A short guide to hiking to Fitzroy Island Summit from Welcome Bay.
After visiting 9 different islands near Cairns, I can confirm that Fitzory is my personal favorite. Not only is it the easiest and quickest to get to, but at 269 m, it’s the highest Great Barrier Reef Island in the area.
Every time I visit, I make sure to hike up to the Fitzroy Island summit track for epic views of Welcome Bay, Nudey Beach and the pristine rainforests at the northern side of the island.
In this guide, I’ll run you through everything you need to know about this awesome walk at Fitzroy Island National Park, from where to pick up the trail to tips on getting great photos at the summit.
By Olly Gaspar, traveler, travel blogger & photographer for 5+ years with 600+ published travel guides. I visit every place I write about & share real tips from what I learn.
About the Fitzroy Island Hike
- Hiking Distance: 3 km return from Welcome Bay
- Duration: 1-1.5 hours return
- Elevation Gain: 269 meters
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Full route: My Strava
Fitzroy Island, located just 45 minutes via fast ferry from the coast of Cairns offers great opportunities to snorkel with vibrant marine life, relax on some of Cairns' best beaches, and of course, hit the trail through tropical rainforest.
While there are several hiking trails on Fitzroy Island, including the Nudey Beach Track, Secret Garden Walk and the Lighthouse Road Track, the Fitzory Summit Track is by far the most rewarding in terms of views.
This is a fairly straightforward but steep hike leading up to the highest point in the national park, where you'll find a large boulder and a viewpoint platform for 360-degree views of the Far North Queensland Coral Coast and expansive views of the island.
The trail begins near the Northwest end of Welcome Bay (the main beach), passing the Turtle Rehabilitation Centre and adjacent to the camping area of Fitzroy Island Resort (a great hotel for an overnight stay).
How to Get to Fitzroy Island
The beautiful island of Fitzroy is only a short 45-minute ferry from Cairns ferry terminal (Cairns Reef Fleet Terminal). This makes it the most easily accessible Great Barrier Reef Island with a slightly shorter trip from Cairns than Green Island.
Three main Fitzroy ferry companies running from Cairns are:
- Fitzroy Flyer
- Fitzroy Island Adventures
Currently, the most cost-effective way to get to Fitzroy Island from Cairns is to book a return ferry ticket with Fitzroy Island Adventures on GetYourGuide. I've taken both ferries and can confirm that this is currently the best price you will find online at $89 and only includes the fast-ferry catamaran transfer.
The GetYourGuide discount saves you $6 per person currently and is only available online.
Hiking the Fitzroy Island Summit Track
To get to the trailhead, you'll want to head to the main ferry wharf at Welcome Bay. From here, turn left past the beach cabins at the resort and walk behind the beach until you cross a gentle creek. Immediately after, you'll notice the camping tents.
Turn right here and you'll find the hiking trail leading all the way up to Fitzroy Island Summit. While there are no markings, it's hard to get lost on this trail as it is well-maintained and easy to follow.
The hike immediately enters lush rainforests on a wide boardwalk and then begins climbing on natural, rocky and rooty underfoot. I noticed that the first part of the climb is quite gentle, but gets much steeper at the top, so take your time. I also recommend keeping an eye out for local wildlife like the blue Ulysses butterfly and big skinks that rush across the trail.
Eventually, the trail opens up to an exposed section out of the rainforest. This is one of my favorite sections on the Fitzroy Island hike as you'll get your first glimpse of the coastal woodlands at rear end of the island and the Coral Sea.
Continue up the trail and eventually, you'll get glimpses of Nudey Beach and Welcome Bay below. At this point, the summit is visible for a last push to the top.
View From the Fitzroy Island Summit
As you reach the summit, you'll notice a large viewing platform. From here, you'll be able to see 360 degrees around the island. On a clear day, you can also see all the way out to the Frankland Islands and make out the dark blue hues of the Coral Reefs on the outer Great Barrier Reef.
I've hiked up here several times, and I always make an effort to do it at sunrise or at sunset for the best views. This also helps avoid the hot midday sun and is a great way to wind down your day (before more sundowners at Foxy's Bar).
For the best photos, I always climb up to the top of the giant granite boulders beside the platform for uninterrupted views (just look out for snakes and the steep cliff).
Below are some photos from the Fitzroy Island summit that I've taken on my many trips to the island.
