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Visiting Fitzroy Island, Cairns – Top Things to Do & See

Visiting Fitzroy Island, Cairns – Top Things to Do & See

A complete travel visitor’s guide to Fitzroy Island from Cairns, Australia.

Fitzroy Island is one of the best tropical islands in North Queensland. And, after visiting this island over 20 times during my many trips to Cairns, I’d say it’s one of my absolute favourite tropical Great Barrier Reef Islands!

Since it’s located just a short ferry ride from Cairns, there’s no reason why anyone should miss this tropical gem when visiting Cairns and the Tropical North. There are plenty of activities, attractions and things to do on Fitzroy Island, including hiking, snorkelling among the amazing coral reef and swimming with turtles.

In this guide, I’ll offer all the information you need to visit Fitzroy Island on either a day trip or a multi-day visit from Cairns.

Fitzroy island australia
Fitzroy Island from above
Olly gaspar

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 Fitzroy Island

Fitzroy Island is a tropical island with its own National Park designation and is protected as Fitzroy Island National Park. In fact, 94% of the 3.39 square kilometres of land that makes up Fitzroy land is considered National Park!

Additionally, it's also part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Parks (Queensland Government), which ensures its nature is preserved for everybody to enjoy.

The only section that is privately owned is a stretch of land in Welcome Bay. This area is run and maintained by the Fitzroy Island Resort, the official operator of the resort and the only accommodation option on the island.

Fitzroy island, welcome bay
Welcome Bay

Welcome Bay is a great spot to visit as it provides a sanctuary in the calm sheltered waters of the Great Barrier Reef. This beach has seriously clear water and is edged by a beautiful fringing reef.

Besides Welcome Bay, visitors are able to explore the many spectacular walking tracks to highlights like Nudey Beach, the lighthouse, and the summit of the island's mountain chain.

View at fitzroy island resort beach cabins

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 the shortest trip from Cairns.

There are three main Fitzroy ferry companies running from Cairns:

  1. Fitzroy Flyer
  2. Sunlover
  3. Fitzroy Island Adventures

Currently, the most cost-effective ferry to visit Fitzroy Island from Cairns is to book a return ferry ticket with Fitzroy Island Adventures on GetYourGuide, which costs $89 per person for a savings of $6 per person compared to booking directly.

I've taken several ferries and can confirm that this is currently the best way to get to Fitzroy Island in terms of price and schedule. This price only includes the fast-ferry catamaran transfer.

Fitzroy island ferry

I recommend booking the earliest ferry and returning on the 5 pm boat. This way, you'll get to spend more time exploring this special slice of paradise and check out all of the epic things to do on Fitzroy Island.

Fun Things to do on Fitzroy Island

With the basics out of the way, let's dive straight into this list of what to do on Fitzroy Island!

As I mentioned in the introduction, I've visited this amazing tropical island countless times.

Therefore I can share with you the best list of things to do on Fitzroy Island including walking trails, the best beach activities, where to snorkel to see green sea turtles and tropical fish, as well as where to find the best beaches on the island!

Ferry wharf at fitzroy island
Arriving at the ferry wharf
Girl walking at fitzroy island, australia

1. Snorkelling on Fitzroy Island

Perhaps the first thing that crosses your mind when thinking about tropical Cairns islands is seeing the underwater world. Fitzroy Island lies within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, meaning snorkelling is one of the best things to do here!

While the coral reefs aren't quite as impressive as what you'll find on the nearby Frankland Islands or at the outer reef, it's still amazing, especially if this is your first time seeing the Great Barrier Reef!

Luckily, there are a few reefs that are easy to access from the main beach at Welcome Bay.

While you can spot a turtle or two in Welcome Bay itself, I recommend heading over to the north end to see the best coral formations and marine life. Here you'll find large parrot fish species, plenty of small schooling fish, healthy coral reefs, and the occasional cruising green or hawksbill turtle.

Where Are the Best Fitzroy Snorkelling Locations?

