Located a 45-minute ferry ride from Cairns, Fitzroy Island is a slice of unspoiled tropical paradise. Fun things to do on the island include hiking along the designated trails through the rainforest, which take you to the island’s highest point, its beaches, and its lighthouse. There’s also the Turtle Rehabilitation Centre, and incredibly beautiful beaches like Nudey Beach (not clothing optional like the name suggests). Voted Australia’s top beach, it’s the best spot on the island to go snorkelling and swimming. If one day on Fitzroy Island simply isn’t enough, visitors can stay overnight in the island’s designated campgrounds, or stay in an apartment or cabin at Fitzroy Island Resort.
Green Island is a coral cay located 45 minutes from Cairns. Although it’s home to the five-star Green Island Resort, it’s also one of the most popular day trips from Cairns. The 15-hectare (37-acre) island is encircled by golden sandy beach, but it’s the snorkelling around the fringing coral reef that’s the biggest drawcard. Locals recommend snorkelling under the pier too. Other activities to enjoy on beautiful Green Island include going for a walk through the rainforest, scuba diving, helmet diving, or seeing the reef from a glass bottom boat.
There are five islands that make up the Frankland Islands: Normanby, Russell, Round, High, and Mabel. Every island is uninhabited, although they’re located only 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) from mainland Australia. Russell Island is home to six campsites, and it’s where the green sea turtle nests. People can also camp on High Island, but visitors must be self-sufficient, as both islands have zero facilities. Meanwhile, there’s one tour operator from Cairns that does a reef, river, and island day trip to the biggest of them all: Normanby Island.
Although Lizard Island is 240 kilometres (149 miles) northeast of Cairns, the only way to reach this exclusive resort is by a 50-minute (very) scenic flight from Cairns across the Great Barrier Reef—hence why it’s included on this list! Lizard Island Resort is the reef’s northernmost resort. There are 24 private beaches on the secluded island, and only 40 suites and villas. When not relaxing, guests can go on guided tours of the reef, visit the day spa, swim in the hidden lagoon, or go for a walk along one of the island’s natural trails. The daily menu changes seasonally, with its main focus being fresh local produce. A visit to Lizard Island and its all-inclusive resort is the definition of a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Bedarra Island is found off the coast of Mission Beach, which is two hours south of Cairns. The granite island is home to one of Australia’s most exclusive resorts: Bedarra Island Resort. It’s an adults-only resort with ten private villas, nestled amongst the tropical rainforest. Some of its celebrity guests over the years have included Elton John, Kieran Perkins (for his wedding), and Sarah Ferguson (when she was a princess). Some of the activities guests can enjoy around this amazing island include stand-up paddleboarding, sea kayaking, rainforest hikes, as well as snorkelling, scuba diving, or deep sea fishing in the Great Barrier Reef.