Optional: Continue on Lighthouse Road for a Loop
Once you reach the summit, you have the option to return on the same track back down to Welcome Bay. Alternatively, you could turn right after leaving the viewing platform and continue down to the Fitzroy Island Lighthouse.
I've done this Fitzroy Summit and Lighthouse loop hike a few times too. But, in my opinion, the views are the best from the summit and the Lighthouse is slightly underwhelming (it's tiny).
However, this does make for a more interesting loop hike of around 3.6 kilometers in total. You'll begin by descending down to the sealed road and then follow it right for about 10 minutes until you reach the Lighthouse. On the way back, go straight past the turn back up to the summit and follow the Lighthouse Road back down to Welcome Bay.
Also, you'll get a good glimpse of Little Fitzroy Island on the way back down.
Fitzroy Hiking Map
Below is a Fitzroy Island hiking map from QLD Parks that will be helpful for you. But honestly, the paths and walking trails are easy to follow and there are many signs at the main beach, so you probably don't need it.
Tips for Hiking to Fitzroy Summit
Below are some useful tips to make your hike to Fitzroy Island summit more enjoyable.
- Bring plenty of water - the trail is exposed at the top and can get very hot. Make sure to stay hydrated.
- Don't forget sunscreen - this is Far North Queensland, the sun is brutal! A hat and long-sleeved shirt is a good idea too.
- Stay on the walking track - the track is well-maintained and has had recent artificial boulder works done to help people stay on the track. I wouldn't recommend venturing too far off the walking trails here because there are snakes.
- Bring a polarizing filter - if you're a keen photographer, bring a polarizing filter to help you cut through the glare and reveal the crystal-clear waters of the bays below.
- More things to do after the hike - after or before your hike, make sure to go for a snorkel in the calm waters of Welcome Bay. This marine park is home to many green sea turtles and tropical fish. Otherwise, opt for more water activities like renting paddle boards or take the glass bottom boats (book at the resort).
The Best Cairns Island Adventures
Basing yourself in Cairns and want to see the islands on a day trip? Below is a list of my most recommended island and Great Barrier Reef experiences that you can book in advance.
Fitzroy Island is the closest (and cheapest) Great Barrier Reef Island to visit from Cairns. Check out the world-famous famous Nudey Beach & hike to the island summit, one of my top islands near Cairns.
2. Great Barrier Reef by Catamaran Top-Pick
Visit the outer reef & snorkel or scuba dive at two pristine reef locations (either Flynn & Milne or Norman & Hastings). You could even get lucky & meet the local Maori Wrasse as we did in the photo.
Visit Cairns' popular Green Island on a quick day trip with a fast-boat transfer. Snorkel in vibrant coral gardens and take a walk through its lush island rainforest.
More Cairns Adventure Travel Guides
I hope this Fitzroy hiking guide has helped you plan your adventures to this tropical island paradise.
If you're still planning a trip to Cairns, I recommend reading this guide comparing Fitzroy Island and Green Island to help you plan which island is your idea of tropical paradise.
Otherwise, for more experiences, I recommend checking out my guides to booking the best Great Barrier Reef Day Trip from Cairns, or, if you want the best experience, a helicopter flight over the reef!
- 60+ Things to do in Cairns - my ultimate Cairns and FNQ travel resource covering the best activities, hidden gems, and unmissable experiences.
- Cairns Hiking Guide - a huge list of epic rainforest, waterfall, and lookout hikes in Cairns.
- Cairns Waterfalls - a huge list of epic waterfalls that I've visited in Cairns and the surrounding tropics.
- Cairns Islands - discover my favorite Great Barrier Reef islands near Cairns and Port Douglas.
- Cairns Tours - my roundup of the best tours you can book in Cairns and FNQ, from the Great Barrier Reef to the Daintree Rainforest.
- Cairns Packing List - tips on what to pack for a trip to Far North Queensland.
- Top Things to Do in Port Douglas - a comprehensive guide to the sleepy Far North Queensland town of Port Douglas.
- Epic 5-Day Cairns Itinerary - my suggested adventure itinerary if you only have 5 days to spend in Cairns.
- Cape Tribulation Travel Guide - discover where the rainforest meets the reef at one of my favourite places in Australia.
- Magnetic Island Travel Guide - your ultimate resource for visiting "Maggie" near Townsville.
- Best Things to do in the Atherton Tablelands - my guide to one of Far North Queensland's most underrated adventure destinations.
- Accommodation Resources: Discover where to stay in Cairns, the best hotels in Port Douglas and my Cape Tribulation accommodation guide.