Islands near Cairns
See our list of the best islands near Cairns

Map of the Great Barrier Reef

Planning a trip to Cairns, and want to know where the best islands are nearby? Imagine sitting on a remote pristine beach with barely a soul in sight. Or walking through lush tropical forest in the middle of an island in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef.


Well imagine no more, as Cairns is one of the places where you can find the most beautiful tropical islands in the world, surrounded by incredible marine life all easily accessible from a major city.

Cairns is the place to go when you’re looking for an island that has it all. Some of the popular islands to visit near Cairns include Fitzroy Island and Green Island with other islands like Lizard Island and many others off the coast of Port Douglas, a short hop from Cairns. And there are many other coral cays, reefs and islands to explore in tropical north Queensland.

sea turtle at Green Island

The islands near Cairns that are popular for day trips, and some you can can stay longer and immerse yourself in the island experience. The good thing about the islands in this part of the Great Barrier Reef is that they are typically not as crowded as other islands in Australia.

Which islands near Cairns can you stay on?

Fitzroy Island is one of the most popular tourist destinations near Cairns. It is located just off the coast of Cairns and the resort is a great place to stay if you want to be close to the Great Barrier Reef and not too far from land. There are many different activities at Fitzroy Island Resort, and it is also a great location to snorkel and dive close to Cairns.

Lizard Island Resort

Green Island is another iconic Great Barrier Reef island near Cairns. It is located just off the coast of Cairns and Green Island Resort is a great place to stay. Lizard Island Resort (pictured above) is known for its beautiful beaches and is a great island to stay on near Cairns if you want go snorkelling and scuba diving.

Of course, there are other islands that you can visit, but these three are the resort destinations for those who want to stay on islands close to Cairns.

What’s the closest islands near Cairns?

The closest island to Cairns is Fitzroy Island. Fitzroy Island is located 29 kilometres south-east of Cairns and is a great place to stay if you want to stay close to land, yet still get out to the Great Barrier Reef without visiting the outer reef.

1. Fitzroy Island

Fitzroy Island is one of Cairns’ most popular tourist destinations. It is located just off the coast of Cairns and is a great place to stay. Aside from diving and snorkeling, you can also go on a bushwalk, kayaking, or just relax on the beach.

Fitzroy Island Resort

Explore the Great Barrier Reef’s natural treasures on a full-day Fitzroy Island trip. From Cairns, take the quick ferry over to the Great Barrier Reef, where you may swim, relax on a white-sanded beach or take a glass bottom boat tour.

In particular, bushwalking is a popular activity on the island because there are many different trails you can take. For those who have never been to Fitzroy Island before, we recommend you take the time to explore the island and see all it has to offer. Nudey Beach (pictured below) is a spectacular white coral beach on the south-west side of the island.

Nudey Beach on Fitzroy Island

Fitzroy Island was named after the Duke of Grafton in 1770. He was the serving Prime Minister of England when Lieutenant James Cook discovered the islands. The island was used as a quarantine station for the Aboriginal people brought from other parts of Australia. The island was also used as a penal colony and a timber-getting station.

How to get to Fitzroy Island?

You can take a ferry ride from Cairns that takes around 45 minutes and will take you directly to the island. Just south of Carins, this is one of the best options because it is convenient and fast. You can also take a water taxi from Cairns, but this will take longer and is more expensive.

2. Green Island

Green Island is located just off the coast of Cairns and is a great place to stay if you want to be close to the Great Barrier Reef. Green Island is a fairly small island, around 300 metres wide and 650 metres long and there are also many different activities on the island including sheltered snorkelling right off the beach.

Green Island Australia

People started going to Green Island as a destination for day trips. But now, more and more people are staying on the island for extended periods. This is because the island has so much to offer regarding activities and things to see.

On a day excursion to Green Island, you may enjoy both a coral reef and a rainforest. There are more than 120 kinds of plants and birds on the island. While you’re there, go on a nature walk to see some of the island’s plants. Pool bar, restaurant, and shops are available for day visitors.

snorkelling on Green Island

There are also some accommodation options on Green Island. You can stay in a hotel or resort or even rent an apartment or villa for your family.