Welcome Bay
The reef on either side of the ferry wharf at Welcome Bay has some pretty decent snorkelling, especially for beginners. While the hard corals aren't too impressive here, you can spot the occasional cruising turtle.

However, if you swim a little further out, the coral bombies start looking healthier. Be careful though, there is a lot of boat traffic in this area. If you continue reading below you'll find the better sites.

Turtle on fitzroy island near cairns, australia

White Rock
White Rock is the name of the obvious, large white boulder located on the northern end of Welcome Bay. While you might be wondering why this particular formation is so white, the answer is quite trivial– it's coated with bird poo!

However, it's not the rock itself that draws the crowd. The coral surrounding White Rock is a well-known turtle-spotting area. You'll also find some healthy stag coral formations and the "trees" planted by the Reef Restoration Foundation.

Snorkeling near cairns
White rock snorkel spot fitzroy island

Shark Fin Rock
Shark Fin Rock is located around the northern end of Welcome Bay. You can swim around the rocks from the point, or walk around and enter the water from the rocks.

Don't worry, its name comes from the shape of the rock on the shore, you (probably) won't find any great whites lurking here. The Shark Fin Rock snorkelling area has a much healthier reef and coral than Welcome Bay. This is the site that the reef glass bottom boat and snorkel tours visit.

Turtle on fitzroy island cairns

Nudey Beach Point
Nudey Beach isn't only one of the most beautiful beaches in Australia on land, it's also got some pretty great snorkelling opportunities. Swim out from the beach or from the rocks at the point and keep a lookout for the cruising turtle and the occasional blacktip reef shark!

Sharks at fitzroy island
Fitzroy island ferry queensland

Tip: Book a Half-Day Trip

Only got time to visit the island for a few hours?

Currently, there's a great deal you can snag with BackpackerDeals, offering cheaper half-day return ferry tickets. Using code OLLY5 makes this the cheapest way to get to Fitzroy at the moment.

2. Hike the Fitzroy Island Walking Tracks

Second to snorkelling, the famous Fitzroy Island walks are up there with the best things to do on the island. There are a total of 5 main bush walks which all depart from the beach at Welcome Bay.

Below I've outlined the three spectacular walking trails on Fitzroy Island that I believe are worth your time. These include:

  1. Fitzroy Island Summit Walk - one of my favourite hikes in Cairns.
  2. Lighthouse walk
  3. Nudey Beach Walk

Fitzroy Island Summit Walk (Lookout Track)

The longest Fitzroy Island walk takes you to the highest point in the National Park. The track is approximately 3.6 kilometres return from Welcome Bay and climbs to a total elevation of 269 metres.

Fitzroy island summit hike

You can pick up the trail at the northern end of Welcome Bay, just after the campground. There are signs indicating the route for the entire walk, so you won't have a problem finding your way.

From the top, you'll experience the best view of the island. We usually hike up here for sunset when we visit Fitzroy for epic views pan across the Coral Sea and around to the southern bays of Fitzroy Island. From the summit, I also noticed that you can get a glimpse of Nudey Beach from a unique perspective.

If hiking and walking are what you're into, then definitely add the lookout track to your list of what to do on Fitzroy Island!

Fitzroy island summit on the lookout track

Fitzroy Island Lighthouse Walk

Another Fitzroy Island walk takes you to the lighthouse. This walk continues on the main summit track but continues straight before the trail turns up the hill to the summit.

The path to the lighthouse is much flatter and only takes about 10 minutes on a sealed road from the base of the summit track.

Overall, the lighthouse isn't the most impressive one near Cairns or the Tropical North. But, the view from the cliff is worth the walk. If the season allows, you might also spot a migrating humpback whale from this point!

A good idea would be to head over to the lighthouse after you climb up Fitzroy summit since it's only a short detour before heading back to Welcome Bay.

Fitzroy island lighthouse walk

The Nudey Beach Track

A shorter, equally scenic Fitzroy Island walk leads in the opposite direction (right from Welcome Bay wharf) towards Nudey Beach.

