Quick list of the top 5 best islands off cairns! Which tropical island to visit, how to get there and what to expect.
The Cairns and Far North coast is where the rainforest meets the reef. If you’re looking to explore the aquatic latter, then here 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. This is because all of the islands have their own flares and reasons to visit.
To help you out, I’ve also included the links to full blog posts with more details and information on what to expect for each island below.
1. Green Island
Green Island is probably one of the most popular islands off Cairns. It’s one of the closest Islands to Cairns Harbour, and a fast boat only takes about 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 and white-sand beaches.
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.
How to get here
You’ll have a few options to get to Green Island, both cost approximately $100 per person. Below I’ve linked the two most popular boats, depending on your preferences.
READ THE FULL ISLAND GUIDE: GREEN ISLAND, CAIRNS – 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 choose to spend a day or even stay overnight at the Fitzroy Island Resort.
In my opinion, the best thing about Fitzroy Island is the incredible turtle population. I counted up to 13 turtles during my first time snorkelling, which is the most I’ve seen anywhere on the Australian East Coast.
Also, if you like a good hike, there are plenty of walks to choose from. The highest of which takes you to one of the best viewpoints on the Cairns Coast; The Fitzroy Island Summit.
If you’re having a tough time choosing whether you want to head out to Fitzroy or Green Island, you can read my quick comparison guide here.
How to get here
Getting to Fitzroy Island is easy and there are loads of options available to book online:
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 from Cairns. The great thing is, Port Douglas isn’t too far from Cairns and is worth at least a day-trip in its own right.
Once you arrive, you’ll notice two small islands; Low Island and Woody Island, which make up the Low Isles.
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!
How to get here
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! Below I’ve listed the two best alternatives to the speed boat.
READ THE FULL BLOG POST: SNORKELING AND EXPLORING THE TROPICAL LOW ISLES, PORT DOUGLAS
Another must-visit, and of my personal 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.
How to get here
Dunk Island is popular with both Innisfail and Mission Beach locals, as well as the many backpackers and travelers that visit the Tropical North every year. The most cost-effective way to get to this island is to take the water taxi ferry transfer below.
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, with both epic islands and reef cays just off the coast.
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!
How to get here
There are no fast-boat ferries that regularly visit Michaelmas Cay. As a result, you’ll mostly find boaties and the occasional catamaran tour here.
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 your best bet is to head online.
This is because all of the best boat and tour companies in Cairns are in competition for your tourist dollar. So, you’ll always find their best offers online. The best sources for boat, ferry and island tour deals are; Klook, GetYourGuide and Viator.
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 EPIC 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!
More Cairns and Far North Travel Guides and Blogs
I hope that you enjoyed this guide to the top 5 best islands off Cairns. If you’re looking for more things to do and see in Cairns and Far North Queensland, take a pick from the links below.
MY CAMERA AND PHOTOGRAPHY EQUIPMENT
For a list of all my camera, hiking, and backpacking gear and where to find them at the best prices, visit my shop.