Barrier Reef Australia Blog


Green Island or Fitzroy Island, which is better?

Saachi James-Mason on May 25th, 2024

Which is better - Green Island or Fitzroy Island?

If you wish to do a lot of in water activity such as Seawalker, scuba diving, snorkelling or helicopter scenic flights off the beach then Green Island is the best choice by far, however if you are a bit sporty and like to do forest walks and hiking up to a light house then Fitzroy Island may be better.

Deciding whether Green Island or Fitzroy Island is a better Great Barrier Reef tour from Cairns largely depends on what you're looking to get out of your reef trip experience. Both islands offer unique experiences but cater to different tastes and interests. Both islands offer half day tours and full day tours however Green Island is the only island that offers helicopter rides and the very popular cruise/ fly combos, Green Island also has shopping and attractions such as Marineland Melanesia that is home to the world oldest living crocodile Cassius. Both islands have a luxury resort and offer guests entertainment areas for food and beverage and at times entertainment.

Here’s a detailed comparison to help you choose if Green Island or Fitzroy Island is the one best suited for your visit to Cairns and Tropical North Queensland.

Green Island: Fun, Family-Friendly and Accessible

Features of Green Island:


Green Island is known for its flat terrain, making it easily navigable for families with young children, elderly members or visitors with limited mobility. The island is small enough to explore on foot and is equipped with boardwalks for prams and wheelchairs. (limited accessibility for disabled passengers). Visitors can walk around this 12-hectare island in about an hour and admire the wildlife and scenic views across the Great Barrier Reef.

Access to water:

Green Island has gentle sloping beaches perfect for young children and older folks making them feel comfortable wading into the water for snorkelling and swimming. The sand is soft and gentle under foot.

Beach Hire Equipment:

Book your own private beach lounge chairs and sun umbrellas, hire a kayak, or buy a delicious icy cold drink to sit back and admire the view across the Great Barrier Reef.

Travel time to Green Island from Cairns:

There are two ferry boat tour operators taking guests To Green Island for full day tours and half day tours and their travel times differ from 45 minutes to 60 minutes. Helicopter rides from Cairns offer a 15–20-minute scenic flight landing on the beach at Green Island. Or you have the choice of sailing tour that moors on the outer edges off Green Island offering brilliant snorkelling and scuba diving tours.

Activities on Green Island:

Green Island offers a huge range of activities that are ideal for those who prefer a more relaxed and accessible approach or for those with ants in their pants and want to try everything. This includes snorkelling in shallow waters, glass-bottom boat tours, and a swimming pool accessible to day visitors on the Great Adventures boats.

All Green Island Activity Options:


 The island hosts a resort with adequate facilities, including a pool, a bar, and a casual dining restaurant. Despite being small, the island features essential amenities such as lockers and change rooms.

Best For:

Visitors that may be limited on time such as cruise ship passengers, families with young children or older grandparents, hyperactive teenagers, visitors who just want a beautiful island to spend the day snorkelling the reefs or for the more adventurous who wish to try every single activity on and off the island. Green Island really offers a huge array of activities to keep all sorts of travellers busy for the day. Visitors really appreciate the convenience and comfort with easy access to the reef and basic amenities.

Fitzroy Island: Action, Adventure and Natural Beauty

Features of Fitzroy Island:


Fitzroy Island is a continental island that was connected to the mainland over 10,000 years ago and is quite mountainous and well known for its visual beauty and timeworn boulder strewn beaches. Most people would have seen the hero photograph of Nudey Beach on the cover of marketing materials for the island or heard about the secret garden and the strenuous hike to the island lighthouse. Fitzroy Island is not overly suitable for visitors in wheelchairs or with limited ability and not really perfectly accessible for prams as the walkways are through rough terrain. Parents can certainly bring prams to Fitzroy Island for the baby to sleep in during the day as long as they are foldable to store on the boat so it’s always best to travel with a light one so you may carry it easily.

Access to water:

From the beaches guests can just wade into the waters and it can get quite deep very quickly which then offers the visitors a brilliant snorkelling experience. However, you need to note that the main beaches to the right of where the ferry boats arrive is the place to pick up all your snorkelling gear and it is mostly made up of corals and shells piled up on the shores, so it is always recommended to wear reef shoes. If you go to the left side of the jetty, you will find sandy beaches that are accessible on low tides which may be more to your liking.

