Fitzroy Island vs Green Island – if you had to choose one, which is the better tropical island near Cairns? Here’s a complete travel guide comparing these two incredible and easily accessible Cairns Islands to help you plan your trip to the Queensland tropics.
Unfortunately, we don’t all have enough time to visit all of the incredible islands and reef cays around Cairns. However, I was lucky enough to spend close to a year in Cairns, where I took the opportunity to explore all of the adventure highlights, natural attractions and incredible islands on the coast.
In this guide, I’ll provide a quick summary comparing these two incredible Coral Sea gems, to help you choose; Fitzroy Island or Green Island? Also, you’ll find a bit more of an in-depth comparison further down in the article. I’ve based this Fitzroy Island vs Green Island summary on my personal experience of visiting both islands countless times. However, I’ve written this guide to try to be as unbiased as possible to help you better plan your vacation.
Below, you’ll also find links to individual posts for each island which goes into further detail on the best (and cheapest) ways to get to each, as well as more photos and ideas for things to do on both Fitzroy Island and Green Island.
Fitzroy Island vs Green Island – Which is Better?
Fitzroy Island and Green Island are the two most popular island destinations near Cairns. Both are easily accessed via either a fast boat or private snorkelling and island hopping tours. There are also several luxury and private sailing and island-hopping trips that you can currently get ripper deals online using Get Your Guide (currently Covid discounted).
Both Fitzroy Island and Green Island have great opportunities for snorkelling, swimming and exploring the rainforest interior. However, in this Fitzroy Island vs Green Island comparison, I’ve outlined the main reasons why you’d choose one over the other.
Note that it’s actually possible to stay on both islands. If you’re looking to extend your trip longer than just a day, then I highly recommend checking out either Green Island Resort or Fitzroy Island Resort (one of the best places to stay in the Far North)
A Quick Rundown of Fitzroy Island vs Green Island
Looking for some quick answers or comparisons? Here’s the summary for this Fitzroy Island vs Green Island blog to help you better make a choice for which island to visit.
BEST ISLAND FOR SNORKELLING: GREEN ISLAND
- Closer to the outer reef
- Further fringing reef
- Healthier corals and bommies
BEST ISLAND TO SEE TURTLES: FITZROY ISLAND
- I saw up to 13 turtles in a short time snorkelling on Fitzroy Island on my first trip, you’re almost guaranteed to spot at least one.
- You’ll still find turtles on Green Island, but I’ve noticed that populations are smaller
BEST ISLAND FOR HIKING: FITZROY ISLAND
- Fitzroy is much taller than Green Island and offers some great day walks to Nudey Beach and the lighthouse
- While Green Island is mostly flat, you can hike to the summit of Fitzroy Island to get expansive views from the 375 metre peak (one of the best hikes near Cairns)
BEST ISLAND FOR BEACHES: TIE
- While Fitzroy Island has the best beach: Nudey Beach, Green Island has more beaches
- You’ll probably find your own isolated beach on Green Island whereby the main beaches on Fitzroy can get a little crowded
BEST ISLAND FOR ACTIVITIES: GREEN ISLAND
- While you won’t run out of things to do on Fitzroy, Green Island has more bookable activities from Cairns, including helicopter flights, glass-bottom boat trips, snorkelling trips and more.
WHICH IS CHEAPER: FITZROY ISLAND
There are my highlight summaries for Fitzroy Island vs Green Island. Read on for a more detailed comparison of each with more photos.
Fitzroy Island Summary
Fitzroy Island is one of the best tropical island destinations in Far North Queensland. There’s plenty of things to do on Fitzroy Island, from hiking, snorkelling and swimming with turtles. Spoiler alert, Fitzroy is my favourite out of all the islands off Cairns.
Fitzroy is located just south of Cairns Harbour, past False Cape. You can visit Fitzroy Island all year round, even on days of heavy winds since Welcome Bay is well-protected from any strong southerly.
Travel time to Fitzroy Island is only 45 minute from Cairns, and you can book a return ferry ticket online for $84.
Best price for a Fitzroy Island Ferry: Return ferry ticket for $84
Read More: Complete Guide to Visiting Fitzroy Island
Stay on the island: Fitzroy Island Resort
Reasons to Visit
Here I’ve outlined a few reasons to visit Fitzroy Island to make your Fitzroy Island vs Green Island decision a little easier.
Fitzroy Has More Turtles Than Green Island
Probably the most popular reason people head to Fitzroy Island over Green Island is that it has a HUGE turtle population.
During my first time snorkelling here, I counted 13 different turtles within about 45 minutes! Don’t get me wrong, if you spend a bit of time in the water at Green Island, you’ll probably spot one or two as well. But, when it comes to the Fitzroy Island vs Green Island turtle showdown, Fitzroy is a clear winner.
Fitzroy Offers Better Walks & Hikes
Compared to Green Island, Fitzroy is much larger and features raised peaks. As a result, you’ll have access to a couple of epic island walks. My favourite hike is the Fitzroy Island summit track, which takes just over 2 hours return from the beach. At the top, you are greeted with some of the best views of the Coral Coast.
Nudey Beach is Incredible
Nudey Beach is truly one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. In fact, it was ranked as Australia’s most beautiful beach a couple of years ago. In my opinion, it truly lives up to its title.
This small, white-sand beach is found on the southwestern tip and drops into crystal clear, turquoise water. There are also some large boulders and fringing reef at the tip which makes for a great day of snorkelling.
The few times I’ve been snorkeling just off Nudey Beach, I’ve always spotted turtles and even a few reef sharks on occassion.
Green Island Summary
Green Island is located roughly 45 minutes out to sea from Cairns Harbour. It’s a small flat and sandy island covered in dense rainforest. Green Island has a far-stretching reef that offers great snorkelling.
