Green Island and Fitzroy Island. Hence the question “Which Island is better, Green Island or Fitzroy Island? “and “What is the difference between these two tropical islands on the Great Barrier Reef?”
The biggest questions to ask yourself is who am I travelling with and what are their capabilities and travel desires, in other words what do they expect out of their day on Green Island or Fitzroy Island? Do you have a young family or travelling as a multi-generational family, do you need to take into consideration the ease of getting in and out of the water and water safety. What about the activities and facilites that each island offers visitors? Does any of your party have disabilities or accessability issues, if yes read our disabled traveller information page before booking your Great Barrier Reef tours.
These are very difficult questions to answer, as it really comes down to personal preference and what kind of island experience you are looking for. So what distinction separates these two very beautiful islands? We'll try to provide you with all the facts, and key characteristics of each island along with facilities and activities they have to offer to assist you in making the perfect island choice for you....
Green Island is actually a mature Coral Cay with a rainforest that with over time has grown on it. This has occurred by seeds that have either been dispersed by birds or have floated to the cay. Green Island is unique in that it is the only Coral Cay out of approximately 300 on the Great Barrier Reef that is home to a rainforest.
The Island is relatively flat and is approximately 12 hectares surrounded by a sandy beach - and at low tide you can walk around on the beach in approximately 30 to 40 minutes. Being a flat island, entry in to the water is shallow and gradually becomes deeper when swimming out or snorkelling out from the beach. This makes it ideal for families with young children or for not so confident swimmers and snorkellers.
Take a look at our Great Barrier Reef tour travel tips for safety on the reef.
Green Island offers many activities and amenities, as well as a choice of places to grab a bite to eat. There is the ease of a flat boardwalk amongst the rainforest on the island for a self-guided interpretive tour which is of great benefit to parents with prams or anyone relying on walking aids.
Green Island has many access areas into the water, with one area that is manned by lifeguards. Green Island also has a swimming pool available to day visitors who travel with Great Adventures Cruises.
There is a Crocodile Habitat called Marineland Melanesia on Green Island with several large Estuarine Crocodiles including ‘Cassius’ the largest crocodile in captivity. Marineland Melanesia also features some Sea Turtles, Aquariums, Melanesian Tribal Art as well as Historical Nautical Artefacts.
For families with young children, Green Island is probably the preferred island due to the shallow waters of the beach, the soft sand along with the number of activities and amenities available including the swimming pool access.
Green Island Eco Resort also offers private guest facililities including a Resort Pool and additional inclusions for those that choose an Island getaway. The island resort offers 4.5 star resort suites for couples and families for a truely tropical island experience.
Green Island Optional Activities & Attractions
- Snorkelling from the beach
- Off shore snorkel excursions*
- Glass Bottom Boat Tours*
- Semi-Submersible SubmarineTours*
- Scuba Diving [Off Shore]*
- Sea Helmet Walker Diving*
- Self- Guided Interpretive Eco Island Walk
- Scenic Helicopter flights over the reef [10 min or 15min]
- Sea Kayak Hire
- Beach Lounge Chairs & Umbrella Hire
- Beach Volley Ball
- Marineland Melanesia Crocodile Habitat & Nautical Museum
- ‘Oiled’ Massage Parlour
Keep in mind - these *optional activities should be booked when you book your transfers to avoid missing out.
How to get to Green Island from Cairns?
Green Island is easily accessible from Cairns by boat ferry or by Scenic Helicopter Flight.
Distance to Green Island from Cairns by boat: 45 mins to 60mins (depending on operator) & 15mins by Helicopter (Helicopter to Green Island is one way with a Fast Catamaran for the return to Cairns)
Green Island Half Day Tours from Cairns are great for those short on time with a choice of morning or afternoon half day options. Green Island Full Day Tours offer more time on the island for extra Island and reef activities, relaxing on the beach or just soaking up the tropical island vibe.
Green Island Amenities
Change Rooms, Showers & Toilets [Including disabled toilets]
Swimming Pool [For day visitors travelling with this tour operator ONLY]
Lunch, Snacks & Beverages
- Canopy Grill - Café style lunch such as burgers, fish and chips, or wraps and rolls
- Lite Bites - Ice-creams, milkshakes, Soft Drinks, Juices and snack foods
- Aussie Buffet - Hot & Cold buffet [Canopy Grill]
- Reflections Pool Bar - Cocktails, Beer, Soft Drinks, Coffee & Tea by the pool
- Hot & Cold Buffet served aboard Big Cat – Optional extra (MUST BE pre-booked) Hot & Cold Buffet Lunch served on the Big Cat while moored at the Green Island Jetty [only available on Big Cat Cruises full day departures]
Overall you can see why Green Island is a popular choice!
