Fitzroy Island vs Green Island – if you have to choose one, which is a better tropical island near Cairns?
Unfortunately, we don’t all have enough time or money to visit all of the incredible islands off Cairns. In this guide, I’ll provide a quick summary comparing these two incredible Coral Sea gems, as well as a bit more of an in-depth comparison further below.
I’ve also written individual posts for the best ways to get to each island, as well as ideas for things to do and more photos. You’ll find these links below.
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.
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.
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Fitzroy Island vs Green Island – Summary
Looking for quick answers? Here’s the summary for Fitzroy Island vs Green Island.
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!
- You’ll still find turtles on Green Island, but populations are smaller
BEST ISLAND FOR HIKING: FITZROY ISLAND
- Fitzroy is much higher and has some great day walks to Nudie Beach, the lighthouse and;
- Hike to the summit of Fitzroy Island to get expansive views
BEST ISLAND FOR BEACHES: TIE
- While Fitzroy Island has the best beach: Nudey Beach, Green Island has more
- 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
- Both Green Island has more activities from Cairns, including helicopter flights, glass-bottom boat trips, snorkelling trips and more.
WHICH IS CHEAPER: FITZROY ISLAND
There are the highlight summaries for Fitzroy Island vs Green Island. Read on for a more detailed comparison of each with photos.
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. Personally, Fitzroy is my favourite out of all the islands off Cairns.
It’s 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 for $84.
READ THE FULL FITZROY ISLAND BLOG: FITZROY ISLAND THINGS TO DO AND SEE
Reasons to Visit Fitzroy Island
Here I’ve outlined a few reasons to visit Fitzroy Island to make your Fitzroy Island vs Green Island decision a little easier.
Fiitzroy Island Turtles
Probably the most popular reason people head to Fitzroy Island over Green Island is that it has a HUGE turtle population. During my time snorkelling, 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 Island Walks
Compared to Green Island, Fitzroy is a much larger and higher island. As a result, you’ll have access to a couple of epic island walks. My favourite hike on Fitzroy Island was the Fitzroy Island summit track, which took just over 2 hours return from the beach.
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 south western tip and drops into crystal clear, turqoise water. There are also some large boulders and fringing reef at the tip which makes for a great day of snorkeling.
The few times I’ve been snorkeling just off Nudey Beach, I’ve always spotted turtles and even a few reef sharks on occassion.
LOOKING FOR MORE CAIRNS ISLANDS?: 5 BEST ISLANDS OFF CAIRNS
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, exploring the 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. This costs pretty much the same as the ferry.
Reasons to Visit Green Island
At this stage, it’s hard to tell which island wins the Fitzroy Island vs Green Island showdown. Let’s get into some reasons why you should visit Green Island.
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.
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.
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. 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. You can read my guide to my favourite: Michaelmas Cay, for information about how to get here and what to do.
Alternatively, below I’ve listed links to the three most popular options for visitors to get out to the reef.
Great Barrier Reef Cruise From Cairns (pontoon)
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.
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.
AIRBNB near Cairns
Another great option for places to stay near Cairns is to use Airbnb. This is the best option for larger groups, or if you want to live like a local for a while.
More Cairns and Far North Queensland Travel Guides
If you found this Fitzroy Island vs Green Island guide useful, then please let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear about your Cairns islands experience!
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.