This walk is completed on a short 15-minute track through dense tropical rainforest.

At the end, you'll be rewarded with views of one of Australia's best beaches! I highly recommend heading over to Nudey Beach for sunset or sunrise, especially if staying on the island!

Nudey beach fitzroy island
Nudey beach on fitzroy island
Nudey beach sunset

3. Visit Nudey Beach - One of Australia's Most Beautiful Beaches

Okay, you already got a spoiler to this attraction but this beach definitely deserves its own spot on this list of the best things to do on Fitzroy Island.

Nudey Beach is a small white-sand beach wrapping around the southern coastal bend. The clear water is an incredible shade of turquoise and a perfect place to soak up the tropical North Queensland vibes.

This particular beach is the star attraction at Fitzroy, and definitely worth a visit.

Nudey beach on fitzroy island
Nudey beach on fitzroy island
Nudey beach sunset swing

4. Swim With Green Turtles

Initially, unbeknownst to me, Fitzroy Island is somewhat of a turtle hotspot! I honestly couldn't believe how many turtles cruise around this stop the first time I visited. Now, each time I visit Fitzroy Island, one of the things I always do is go swimming with turtles.

You'll almost always find these guys feeding on the algae growing on the corals in the shallows of Welcome Bay.. I also commonly see them cruising past the point near Nudey Beach and at Shark Fin Rock.

Truthfully though, I'm sure you'll see a turtle wherever you choose to snorkel so add it to your list of what to do on Fitzroy!

Turtle at fitzroy island
Best islands near cairns, australia

Not Sure Which Cairns Island to Visit?

Read my comprehensive guide breaking down the top 9 Islands off Cairns to help you decide!

5. Visit the Turtle Sanctuary

Fitzroy Island also has an in-house turtle sanctuary known as the Fitzroy Island Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre (CTRC). This is a non-profit program run by the Island Resort. The facility dedicates time and resources to rehabilitating sick and injured turtles around the island and the larger Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

When visiting Fitzroy Island, add it to your list of things to do. You can either drop by and say hello, join in on a tour or leave a donation!

Turtle on fitzroy island cairns

6. Jump off the Wharf

The tide differences on Fitzroy Island can get pretty drastic. This means that at high tide, the top of the wharf is only just out of the water. But, at low tide, you can jump off the wharf into the crystal clear waters below. It's only a 3-4 metre drop at low tide, but still, a fun little activity to do on Fitzroy Island.

Just be aware that there are several boats and ferries that use this wharf daily. Make sure not to get in the way of any marine traffic and use common sense!

Things to do fitzroy island
Fitzroy island wharf

7. Join in on a Fitzroy Glass-Bottom Boat Tour

While snorkelling and free diving on the island is by far the best ways to immerse yourself in the underwater world, I understand that there are those who would prefer to see the reef from the comfort of a boat.

Luckily, there is one tour provider that offers glass-bottom boat experiences on Fitzroy Island. However, this is an activity you'd do well to book beforehand.

The tour is run by the Fitzroy Island Resort but is also open to those on a day trip. If you're in the planning stages of your trip and you'd think you'd like to jump on a Glass Bottom Boat Tour, consider booking the "Full-Day Adventure Tour". This includes the Glass Bottom Boat, as well as snorkel/gear hire and is cheaper than if you book it separately.

Glass bottom boat fitzroy island
Glass bottom boat fitzroy island

8. Experience a Fitzroy Whale-Watching Tour

During the whale migration seasons, you can also book a full-day tour that takes you to Fitzroy Island and out for a day of whale watching.

This trip includes 4 hours to explore Fitzroy Island, before heading out to spot the migrating humpback whales. So, if you don't mind spending less time here in favour of spotting some whales, then this tour will offer the best of both.

