Things to Do on Fitzroy Island
Fitzroy Island is close and accessible to the upbeat and modern city of Cairns, yet it retains a rugged but appealingly unspoiled character thanks to its imposing and iconic peaks climbing abruptly from the sea.
Predominantly a national park and 30km east of Cairns, the island’s geography features coral beaches, giant boulders, a miasma of nature walking tracks and pristine waters for swimming, snorkelling and kayaking.
The 340ha area is a nature lover’s delight, with relatively easily negotiated rocky treks up and around the richly forested peaks, the Lighthouse trek and Secret Garden walk being the most popular. Accessible by high-speed ferry from the Marlin Wharf in Cairns, visitors can book full-day and half-day excursions or stay longer at the resort or camping ground.
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Top 10 Attractions
Swimming and snorkelling activities on Fitzroy Island take in the crystal clear waters of the Great Barrier Reef location and the fringe reefs they wash over. But visitors who want more can take a 3-hour return sea kayaking route from the resort to Little Fitzroy Island. Kayaks and paddle boards are available for hire on the island which also offers PADI certified diving.
For classic tropical island sun and sand relaxation, Nudey Beach is an easy walk from Welcome Bay jetty along paths through rainforest and woodlands. Its white coral idyll and pristine waters make it the most popular spot for swimming and snorkelling. It has been awarded as Australia’s best beach and, despite its name, clothing is mandatory.
The unspoiled character of Fitzroy Island makes it a magnet for nature lovers willing to discover its many rugged and rich natural features and awesome views. These are best encountered along five main walking tracks, ranging from gentle to challenging, through the destination’s rich and diverse flora and fauna. They are mainly at the opposite end of the island to Nudey Beach and the most physically demanding, and rewarding, are the 3-hour Summit Trek and 2-hour Lighthouse Trek.
Fitzroy Island Lighthouse
The lighthouse is no longer a guiding beacon for the region’s mariners but its rich heritage links back to 1923 when a carbide gaslight was raised on Little Fitzroy Island to warn ships about surrounding reefs. A lighthouse was built on the main island in 1943 on the current site and operated through to 1992 and is now a visitor centre.
Fitzroy Island is surrounded by fringing reefs and is part of the Great Barrier Reef. It is a national island park of which 324ha (97%) are protected. It was so named by Captain James Cook after the family name of the Prime Minister of England at the time he set sail on a voyage of discovery to Australia. Home to the Gunganji people for thousands of years, it has been a penal colony, quarantine base, artillery placement, mission and pearling base.
Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre
The Fitzroy Island centre is devoted to the recovery of sick and injured turtles and is a world-class marine rehabilitation complex with vast facilities. These reptiles have been stranded after floods and depletion of sea-grass beds but are also victims of pollution ingestion. The island is home to six of the world’s seven species of marine turtles. The centre hosts daily educational tours.
Fitzroy Island is almost completely a national park and a treasure trove of marine activity, tropical birdlife species, open woodlands of eucalyptus, and mangroves. Check out red flying foxes, blue Ulysses butterflies, yellow-spotted monitor lizards, paradise kingfishers and imperial pigeons on your journeys along the five main walking trails.
Camping on the Great Barrier Reef
With the tropical climate ranging between 24 and 31 degrees most of the year, camping is a viable option on the Great Barrier Reef’s Fitzroy Island for lovers of outdoor living. Visitors can stay overnight at the camping grounds which feature showers, toilets, BBQ facilities and picnic tables but bring your own food and drinking water. Barbecue packs can be purchased from a small general store, though it is advisable to bring as much with you as you can. Bookings are essential through Fitzroy Camping Grounds.
Summit Trek & Lighthouse Trek
The steeper of the two main walks on the island, Summit Trek (2.6km return), starts from near Welcome Bay jetty and ascends sharply up the boulder lookout trail through woodland to the peak. It is recommended for very fit walkers. The Lighthouse Trek (3.6km return) climbs more gradually to the old lighthouse through the rainforest and passes a lookout spot. The ocean views along the way are awesome.
Glass-bottom Boat Tour
Check out the glass-bottom boat tours to experience a top-down view of the Island’s fringing coral reefs, marine animals, including clownfish, or some of the world’s rarest sea turtles. It’s a taste-test of what can be enjoyed once you start snorkelling and the boat skipper supplies interpretive commentary