people catching the ferry to Fitzroy island

A Fun Day Catching the Ferry to Fitzroy Island

Catching the ferry to Fitzroy Island is a fun day trip and a favourite escape from Cairns for locals and visitors to Australia. Fitzroy Island is a National Park covered by a lush tropical rainforest with scenic walking trails, idyllic beaches and a lighthouse.

This serene and beautiful tropical paradise lies in the Coral Sea in far north Queensland and is part of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef. Palm-fringed beaches give way to crystal-clear turquoise waters with abundant marine life, coral reefs, colourful fish and sea turtles swimming in the water.

Fitzroy Island in Queensland is also the home of the famous Nudey Beach, voted Australia’s best beach in 2018.

I spent my holidays in far north Queensland and visited several gorgeous tropical islands near Cairns and Fitzroy Island was one of my favourites. I also loved visiting Green Island, the Low Isles and Magnetic Island but I would recommend a day trip to Fitzroy Island for nature lovers, bushwalkers and anyone who loves to swim, snorkel and relax on the beach.

If you’re wondering how to get to Fitzroy Island from Cairns this article explains the various options as well as what to do on Fitzroy Island when you get there.

Is a day trip to Fitzroy Island worth it?

Yes! There are plenty of fun things to do on a day trip to Fitzroy Island from hiking the rainforest trails to relaxing on the gorgeous beaches. Water activities are popular with snorkelling, diving and kayaking on the coral reef at the top of the list. 

If you want to unwind you can sunbathe on the beach, order a meal at the café or simply relax with a cocktail or a coffee and enjoy the lovely view. Catching the ferry to Fitzroy Island is a great way to spend a day in Cairns and the perfect addition to a Cairns itinerary.

Welcome Bay on Fitzroy Island
Welcome Beach on Fitzroy Island

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Where is Fitzroy Island located?

Fitzroy Island is located on the east coast of Australia in tropical far north Queensland 29 kilometres southeast of Cairns. It’s one of the hundreds of beautiful islands of the Great Barrier Reef.

Fitzroy Island in Queensland was once connected to the mainland and is popular to visit because it’s close to the coast.

TIP: I booked a full-day trip with Fitzroy Island Adventures and had a great experience.

How to go to Fitzroy Island from Cairns

Catching the ferry to Fitzroy Island is easy and the trip takes around 45 minutes from the Cairns Marina. The ferry to Fitzroy Island is a large catamaran with an open-air top deck.

Catching the Ferry to Fitzroy Island

The ferry leaves Cairns Marlin Marina at 8:30 am and boarding starts half an hour beforehand. On the return trip, the ferry leaves at 4:00 pm from the sheltered waters of Welcome Bay. On a day trip, I had 6 hours to explore the beautiful Island at my own pace.  

Hiring snorkel gear on the ferry

I hired my snorkelling gear in advance when I booked my ticket but snorkel gear can be hired on the boat and a guided snorkelling tour of the reef with a marine biologist is also available for an extra fee. A reef tour in a glass bottom boat is another option if you want to see the reef but are not confident in the water or just don’t want to get wet.

Book your ferry ticket in advance

It’s best to book your ticket in advance as the ferry to Fitzroy Island can sell out during peak periods. My boarding pass was issued by email but you can call in at the office at the ferry terminal to check in before your Fitzroy Island day trip.

The jetty on Welcome Bay on a day trip to Fitzroy Island
The jetty on Welcome Bay

Fitzroy Island Ferry options – How to get to Fitzroy Island

Three different companies operate a ferry to Fitzroy Island and the options include:

  • The Fitzroy Island Flyer departs three times daily from Fitzroy Island.

The different departure times give you flexibility and the choice to visit for a full day or a half day.

TIP: It can be a bit rough on the water on the Fitzroy Island ferry so it’s best to be prepared and take a tablet if you’re prone to seasickness.

Things to do on Fitzroy Island

There are lots of things to do on Fitzroy Island and you can easily spend a day or more relaxing and exploring. Welcome Bay is the first place you’ll see on the island.

Visit Welcome Bay

The ferry to Fitzroy Island arrives at Welcome Bay and there’s a beautiful beach to explore right at the jetty. From the moment you set foot on the island, you’ll be taken by the lovely views of distant islands, wide open skies and crystal clear turquoise water.

TIP: Bring a pair of rubber-soled reef shoes for walking on the beach at Fitzroy Island

The beach at Welcome Bay is made up of bleached coral fragments. It’s crunchy underfoot and painful to walk on so you’ll need shoes to walk comfortably on the beach beside the water. You can swim and snorkel straight from the shore in the calm sea.