Humpback whales breaching alongside a boat sailing the east coast of australia

9. Hire a SUP or Sea Kayak From "FISH"

Whether you're visiting Fitzroy Island on a day trip from Cairns or if you have a full few days to spend exploring, renting a SUP or Kayak s a great way to do it.

If you're visiting Fitzroy for the day, you will find gear rental just in front of the resort. Here, you can rent snorkelling equipment, SUPs, Kayaks and anything else you might want for water activities. Go check out FISH (the dive shop) for diving tours and extra gear like wetsuits, stinger suits and fins.

Below are the current prices for rental:

  • SUP Rental Price: $25 per hour
  • Kayak Rental Price: $25 per hour
  • Snorkeling Equipment Rental Price: $20 per day
Kayaking on the great barrier reef

10. Go Scuba Diving On Fitzroy Island

If you'd like to take it up a notch from regular snorkelling, then you can also spend a day scuba diving. This costs $60 for the first dive and $40 for any additional dives.

These dives begin at the beach, just 30 metres from the resort. This makes it an easy entry-level dive. There is only one dive shop that is licensed to run commercial scuba operations on Fitzroy, and they run out of the resort.

There are plenty of great dive sites, including Welcome Bay, and Little Fitzroy Island just off the north side.

If you don't have your PADI open water certificate, then now's the time to get it! One of the best deals for a 5-day Open Water Certificate in Cairns is run by Pro Dive.

Scuba diving boat entry

11. Unwind at Welcome Bay

After a long day of hiking, snorkelling and experiencing all of the epic activities on Fitzroy Island, I can understand if you want to just spread out a towel and relax.

A thing to know is that the beach at Welcome Bay is mostly hard coral as opposed to soft white sand. These large smooth pieces of coral skeletons have formed the beach over thousands of years.

If you prefer soft, white sand, head over to Nudey Beach!

Welcome bay fitzroy island cairns
Zephyr restaurant, fitzroy island near cairns

12: Grab a Cocktail at Foxy's Bar

If you're taking the time to unwind in Welcome Bay, make sure to stop by Foxy's Bar on the way to Nudey Beach. This restaurant/bar combination serves fresh food and cold drinks. his makes it the perfect place to wind down the day with a sunset cocktail or meal.

Also, visitors will find a general store just a bit further south from the resort. This is run by the resort but is open to all visitors.

Cocktail by the pool

Bonus: For Fitzroy Island Resort Guests

Those staying on Fitzroy Island at the iconic resort will have access to the epic beachside pool and bar facilities.

If you're making the most out of your trip to Fitzroy Island, relax by the pool and grab a cocktail to wind down after a long day of adventuring and exploring this incredible place.

Resort swimming pool, queensland australia

How Long to Stay on Fitzroy Island

Have you already decided that this is exactly your kind of destination and now you're wondering how long to stay on Fitzroy Island?

If I had to pick, I would recommend 2 days and 1 night to explore the entire Island. However, it is possible to do all of the walks, snorkel with the turtles and enjoy all of the great things to do on Fitzroy Island in one big day.

With that said, staying at the resort is an experience in itself. If you're a visitor to Cairns, seriously consider at least a night here to break up the accommodation in town.

I have seen some "half-day" island tours pop up but honestly, if you want to make the best of your visit, I recommend a full-day trip because the ferry itself takes 45-minutes each way.

Nudey beach during sunset
Fitzroy island resort, cairns australia

How to Get Around Fitzroy Island

There is no transport available on the island. To get around, you'll have to walk.

However, most Fitzroy Island must-see attractions and activities are easily accessible on foot from Welcome Bay. Once you arrive, you'll see an island map that illustrates the network of the island's roads.

Hiking on fitzroy island
Hiking on fitzroy island australia

The Best Fitzroy Island Day Trip

If you don't have your own snorkelling equipment (and you want to see the glass-bottom boat), then the other option for getting to Fitzroy is booking a full-day adventure tour.

