As the fast cat cruises along the coastal peaks towards Fitzroy Island, you can see that it is going to be a pretty special scene on arrival. Our hopes were met as we moored the jetty and stared with a twinkle in our eye at the bright emerald sea, palm-lined coral beaches, and watersport adventures before us.
This tropical paradise, unlike some Australian islands (where you can’t swim for one reason or another), is predominantly based around water activities, meaning that you can fill your day with a number of experiences that will also fill your inner child (or children) with pure joy. In fact, I think you could quite easily give Fitzroy Island the nickname ‘Fun Island’, not in a tacky way, but if you’re looking for a fun adventure in idyllic surroundings, then this is the place.
Whether you’re underwater searching for turtles and tropical fish, or hiking up to the summit for spectacular views of the Coral Sea, Fitzroy Island is so picture perfect that you can’t help leaving with it etched in your mind.
Located only 45 minutes via boat from Cairns in Tropical North Queensland, the island is just 3.3 km squared, and lends truth to the phrase ‘good things come in small packages’. The island was in fact, separated from mainland Australia at the end of the ice age, around 8000 years ago, and is surrounded by a reef that forms part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
To make the most of your trip to Fitzroy Island, we’d recommend spending 2-3 nights on the island itself, at the Fitzroy Island Resort. Here are our suggestions for a fun family adventure on one of the prettiest islands we’ve been lucky enough to visit in Australia…
Board the glass bottom boat and head around the island to Shark Fin Bay. You won’t miss the remarkably huge boulders that line the shore, but see if you can spot the shark fin boulder that gives name to this pretty little haven. Snorkelling here you’ll see an array of brightly coloured tropical fish and huge coral formations. Our daughter delighted as she spotted the brain shaped and spaghetti corals that spectacularly formed homes for the fish below us. On the way back you’ll likely see a turtle or two pop up to say hello, so keep your eyes peeled and the camera ready.
Grab a kayak or stand up paddle-board and take your time to enjoy turtle spotting in Welcome Bay. The turtles seem to hang out in this area and around the fringe coral reef system that lines the island. We saw ten turtles (sheer excitement) in just under an hour. We couldn’t believe our luck. When the turtles come up for air, try not to make too much noise so that they hang around a little longer. Our daughter was hooked on snorkelling after our glass bottom boat trip and spent endless hours along this stretch of beach practising her newfound skills. The island is actually the perfect place for children and adults to snorkel, because the action is happening only metres from shore.
Just a 20-minute walk from the resort and you find yourself staring down from huge boulders onto the picturesque and award-winning Nudey Beach. No, it’s not a nudist beach, but it sure looks good bare. So good, that I would highly advise leaving early to experience the quieter times for the perfect photo backdrop. Capturing memories on this beach is a must.
On the island, there are several trails to explore. From a gentle stroll along Welcome Bay, a ten-minute walk to the Secret Garden, a 45-minute return track to Nudey Beach, and the 2.5 hour hike to the Summit. The Summit track is a great way to become more accustomed to the island’s geology and history, but we loved the walks that were close to the hotel and suitable for kids too.
Take time to visit the not for profit turtle rehabilitation centre. Turtles that have been rescued from areas throughout Queensland as a result of injury, illness, and in particular plastic ingestion, are cared for in the hope they will be returned to the wild.
Common objects ingested by turtles are plastic bags and helium balloons let off at events. So make sure you avoid these objects and try and pass this message on to others. If balloons go up, they must come down, and sadly turtles like other ocean creatures are incredibly curious.
Run entirely on donations, the volunteers run educational tours and also lend a hand to help clean and restore the reef. In fact, at the end of 2017, the team successfully harvested and planted live coral cuttings in the first offshore nursery of its kind on the Great Barrier Reef.
Turtles will without a doubt be on your wish list when you arrive on Fitzroy Island. With ten sightings within an hour, we can say that it is highly likely you’ll see one too. But it’s not just turtles to keep an eye out for. If you’re lucky you may even see a yellow-spotted monitor (growing up to 1.2 metres). From skinks camouflaging themselves along the many walking tracks, to ospreys and other birds soaring above or feeding in the rainforest canopy, you will not be short of wildlife to satisfy your inner spotter. In 2009 when local rangers did a wildlife count, they even came across a lone kangaroo (a bit of a mystery that one). But if you see it, be sure to get photographic evidence and send it to us!
Making it extremely easy to plan your visit, you will find the Fitzroy Island Resort (the only resort on the island) where most of the activities and excursions can be organized from.
The hotel provides guests with generously spacious rooms, suites and bungalows, all with dreamy views of stunning Welcome Bay.
Zephyr’s Restuarant is where we spent our mornings fueling up on breakfast and relaxing over dinner after an adventurous day of activities. But during the day, there is no better place to grab a drink and some lunch with a view of the glistening ocean, than the casual Foxy’s Bar.
At the end of each day, we jumped from the salty ocean and into the pool, grabbing a quick pre-dinner cocktail at the swim-up bar.
The resort offers everything you’ll need for your stay on this beautiful island, including an on-site general store for those holiday essentials, and snacks to keep you going as you head off to explore another part of the island.
Fitzroy Island itself is a short 45-minute fast cat (boat) ride away from the city of Cairns in North Queensland. We didn’t want to rush off to Fitzroy so we had planned a few days in Cairns first. Our ‘Take Me To Cairns’ article will be here soon, so watch this space. But if you’re looking for a hotel in Cairns then I would highly recommend the Pullman Reef Hotel Casino – arguably the best hotel in the region, right near the marina, with views to die for, and one of the most comfortable hotels we’ve been lucky enough to stay in.
You can fly to Cairns from nearly all airports in Australia, so it’s very simple to access the island. The boat will then take you seamlessly back and forth from the island with three return trips a day.
From November to late May it’s highly important to wear a stinger suit to avoid those pesky ocean pests. Don’t avoid stinger suits to look cool. It’s just not worth it.
Don’t go rudey nudey on Nudey Beach. Whilst it sums up visions of naked people basking in tropical sunshine, public nudity is actually illegal in Queensland.
Make sure you take part in the activities and excursions. This is what makes Fitzroy Island so special. Follow our highlights above and you’ll be leaving with a full cup of happiness.
You can also organize trips to the outer reef if you’re keen to explore beyond the island. Ask at the resort for more details. But if you stay put on the island for your entire visit, you won’t be disappointed.
Remember the Australian sun is strong. Stay covered up and protected. We (my daughter and I) choose the beautiful one-piece swimwear from Drifter Girls.
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Parts of this trip were kindly gifted, but all opinions and recommendations are strictly our own.
Welcome along. I’m Clare, Founder of Take Me To Australia. Having moved to Australia six years ago, I made it my mission to learn more about this epic country we now call home. As we travel across the country to unique destinations, we share with fresh eyes the most extraordinary places we are lucky enough to experience. We aim to inspire others to follow in our footsteps, live their absolute best life, explore what Australia has to offer, and even encourage people further afield to make a similar move. We’ve grown a like-minded community of over 120,000 people. Be sure to join them by signing up to receive all the latest inspo, and connecting with us on Instagram and Facebook. See you soon.