Some of the best snorkelling can be found around the rocks at the far end of Welcome Bay where there’s colourful coral to discover on the point just a few metres from the shore.

Fizroy island walking track
Fitzroy Island walking track

Relax at Foxy’s Café & Bar

One of the best things to do on Fitzroy Island is to relax at Foxy’s café and bar. The view from the cafe is gorgeous and it’s just a short stroll from the ferry wharf! To get there follow the path to the right of the jetty in Welcome Bay along the waterfront.

The café serves meals, coffee and alcoholic drinks and, next door there’s a general store where you can buy a sandwich or an ice cream. There are also toilets and locker facilities you can use to keep your gear safe while you’re swimming and exploring the island.

Water adventure activities

At Fitzroy Island, all kinds of water activities are on the agenda.  Swimming, snorkelling, diving, kayaking, paddle boarding and fishing are all popular things to do on Fitzroy Island. At the Sports Hub, you can hire snorkel and scuba diving gear, stand-up paddle boards, kayaks and stinger suits.

Lessons are also available for first-timers along with guided snorkel and glass-bottom boat tours. Don’t miss the fish feeding on the jetty at 11:30 and 2:30 pm.

Relaxing on the beach

Fitzroy Island is the perfect place to unwind, unplug and do nothing much at all. Relax on one of the beautiful beaches, and soak in the tranquillity and stunning views.

There are no cars on the Island and the only sounds you’ll hear are the birds singing, the wind blowing through the trees and the waves lapping on the beach. The peace and serenity of the island are one of its main attractions.

One of many lovely islands on the great barrier reef, Fitzroy Island
Beautiful Welcome Bay near the ferry to Fitzroy Island

Fitzroy Island walks

On a day trip to Fitzroy Island, you’ll have plenty of time to explore and there are some excellent walking trails around the island.

Nudey Beach Track

1.2 km / 30 – 40 minutes return / Moderate

The short walk to Nudey Beach is one of the most popular things to do on Fitzroy Island. The trail takes you through the dense rainforest to a lovely beach on a quiet corner of the island. The path is shaded until the track opens out onto the gorgeous beach. It’s an easy trail although there are some stairs and steep sections.

Nudey Beach is made up of bleached coral fragments and sand and is perfect for swimming, snorkelling and sunbathing. It was voted the best beach in Australia in 2018 and many people head straight to Nudey Beach as soon as they get off the ferry. Nudey Breach is a delight to visit on a day trip to Fitzroy Island.

TIP:  Nudey Beach is not a nudist beach so make sure you leave your swimmers on while you’re there.

Nudey Beach on Fitzroy Island

The Secret Garden Walk

700 metres return / 30 minutes / Moderate

The Secret Garden track is a lush, cool and quiet escape from Welcome Bay. It’s unlikely you’ll see many other visitors as the path winds up through the rainforest of the National Park behind the resort to a lovely lookout point. It’s the perfect way to explore on a day trip to Fitzroy Island.

The Lighthouse Road

3.6 km return / 2 hours / Difficult

Walking to the lighthouse is one of the most popular things to do on Fitzroy Island. If you follow the service trail to the right of the jetty in Welcome Bay you’ll be on your way. This walk takes you to the other side of the island and is extremely steep in places and a good level of fitness is required.

There are expansive open ocean views and whales can be spotted as they pass by the coastline on their annual migration during the winter months.  This path will take you high up on the island and it can be windy and exposed on the cliffs but the views are breathtaking.

View of the rocks and the ocean from the lighthouse on Fitzroy Island
View from the lighthouse on Fitzroy Island

The Summit Lookout

2-3 hours Circuit Track – Difficult

Just before you reach the lighthouse the path forks off to the right and continues to the Summit Lookout. This section of the track is open and exposed to the elements and many boulders. Along the path and from the lookout there are sweeping 360° views. On a clear day, you can see across the island and out to sea. The Summit Trail descends through the rainforest and ends near the campsite on Welcome Bay.

Visit the Turtle Rehabilitation Centre 

Fitzroy Island has a Turtle Rehabilitation Centre where you can meet some of the island’s resident turtles. The centre helps sick and injured turtles and runs educational tours where you can learn all about the endangered turtles of the Great Barrier Reef. Tours run daily from 1:00 pm. and day visitors can book on the island.

If you’re a turtle lover you’re sure to enjoy swimming with turtles on the Great Barrier Reef. But which island is better to visit, Fitzroy Island or Green Island?

Can you stay on Fitzroy Island?