This includes:

  • Fitzroy Island catamaran transfer (return)
  • Snorkel equipment hire
  • Glass bottom boat experience on Fitzroy
  • All beach-hire equipment including paddle skis
Snorkelling at fitzroy island

This trip costs $129 per person with discounts for families and includes everything you need to experience the best activities and things to do on Fitzroy Island during a day trip from Cairns. Keep in mind that snorkel rental gear from the resort costs $20 alone so you'll save big by booking the full package in advance.

Note: If you want to stay on the island, you just use your return ticket at a later date. You'll need to let the boat operators know that you're staying and they will organise your return transfer.

Glass bottom boat tour
Seak kayak at welcome bay beach on fitzroy island

Public transport tip: If you're planning to visit the island from Palm Cove, I suggest taking the Route 110 bus to Cairns and walking to the ferry terminal from there.

Staying at the Fitzroy Island Resort

Of course, if you'd rather spend a few days exploring all of the activities and best things to do on Fitzroy Island, you could also stay at the Island Resort.

This Resort Studio is the only accommodation on Fitzroy Island but they offer en suite rooms, rainforest bungalows, beach cabins, a pool bar, and even full ocean suites to suit every budget and travel style.

All rooms at Fitzroy Island Resort have access to air conditioning, en suite bathroom, shower and fridge. Booking accommodation on Fitzroy Island also means visitors get access to beach rental equipment as well as the resort swimming pool, bar and in-house cinema.

We stayed in the Island Suite, which was right on the doorstep of Welcome Bay. We were really surprised that the suite had a full kitchen and a separate living area. The highlight was definitely the beach-facing balcony, which overlooks the tropical gardens and white, coral shores of Welcome Bay.

Sunset pool view at fitzroy island resort
Resort swimming pool, queensland australia
Fitzroy island resort, cairns australia

If you're a couple, or in a group or family, staying at Fitzroy Island Resort is one of the best ways to experience the island and can be really cost-effective.

In fact, it's one of the cheapest luxury accommodation options in Cairns by far! The cheapest room is only $130 a night. You'd be hard-pressed to find a luxury island resort with those prices anywhere else in Australia.

Fitzroy island resort
Bar at fitzroy island beach

Fitzroy Island Camping

If you're not one for fancy resorts and you'd prefer to rough it, then it's also possible to camp here. Located right next to the Fitzroy Island Resort is a large campsite area where you can pitch a tent and spend the night.

A tent site costs $39 per night which seems a little steep at first, but not too bad considering you can split it with up to four people. This is what we did the first time we camped here and we found that it was a cost-effective way to enjoy an overnight visit to Fitzroy.

The campground is managed by the resident resort and you can book a site through them.

Camping at fitzroy island

Cairns Accommodation Guide – Where to Stay

Visiting Cairns? The best places to stay are near the Cairns Esplanade or on the sunny Northern Beaches. Below are the top 4 options for varying budgets.

Alternatively, check out my Port Douglas accommodation guide for more ideas on where to stay in Far North Queensland.

Girl sunbathing at crystalbrook riley resort in cairns

1. Crystalbrook Riley Luxury

If luxury and location are what you're after, you can't beat this 5-star resort right in the heart of Cairns Esplanade.

Fitzroy island wharf

2. Fitzroy Island Resort Mid-Range

Sleep out on one of the picturesque Great Barrier Reef Islands! Staying at Fitzroy often works out cheaper than staying in town & means you get more time to explore the reef, beaches, and rainforest walking trails.

Gilligans backpacker resort

3. Gilligan's Backpackers Budget

The best backpacker option for a great vibe in Cairns. Great place to meet like-minded travelers & features a pool, air-con rooms, a huge shared kitchen, & a great common area.

Peppers beach club four mile beach port douglas

4. Pepper's Beach Club Palm Cove

Stay at the best beach resort in the heart of Palm Cove on Cairns's Northern Beaches!

FAQs About Visiting Fitzroy Island

Is Fitzroy Island worth visiting?

The island is definitely worth visiting! It's the easiest island to get to from Cairns and features scenic rainforest walking trails like the Fitzroy Island lookout track, and beautiful beaches for swimming and snorkelling.

