The Cairns coast is where the rainforest meets the reef. If you’re looking to explore the latter, then there are some epic tropical islands off Cairns that you need to visit.
Whether you’re into snorkelling, scuba diving, turtle spotting, rainforest hiking or boating, I’m sure that one of these islands off Cairns will have something for you.
Islands Off Cairns – The Epic Island Hopping List
Below you’ll find my list of the best islands off Cairns. However, keep in mind that I haven’t ranked them in any particular order. Each tropical destination will depend on your personal preference.
To help you out, I’ve also included the links to the full blog posts for each. These will guide you through the best things to do on each, plus some interesting information and how to get there.
1. Green Island
Green Island is probably one of the most popular islands off Cairns. It’s one of the closes Islands to Cairns Harbour, and a fast boat shouldn’t take longer than an hour.
Highlights include snorkeling at the incredible fringing reef and at “the pinnacle”. You can also explore the island by foot, checking out the incredible tropical flora.
Furthermore, Green Island is one of the only islands off Cairns with its own rainforest ecosystem. This makes it one of the most unique options for a day trip from Cairns.
The best way to get here is to take a full 8-hour day tour on a 35-metre Catamaran.
READ THE FULL ISLAND GUIDE: GREEN ISLAND, CAIRNS – YOUR COMPLETE GUIDE
Another incredible tropical paradise just around the corner from Cairns Harbour is Fitzroy Island. The fast boat to Fitzroy will only take you about 45 minutes, where you can spend a day trip or spend the night.
In my opinion, the best thing about Fitzroy Island is the incredible turtle population. I counted up to 13 turtles during my time snorkelling, which is the most I’ve seen anywhere on the Australian East Coast.
Also, if you like a good walk, there are plenty of Fitzroy Island walks to choose from. The highest of which takes you to one of the best viewpoints on the Cairns Coast; The Fitzroy Island Summit.
Not sure which island to choose? I’ve also written a blog comparing these two islands off cairns.
READ: FITZROY ISLAND VS GREEN ISLAND to help you decide.
READ THE FULL BLOG POST: FITZROY ISLAND THINGS TO DO: COMPLETE ISLAND GUIDE
The Low Isles
Located closer to Port Douglas than Cairns, The Low Isles are still one of the best islands worth checking out on the Australian Coral Coast. Plus, Port Douglas isn’t too far from Cairns anyway, and is worth at least a day-trip in it’s own right.
You can get to the Low Isles by taking a speed boat, which is ridiculously fast, only 15 minutes to the islands from Port Douglas. Once you arrive, you’ll notice two small islands; Low Island and Woody Island.
Your other option will be to take an organised half-day snorkeling trip. Calypso is one company which offers trips to the Low Isles. For this option, it’ll cost you roughly $195.
There is a picturesque lighthouse and far-reaching fringing reef to explore. The snorkeling is not quite as good as what you’ll find on Green Island, but it’s still an epic Great Barrier Reef Island not to miss!
READ THE FULL BLOG POST: SNORKELING AND EXPLORING THE TROPICAL LOW ISLES, PORT DOUGLAS
One of my favourite islands off Cairns is Dunk Island. This one is located a little further south of Cairns, accessible from the Mission Beach area.
On the island, there is an abandoned resort, old airstrip, plenty of hikes, great snorkelling and an incredible stretching sand bar.
If you decide to visit Dunk Island, don’t miss Mound Island, which sits just opposite the main beach. You’ll need a kayak or boat to get over there, but if you do, you’ll get a small taste of isolated island life.
READ THE FULL BLOG POST: EXPLORING DUNK ISLAND: BEST THINGS TO SEE AND DO
Want more of a taste of the outer Great Barrier Reef? If you’re in Cairns, then you’re in luck. Fortunately, Cairns is one of the best places in Australia to access the Great Barrier Reef islands and cays.
One of the best locations on the outer reef is Michaelmas Cay. Compared to the other islands off Cairns, Michaelmas Cay and the surrounding reef has the best snorkelling and diving you’ll find.
This cay doesn’t have much in terms of things to do on land. But, let’s face it, Cairns Island hopping is all about the underwater world!
READ THE FULL BLOG POST: MICHAELMAS CAY – EXPLORING THE BEST OF THE OUTER GREAT BARRIER REEF
How to Get to these Incredible Cairns Islands
In each blog post above, I’ve detailed exactly how to get to these islands off Cairns. However, if you’re looking for deals yourself, then you can’t beat the prices and deals on GetYourGuide.
Sailing or Boating on the Coral Coast? Read about my adventures sailing on a homebuilt yacht up the East Coast of Australia.
Cairns Accommodation Guide – Where to Stay
BEST BUDGET HOSTEL WITH A POOL FOR $19 A NIGHT – MAD MONKEY BACKPACKERS
The best budget backpacker option in Cairns is Mad Monkey Backpackers. This one has a swimming pool, AC, a complete kitchen and even free bike hire to take you around Cairns. There are also three locations across Cairns, but we thought that the village was the best.
BUDGET HOSTEL CLOSEST TO THE ESPLANADE FOR $26 A NIGHT – YHA CAIRNS CENTRAL HOSTEL
If you’re looking to stay close to Cairns center, then you can’t beat YHA Central. It’s only a 5-minute walk to the esplanade and situated right near pubs and supermarkets. There’s also a pool and two spas, with a free breakfast included.
SLEEP ON A BOAT IN CAIRNS HARBOUR – BOATEL CAIRNS
If you’re looking for a unique stay in Cairns, then you can’t get much more unusual than staying at a “boatel”. It’s located 1 KM from Cairns and only a 6-minute walk from Cairns Rainforest Dome. The boat has free WiFi, AC, a bar and even a TV in the room.
MORE PHOTOS OF THE ISLANDS OFF CAIRNS
Looking for more inspiration? Before you head off to the individual blog posts above, check out some more Cairns islands travel inspiration below!