Natural Terrain:

Fitzroy Island offers a more rugged landscape with hilly terrain, making it ideal for those who love hiking and exploring the natural landscapes and its huge array of wildlife. It’s larger than Green Island with a total area of 339 hectares of which not all is accessible, and visitors are unable to walk the circumference of the island. For those who like a more natural island experience with nature then Fitzroy Island certainly offers that in spades.  


 This island is better suited for adventure seekers and visitors can do their own self-guided summit walks up to the lighthouse at 882 ft and other scenic points on top of Fitzroy Island. Allow at least 2.5 hours for the full loop with a few breathers on the way. The Secret Garden is another popular activity on Fitzroy Island of which you need to allow around 45 minutes return to explore this little secret spot under the shade of the trees.

Nudey Beach:

 You cannot visit Fitzroy Island without visiting Nudey Beach. This beach is Instagram famous for its dramatic giant boulders on the beach framing one of the most beautiful images with the Great Barrier Reef and mainland in the background. Allow yourself a 45-minute round trip with good shoes and plenty of water for this adventure. And do not forget to wear your swimmers as it is not a nude beach zone.

All Fitzroy Island Activity Options:

  • Self-guided hiking and walking trails (maps available on the island)
  • Snorkelling Gear
  • Scuba diving
  • Kayaking
  • Stand Up Paddle Boarding
  • Glass bottom boat tours   
  • Turtle Rehabilitation Centre tours


  • Though it also has a resort the swimming pool it is only accessible to the resort guests. Fitzroy’s options are more varied, ranging from campgrounds to luxury stays, giving visitors a wider range of accommodation choices.
  • Foxy’s Bar is famous for good food and drinks and entertainment.
  • The Island Store is where you can pick up ice-creams and other snacks for your island adventure.

Best For:

  • Adventurous travellers and nature enthusiasts who are looking for more engaging activities like hiking, snorkelling in deeper waters, and wildlife encounters. Visitors can enjoy half day tours, full day tours or even an outer reef and island combo tour which ensures you get to see the absolute best coral reefs on the Great Barrier Reef in the one day. 

Comparing Snorkelling on Green Island vs Fitzroy Island

Quality of the Reef Green Island vs Fitzroy Island:

  • When talking about the quality of the snorkelling from Green Island or Fitzroy Island visitors must understand that coral prefers to live in colder waters away from the sun. An island is a build-up of corals and sand rising from the ocean depths over decades providing that gentle slope into the water with smaller coral clusters surrounding the island and the incoming and outgoing tides dictating the types of corals that are close to shore and the marine life that live in these corals.
  • For the absolutely best snorkelling experience on both islands, we highly recommend you upgrade to an off island snorkelling tour to deeper waters to get the full Great Barrier Reef experience which will enable you to see the vivid underwater world in action. Please note this is only available on full day tours.
  • From Fitzroy Island and Green Island, you can also combine your island tour with an outer Great Barrier Reef tour also which ensures you will get to experience the best of the Great Barrier Reef in the one day.   
  • Both islands offer great snorkelling opportunities with vibrant marine life. Fitzroy might edge out for those looking for more extensive coral reefs accessible directly from the beach for the more confident swimmers.
  • Beaches: Fitzroy Island’s Nudey Beach is often listed among Australia’s best beaches, known for its stunning scenery. Green Island’s beaches are more accessible and family-friendly with gentle waters.

Which is Better Fitzroy Island or Green Island?

Choose Green Island if: You’re traveling with young children, older travellers or highly active teenagers who want to try everything or for those who want to take it easy and play starfish in the soft silky sands on the beach. Its compact nature and accessible facilities make it a stress-free option for a leisurely day out.

View All Green Island Tours: 

Choose Fitzroy Island if: You crave a more active experience with opportunities for hiking and exploring a more dramatic landscape. It’s ideal for those who want a fuller day of activities in a natural setting.

View All Fitzroy Island Tours:

Both islands clearly offer distinct experiences, making them suitable for different types of travellers. Consider what kind of activities you and your group are most interested in, and that should guide your decision on whether Green Island or Fitzroy Island would be a better fit for your trip to the Great Barrier Reef.

View All Great Barrier Reef Tours from Cairns and Port Douglas.

Saachi James-Mason

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