Does Fitzroy Island have mobile reception?

Yes there is phone reception on the island with the main telecom operators in Queensland. However, speeds are quite slow. The only place with WiFi is the resort. But, you'll need to be a paying guest to use it.

How big is Fitzroy?

The island has an area of 3.39 km².

What to do if I've got one day on Fitzroy Island?

Travellers visiting the island for a single day will have plenty of time to check out Nudey Beach, climb to the summit lookout, snorkel at Welcome Bay, and even rent a Kayak! However, if you pick the half-day option, then you might only have enough time to relax at the beach and get some snorkelling in.

What shops are on Fitzroy Island?

There are two main restaurants and one small corner store on the island. Expect highly-inflated prices for basic snacks and drinks at this store. Instead, I recommend bringing some snacks from the mainland.

Where to park for the Reef Fleet Terminal in Cairns?

There is a large paid parking area right beside the terminal. Otherwise, parking in the middle aisle anywhere in Cairns CBD is free. That is, if you can find a spot!

How much does it cost to visit Fitzroy?

Typically, it costs $89 for a return ferry ticket if you plan to spend a full-day on the island. However, itt's possible to visit Fitzroy Island on a half-day trip from Cairns for $70 by booking with BackpackerDeals and using the code OLLY5 for $5 off. Expect to pay more if you need snorkelling gear rental, lunch, or snacks.

How long do you need to spend on Fitzroy Island?

A 3-day itinerary is a good amount of time to make the most of this incredible tropical Far North Queensland island. However, if you're short on time, spending one night and two days will give you enough time to check out all the main attractions and get some relaxing island holiday time on what are some of the best beaches near Cairns.

Is the island expensive?

Once you arrive on Fitzroy, expect higher prices for food and drinks than you would in Cairns. Snorkelling gear rental is $20, which I think is not too bad.

Can you swim at the beach on Fitzroy Island?

Yes of course! Swimming is one of the best things to do on Fitzroy Island!

Fitzroy island australia 9
Fitzroy island travel tips infographic

More Cairns and Far North Queensland Travel Guides

And, that's a wrap. I hope that this travel guide to the best things to do on Fitzroy Island has inspired you to visit this tropical gem!

Armed with the information from this blog, I'm sure you'll be up for an epic island day trip or multi-night stay from Cairns. For more Cairns travel guides and blogs, take a pick from the list below.

Otherwise, why not check out this guide to Green Island!

Fitzroy island australia 16

More Fitzroy Island Photos to Inspire Your Trip

Scuba divers near cairns
Learning to scuba dive in cairns
Glass bottom boat tour on fitzroy island
Scuba divers in welcome bay
Pool and palm trees at fitzroy island resort
Scuba divers walking into blue water on fitzroy island
Scuba divers in welcome bay near cairns
Scuba tank on fitzroy island
White rock, fitzroy island australia
Fitzroy island guide
Thanks for Reading

I'm Olly Gaspar, adventure travel blogger & photographer. Traveling non-stop since 2018, I've published over 600 travel guides on We Seek Travel. These draw on my personal experience to share unique itineraries, accommodation tips, & fun adventure guides covering hikes, viewpoints, beaches, waterfalls, & tours. Read my Publishing Ethics Statement.

Your feedback & updates are crucial to keep my guides factual & current. Got new info or updates? Drop a comment below or contact me directly.

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I only make genuine, worthwhile recommendations based on my experience, expertise, & research. If you buy through my links, I may get a commission, supporting this website at no extra cost to you.

Shari

Wednesday 27th of October 2021

Great article on Fitzroy Island. We have just booked to stay there next March and didn't know anything about the island and this gives us all the info we needed and wanted. Looks like an amazing place for a start to our Far North Queensland holiday.

Olly Gaspar

Wednesday 27th of October 2021

Hi Shari, you'll absolutely love it, enjoy Fitzroy!