Highlights include snorkelling on coral reef and bommies, exploring the short rainforest walks and finding your own private beaches.
One of the best and most cost-effective ways to get to Green Island is to book a catamaran sailing and snorkelling trip from Cairns for less than $100. This is the cheapest day trip on offer and one of the best ways to see Green Island.
Best price for Green Island catamaran: Reef Catamaran Cruise for Under $100
Read More: Green Island Travel Guide
Stay on the island: Green Island Resort
Reasons to Visit
At this stage, it’s hard to tell which island wins the Fitzroy Island vs Green Island showdown. So, let’s get into some reasons why you should visit Green Island to help you make the choice yourself.
Arguably better reef and Snorkelling
Green Island is located just inside the outer reef, while Fitzroy is much closer to the mainland. As a result, there are larger bommies on the surrounding reef and overall the coral is much healthier.
You might not see as many turtles on Green Island as you would on Fitzroy, but you’ll experience in my opinion, a better taste of the Great Barrier Reef.
However, if seeing the GBR is on your bucket list, you really can’t compare these islands to the actual outer reef. If you’re visiting Cairns, I’d highly recommend booking an outer GBR snorkelling or diving trip.
Book the best-rated outer reef trip: Great Barrier Reef Tour From Cairns
Spend a night on the outer reef pontoon: Cairns: Overnight Great Barrier Reef Pontoon Experience
See the Unique Green Island Rainforest
Green Island initially emerged as a small sandy cay. Over time, birds and wind have brought seeds and vegetation from the tropical mainland. Now, Green Island is densely covered by its own unique rainforest ecosystem.
Compared to Fitzroy Island, Green Island’s vegetation is a little more tropical. It’s the only island that you’ll find near Cairns where tropical rainforest backs straight onto a fringing reef. While Fitzroy Island is also dense with vegetation, it’s a little drier than Green Island’s tropical rainforest vegetation.
Find Private Isolated Beaches
Although Green Island is smaller than Fitzroy Island, you’ll have easier access to all of the flat sandy beaches surrounding the island. Great beaches are features of both islands Fitzroy Island and Green Island. However, if you want more variety, or perhaps an isolated section to yourself, Green Island might be the go.
On the north side of the island, you will find isolated private beaches to swim at and soak in the tropical vibes.
What About the Outer Great Barrier Reef Cays?
To make the decision even harder for you, whether you should head to Fitzroy Island vs Green Island isn’t the only question you should ask yourself. I did mention this earlier but it’s something many people don’t realise when visiting Cairns. If you want a real taste of the Great Barrier Reef, then you’ll want to check out the outer reef!
There are hundreds of cays along the Coral Coast, each with incredible coral reef, snorkelling and marine life. Cairns harbour is full of reef boats, a reason why it’s named the “Reef Fleet Terminal”. This competition makes finding a great deal on day-trips and even overnight pontoon stays a little difficult.
To help you out, I’ve linked some of the best deals below.
Snorkelling or Diving Day Trip with Down Under Cruise & Dive (the best boat)
Fitzroy & Moore Reef Full-Day GBR Cruise by Sunlover (great for seeing Fitzroy and Moore Reef)
Overnight GBR Cruise with Sunlover (Pontoon Experience)
Great Barrier Reef Scenic Flight from Cairns (cheapest way to see the GBR from the sky)
Fitzroy Island vs Green Island – The Verdict
As I mentioned earlier in this article, the decision between Fitzroy Island vs Green Island will largely depend on personal preference. Either way, you won’t be disappointed.
For spending time in the water snorkelling, then I’d recommend Green Island. However, if you’re likely to spend more time on land checking out beautiful beaches and hikes, then Fitzroy Island might be better for you.
Remember that both island offer accommodation but prices vary. I recommend comparing the prices on Booking.com to get the best deal for your dates.
I snuck in a spoiler earlier but for me, Fitzroy Island wins!
Cairns Accommodation Guide – Where to Stay
Planning a trip to Cairns and wondering where to base yourself? Below I’ve listed some of the best options near Cairns Esplanade. I’ve also written a comprehensive accommodation guide to Cairns, so make sure to check that out too before you book!
LUXURY RESORT WITHOUT THE PRICE TAG – Rydges Resort
This hotel offers the best bang-for-buck. In terms of an epic stay for a decent price! The location is perfect, close to the esplanade and features include three swimming pools, two tennis courts, a jacuzzi, a fitness centre and even an award-winning restaurant.
BEST 5-STAR LUXURY HOTEL: Pullman Reef Hotel Casino
If luxury and location are what you’re after, you can’t beat the Pullman. It’s rated Cairns’ best hotel and features restaurants, a pool, live music gigs and even a casino! If nightlife is your thing, don’t go past this one.
STAY ON THE ISLANDS: Fitzroy Island Resort
If you’d rather sleep out on one of the picturesque Great Barrier Reef Islands, look no further than the Fitzroy Island Resort. While you can get out here on a day trip, I highly recommend spending the night so you get more time to explore the reef, coral beaches and rainforest walking trails.
BEST BUDGET HOSTEL WITH A POOL – Gilligan’s Backpackers
The best backpacker option for a great vibe in Cairns is Gilligan’s Backpackers. This one has a swimming pool, AC, a complete kitchen and a great common area to meet other travellers.
More Cairns and Far North Queensland Travel Guides
So, that’s a wrap for this Fitzroy Island vs Green Island comparison blog. If you found this island guide useful, then please let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear what you have to think about this epic island showdown!
Also, for now, why not check out some more epic Cairns travel ideas in the list below. If you’re up for an adventure, I’d recommend starting with this complete list of things to do in Cairns or this guide to the absolute best waterfalls in Cairns.