Some activities you can do on Green Island include swimming, snorkeling, diving, fishing, and many others. You can also just lounge on the beach and enjoy the incredible views.

How to get to Green Island?

You can get on a Cairns to Green Island ferry that will take you to the island in about 45 minutes. Many companies offer this service, and you can choose the one that best suits your needs.

Is Green Island or Fitzroy Island better for kids?

There is no definitive answer to this question since it will depend on the preferences of your children. But if we had to choose, we would say that Fitzroy Island is better for kids.

Fitzroy Island has more activities that are geared towards children. These include a playground, a trampoline, and a swimming pool. There are also many different bushwalking trails on the island that your kids will surely enjoy.

Do as much or as little as you like at Green Island Resort

On the other hand, Green Island is better for those who want to spend most of their time in the water. This is because there are more water-based activities on the island. But if your children are not into swimming or snorkeling, then they might not enjoy it as much.

3. Lizard Island

Lizard Island was named by Captain Cook because he found lizards on the island when he landed. Lizard Island is located just off the coast of Cairns and is a great place to stay if you want to stay on an island in the Great Barrier Reef.

Driftwood on beach of Lizard Island

According to many tourists, this is one of the most beautiful islands near Cairns. The coral cay around the island is a great place to snorkel and dive, and there are many different activities on the island.


You can also do watersports on the island, from paddle boarding to exploring with the help of the motorized dinghies available on the island for a fee. Apart from that, you can swim, sunbathe, or enjoy the view.

lizard island australia stand up paddle boards


How to get to Lizard Island?

You can take a small scenic flight from Cairns that will take you directly to Lizard Island. This is a visual treat for you because you will fly above the gorgeous Great Barrier Reef, and be completely relaxed before you even arrive on Lizard Island! You can also take a helicopter ride from Cairns, but this is more expensive than taking a small plane.

4. The Low Isles of Port Douglas

The Low Isles are two coral cays located off the coast of Port Douglas in Queensland, Australia. The two cays are named Woody Island and Bird Island. The Low Isles is known by some travelers as one of the jewels of the Great Barrier Reef and a popular destination for snorkeling and diving.

Low Isles of Port Douglas

Aside from diving and snorkeling, you can also swim in the Low Isles’ crystal clear waters. You can also go on a guided eco-tour of the islands and learn about the different plant and animal species that call the Low Isles home. These island tours are recommended especially to those who enjoy eco-tourism or want to walk more in nature.

How to get to the Low Isles of Port Douglas?

A boat ride from Port Douglas will bring you to the island in about 30 minutes. Several tour operators provide this journey, which takes around 30 minutes.

5. Frankland Islands

Lastly, we have Frankland Islands. This uninhabited group of islands is located off the coast of Cairns, and it is a great place to visit if you want to head further into the outer Great Barrier Reef. Even though most of the islands near Frankland Islands are uninhabited, you can go camping on the High and Russell Islands near central Franklin Island.

Frankland Islands

Camp sites are suitable for small to medium tents and the maximum total number of campers allowed on the island at any one time is 16. You just have to coordinate with the Queensland National Parks to get a permit for camping.

Some of the things you can do on the Frankland Islands are snorkeling, diving, and swimming. You can also go kayaking around the islands and explore the different mangrove systems found there.

How to get to Frankland Islands?

You can take a charter flight from Cairns that will take you directly to the island. This is the most convenient way to get to Frankland Islands but is also the most expensive. You can also take a boat trip from Cairns, but this will take longer. Either way, you’ll get to enjoy the beauty of Frankland Islands.

Lizard Island Australia Cod

When looking for an island in far north Queensland, each of these islands near Cairns has something different to offer, so choose the one that best suits your needs. Whatever islands you choose, you and your loved ones will be pleased with the many activities and opportunities each of these islands offers you. All you need to do is to relax, enjoy, and have a great time.

Map: Islands Near Cairns

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