Fitzroy Island Resort

Yes, you can stay on Fitzroy Island in comfortable 4-star hotel accommodation at the Fitzroy Island resort. Rooms, suites, bungalows and beach cabins are very popular and are often booked out months in advance. The resort has a pool and a restaurant and offers a great selection of activities to keep you busy on the island during your stay.

Camping on Fitzroy Island

Take your tent on the ferry to Fitzroy Island and camp out in a lovely grassy spot on Welcome Bay metres from the beach. The campsite is located beside the resort, not far from the jetty and backs onto the forest. There’s a facilities block with cold showers, toilets and an outdoor kitchen area. Campfires are not permitted here. The campground is managed by the Fitzroy Island Resort and you can book online.


November to May is stinger season on Fitzroy Island in Queensland. Dangerous Irukandji and Box Jellyfish are abundant in the waters of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia during the Summer. Swimming is possible on Fitzroy Island but lycra stinger suits should be worn in the water. Stinger suits can be hired on the Island for a Fitzroy Island day trip.

One of the beautiful islands on the great Barrier Reef, Fitzroy Island
Fitzroy Island, one of the beautiful islands on the Great Barrier Reef

Final Thoughts

Catching the ferry to Fitzroy Island is a fun day trip from Cairns. The island is stunning and offers a real taste of tropical paradise. I hope by now you have a clear idea of how to get to Fitzroy Island from Cairns and what there is to do when you get there.

If you’re not sure which island to visit and can’t decide between Green Island or Fitzroy Island, it may help you to know that Fitzroy was my favourite of the islands near Cairns. It’s less developed and it’s the perfect place to relax and unwind surrounded by the beauty of nature.

The Island is large enough that you can escape from other visitors and enjoy the peace and tranquillity of the rainforest. And there are enough facilities for a comfortable visit with plenty of adventure activities to keep you busy.

Walking through the forest to Nudey Beach is a highlight and it’s a real thrill to catch a glimpse of this picture-perfect beach as you approach from the point and emerge through the trees onto the sandy shore.

A day trip to Fitzroy Island should be at the top of your list if you’re visiting Cairns in far north Queensland. But there are lots of other amazing tropical islands on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia like Magnetic Island, Green Island and the Low Isles. And the tropical rainforests of the Cairns hinterland are also magical to discover with the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest high on the list.

Essentials for Travel in Australia

For peace of mind make sure you buy travel insurance before you go, especially if you are travelling solo. I use Travel Insurance that covers me for overseas medical, lost baggage, and other expenses and I can concentrate on enjoying my trip without worrying about something going wrong.

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  1. This looks like a great place to spend a day or two. Thanks for sharing!

  2. It made me laugh that you had to clarify that Nudey Beach is not a nudist beach lol. Fitzroy island looks like such a fun getaway! I’d love to explore those beaches and go snorkeling there!

  3. Fitzroy Island looks like a beautiful place to explore! I love the gorgeous beaches and beautiful blue water! I’d love to visit one day! Thanks for the great guide!

  4. This is the first time I have heard about Fitzroy island. It looks like a great place to explore and relax! Being surrounded by such beautiful blue water is always a plus. Thanks for sharing.

  5. This looks SO relaxing!! Gorgeous pics! I would love to check out the turtle rehab centre. Also made me giggle about Nudey beach. Thanks for the great guide!

  6. This looks like such an amazing trip! I haven’t been to Fitzroy Island and now I want to! Who wouldn’t want to go somewhere that is called Welcome Beach? Love the pics btw!

  7. Fitzroy Island looks like such a gorgeous destination. I would love to check out the viewpoint from The Lighthouse Road and then spend the day relaxing on the beach. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Looks like a beautiful Island. Australia is such a long plane ride for me, but it is on my bucket list. Saving this for one day when it’s time to go see it for myself! Thanks!

  9. What a cool place! I need to go! It looks gorgeous!

  10. This place looks so beautiful! I’ve never heard of Fitzroy Island before but am a big turtle fan so I have to plan a trip, I’d love to visit the rehabilitation center!

  11. I’ve always wanted to travel to Australia and Fitzroy Island looks like a dream! You’ve suggested some great things to do as well. I’d like to check out the Turtle Rehabilitation Centre too.

  12. Laura Blakeman says:

    Fitzroy island is a great getaway. I love Nudey beach it’s One of my favourite places

  13. I never heard about Fitzroy Island before and I can’t believe the place looks actually so fantastic! The views are absolutely fantastic! I just would skip going during the jellyfish season as I would love to swim as much as I can!

  14. I love all the water activities, what a great way to spend the day!

  15. My sister recently visited Fitzroy Island when she came to visit me in Aus and had the absolute time of her life and has really made me want to visit myself! A day trip for walks and exploring the island would probably do me fine!

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