Fitzroy Island or Green Island which one is the right choice for me? Which one is the most popular island off Cairns?
Nestled just off the coast of Cairns, Australia lies the mountainous tropical island of Fitzroy Island. With its breathtaking views and rugged landscape, it's no wonder that it's a favourite destination for hikers and nature enthusiasts alike. The island is blanketed in lush tropical rainforests complete with a stunning Mangrove-lined creek and home to some fantastic hiking trails suitable for all physical capabilities.
But Fitzroy Island isn't just for the hiking enthusiasts. Kayakers will delight in exploring the coves and Little Fitzroy Island, which is located just north of Fitzroy. And for history buffs, the Summit/Lighthouse walking circuit features historical monuments that still exist from World War 2 along the track and the discovery of the Secret Garden walking trail.
As for the beaches, they are separated by large granite boulders that form several coves around the island. The main beach at Welcome Bay where the ferry docks is protected from the weather's elements by the island's mountains, making it generally quite placid and is predominately made up of coral rubble rather than sand so reef shoes are recommended, especially for kids.
The eastern section of the beach is sand so best to park yourself there for the day if you have young children or older travellers as the beach offers relatively gentle sloping acces into the water. But the real gem is Nudey Beach, a quiet location that can only be reached via a short rainforest walk. It's no wonder it's one of the most photographed beaches in Australia, with its natural beauty even being named Australia's number one beach by some. Although it is a more private beach, please note that it is not a nudist beach.
Fitzroy Island is also home to a Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Centre, where sick and injured sea turtles are nurtured back to health before being released back into their natural habitat. With limited spots available for tours of the centre, all proceeds from the tour go directly to the cause.
But for those who prefer to kick back with a drink in hand, Foxy's Bar is the perfect spot to purchase lunch, snacks, and alcoholic beverages. It's a casual tropical style venue with views out over Welcome Bay and the younger folks simply love this place to eat and drink because it has a real vibe. At various times of the year there is entertainment and events on the island.
So whether you're an adventurer seeking breathtaking views or a lover of marine life, Fitzroy Island is the perfect destination for your next tropical getaway. You may even decide to stay a few nights at Fitzroy Island Resort - with a range of Resort Rooms for couples, and Apartments for families.
Unlike Green Island, the beaches at Fitzroy Island are not manned by Life-Savers. Entry to the water has a slightly deeper decline than Green Island. So if you are travelling with young kids or older folks, this is something to consider as the Island’s resort does not allow day visitors to use their swimming pool.
Whilst on the island book some of the optional extra activities to complete your island day tour.
Fitzroy Island Activities & Attractions
- Snorkelling from the beach
- Off shore Snorkelling* [morning only]
- Glass Bottom Boat Tours*
- Scuba Diving* [from the beach]
- Sea Kayak Hire*
- Stand Up Paddle Board Hire
- Walking & Hiking Trails [Various hiking trails for all physical abilities and ages]including a self-guided Historical Summit & Lighthouse Hike
- Turtle Rehabilitation Centre [Daily tours]
How to get to Fitzroy Island from Cairns?
Fitzroy Island is within easy reach of Cairns with multiple island ferries operating up to 3 times a day.
Distance from Cairns to Fitzroy Island by boat is approximately 45 mins by fast catamaran.
Fitzroy Island Amenities
Change Rooms, Showers and Toilets [does not have disabled amenities for day visitors]
Lunch, Snacks & Beverages
- Foxy’s Bar - Indoor & Outdoor open-aired bar situated right on the beach front with a casual cafe style food menu with Cocktails, beers, wine and soft drinks, Coffee & Tea. Pool Tables are located at Foxy’s and they provide live entertainment on the weekends.
- Mini General Store - Snacks, Soft Drinks, Juices, Ice-Cream, Toiletries and Souvenirs
Which Island Will You Choose Fitzroy Island or Green Island?
Now you have some more insight on these two popular tropical islands and what they each offer, which one will you book, Green Island or Fitzroy Island?
View all of Cairns Island Day Tours or contact the local tour specialists to disccuss further.
Let us know your thoughts on which island is better, Green Island or Fitzroy Island once you have visited them both on your Great Barrier Reef holidays.
Another beautiful and not so well known island off Cairns is Frankland Islands, if you are not into crowds then take a look at this Great Barrier Reef tour also.
Author: Jennifer - The Tour Specialists
Updated October 2023