One of the biggest draws for us in visiting tropical north Queensland was the ocean. We wanted to experience the Great Barrier Reef, tropical islands and fabulous marine life of the area.
There are lots of great land based attractions around Cairns to keep you busy, but we wanted to spend a few days enjoying the sea. We did a wonderful trip to the Outer Great Barrier Reef, which left us yearning for more time swimming and exploring.
Fitzroy Island is a perfect Cairns day trip. It is a large tropical island covered mostly in rainforest with a fringe coral reef system. Most of the island is protected under the Fitzroy Island National Park and its offshore reefs form part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
Just a 45 minute boat trip from Cairns, this lush island is a perfect way to spend the day with kids. We almost booked to visit Green Island, another coral cay, but after reading lots of reviews about how crowded and touristy it was, we realized it wasn’t for us. I was so happy when I stumbled upon Raging Thunder’s Fitzroy Island day trip and knew that it would be the perfect way to spend our last day in Cairns. We visited on a Sunday and it was obviously a favourite of the locals as well based on the boats moored off the wharf.
You can opt for just your transfer to Fitzroy Island or an all inclusive ticket that includes transfers, a picnic lunch, snorkel equipment, kayaks and stand up paddle boards, a glass bottom boat tour and use of a water trampoline. Our kids absolutely loved all the water sports and the trampoline and spent most of the day in the water.
The island does have a resort and camping facilities for those that want to stay overnight. There are some really nice walking trails through the island that you can explore.
- 1 Day Trip Fitzroy Island
Day Trip Fitzroy Island
Fitzroy Island – Getting There
Raging Thunder operates a fast catamaran that makes the trip in 45 minutes, making this a great day trip from Cairns. It can be rough, so I would advise taking some sea sickness tablets before hand. It was lovely to sit on the open air top deck and take in the tropical coast line.
The boat departs at 9 am, giving you 6.5 hours to explore the island. As you pull up to the Fitzroy pier, you will be reassured that you made a fantastic choice. The island screams tropical island with its lush palm trees fringing the beach and turquoise waters beckoning.
Note that you cannot use the resorts facilities on the island.
That beautiful beach is actually small pieces of old coral and not powder white sand. It is beautiful, but a tad hard on the feet, so I recommend keeping your shoes on for walking the beach.
Raging Thunder operates a Beach Hire hut where you can get stinger suits, snorkel equipment, and the kayaks and paddleboards. Everything is available in kids’ sizes and the equipment was in good condition. If these things were included in your ticket, you can access them for free. If not, you can pay a la carte for items you would like to rent. The crew operating the Beach Hire were really friendly and helpful.
There is a fresh water shower at the Beach hut and toilets are located up by the General Store and Foxy’s Bar.
We kayaked as a family down to the Shark Fin Bay end of the main beach. We managed to see a few sea turtles, which was thrilling for all of us.
We all tried our hand at balancing on the stand up paddleboards, which are surprisingly harder then you would think.
You can snorkel right off the beach here. From November to May, it is stinger season and you will want to wear a free stinger suit provided by Raging Thunder. We visited in May and went without, but many people were still wearing suits. If you snorkel at the Shark Fin Bay end of the beach, you may be lucky enough to see some of the turtles that live down there. Nudie Beach is another area with good snorkeling right off the beach. Don’t expect to see the colours and quantity of fish that you would see on the Outer Reef, but you can get a taste of snorkeling off Fitzroy. For young kids they had these neat boogie boards with a viewing circle for kids to see under the water without getting their head wet.
The water trampoline was a huge hit with our kids. They can swim out to it (the water does get deep fairly quickly) or use the paddleboards to get out there Life jackets are available from the Beach Hire hut too.
Eating on Fitzroy Island
Our all inclusive trip included a packed lunch and it was a really good one. We specified vegetarian and got two delicious sandwiches, an apple and granola bar. It was lovely to sit on the beach under the shade of a tree and eat lunch.
You could bring your own packed lunch on the island. In fact the camping area has BBQs that you could use as well.
There is a beach bar and restaurant on the island, Foxy’s. We ended our day with some cold drinks and chips, with a fantastic view of the beach. The meal options here looked really good and reasonably priced. At lunch there was even some live music.
Glass Bottom Boat Tour
We went out on the glass bottom boat ride where we saw some of the fringing coral. Our guide explained more about the coral and the sea turtles that live in the area. We didn’t see a lot of fish, but we did get lucky and see a huge manta ray. On the way back we stopped to do a little fish feeding, which did attract some fish.
Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre
Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre is located on Fitzroy Island. This Rehabilitation Centre takes care of sick and injured turtles. The Great Barrier Reef is home to six of the world’s seven species of sea turtles. At 2pm, you can do a 45 minute tour, learning about the threats to sea turtles and the work of the centre. The tour costs $8/adults, $5/child and all proceeds go towards funding the centre, which does not receive government funding. We had the opportunity to see some of the injured sea turtles and hear about their treatment and future releases. It was a nice educational activity to do with the kids and neat to get up close to these magnificent creatures.
The island is really lush and there are walking trails where you can explore the different parts of the island. I had seen photos of Nudie Beach before we visited and the view over the beach is spectacular. I couldn’t drag the kids away from the main beach and all the water sports to spend any amount of time on Nudie Beach, but it looked like a great place to spend the day.
Our kids saw some other kids jumping off the end of the pier and wanted to give that a try. It was plenty deep and safe and there is a ladder back up to the top. They loved the thrill of jumping 4 meters down into the ocean below.
If you are traveling with older children, you could join the Sea Kayak Tour of the island.
Another neat feature is the opportunity to take Raging Thunder’s Thunderbolt jet boat to the island. The boat only accommodates a limited number of passengers, but looks like a thrilling and quick way to get to the island.
We absolutely love spending time in the water and on beaches and Fitzroy Island is a pristine island to do just that. We relaxed, we explored the waters, we played with the boats and had a nice laid back last day of our Queensland vacation. There are things to keep the whole family entertained and we really appreciated the balance between activities and relaxation.
Raging Thunder also runs whitewater rafting, canyoning, hot air balloon trips that would be a blast with older kids. They offer packages if you are going to book multiple tours, which will save you money.
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Disclaimer: We were sponsored guests of Raging Thunder on Fitzroy Island. As always all opinions are our own.