Green Island Cairns Australia Travel Guide
Green Island is found off the coast of Cairns in Tropical North Queensland, Australia. This tropical paradise is part of the Great Barrier Reef so offers an excellent opportunity to get up close and personal with the amazing marine life of the reef.
Experiencing the Great Barrier Reef is a must when in Cairns and Green Island is just the place. It is truly incredible that you can experience such a wonder just a short ferry ride from Cairns. Discover all you need to know to plan your trip to Green Island, Cairns, Australia. This guide will take you through getting there, activities, where to stay and how to have the best day ever. Let’s dive in!
The Green Adventurers acknowledge and pay respect to the Guru-Gulu Gungandji people as the custodians of the lands and waters of the Green Island. We pay respect to elders both past, present future Traditional Custodians and Elders of this nation and the continuation of cultural, spiritual and educational practices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. We acknowledge and respect the Guru-Gulu Gungandji people’s cultural, spiritual, physical and emotional connection with their land, waters and community.
This post may contain affiliate links. Read our disclaimer.
About – Green Island, Cairns – Formation & Facts
Green Island is found in Queensland, 27km off the coast of Cairns in the Great Barrier Reef. The reef is one of the 7 wonders of the world and is home to a diverse range of marine life. Green Island is only 1.6km in circumference so it’s easy to see all the island has to offer in a day.
Green Island is a coral cay which has formed as sand, coral rubble, shells and reef debris have accumulated over time on top of the existing reef structure. Waves push the rubble in to a pile on the calm side of the reef and if the conditions are right the pile grows into a small island. Green Island was formed just 6000 years ago and although there are 300 other coral cays on the Great Barrier Reef, Green Island is the only one with a rainforest.
Plant & Animals Life
The reefs around Green Island have many varieties of coral. 190 varieties of hard coral and over 100 types of soft coral. The hard coral produces a rigid skeleton made of calcium carbonate forming the structure of the reef. Soft coral is made up of a large colony of individual polyps which have the appearance of a single large organism. Amongst the coral you will find as many as 1600 species of fish, sea cucumbers, sea turtles, sharks, rays & jellyfish.
Green Island is home to 126 native plant species, including a unique mixture of coastal and rainforest plants. The island attracts a wide range of birds, including land birds, seabirds and migratory birds that pass through the Great Barrier Reef on the way to nesting grounds.There are over 55 species of birds regularly seen on Green Island. Of these, 13 are seabirds and 38 are shore and land birds. About 15 types of birds regularly nest on the island.
When is stinger season on Green Island?
Stinger season in Tropical Queensland is between November and May. In these months there are several species of marine stingers that can be found in the waters including the box jellyfish and the irukandji.
During these months it is not recommended to enter the water without the protection of a stinger suit – a full length lycra suit to protect your skin.
Green Island Sustainability
Green Island and the ocean surrounding the island is part of 348,000 square kilometres of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975 is the major piece of legislation that protects the marine park and The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, along with Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, use permits to ensure the conservation, reduce impacts and monitor activities upon the reef.
To help protect the reef when you visit:
- Dive & snorkel responsibly – Don’t touch or stand on the reef. This can cause damage to the delicate coral.
- Use reef-safe sunscreen – Sunscreen can contain ingredients that can harm or kill coral. Check out this guide by Reef Check Australia for more info
Green Island Resort & Big Cat Green Island Ferries both hold Advanced Ecotourism Certification and are dedicated to being environmentally responsible, promoting environmental best practices and maximising sustainability.
Getting There – How to get to Green Island, Cairns
To reach Green Island you will need to cross 27km of ocean. The two ways your can get to Green Island are by boat or helicopter. The ferry is the most economical and eco-friendly option.
Big Cat Ferry to Green Island
Big Cat are an eco-accredited company offering eco-tour experiences to Green Island. There are three options for taking the ferry to Green Island – Transfer only, Full day eco experience or half day eco experience. Check out the Green Island website for more information.
INCLUDED in the eco experience:
- Return trip on a modern air-conditioned catamaran
- 5hrs 30mins to enjoy Green Island
- Morning tea or coffee
- Your choice of snorkel equipment including snorkel, flippers & a stinger suit OR a glass bottom boat ride
- Environmental Management Charge (Reef Tax)
- Buffet lunch $28
- Return hotel transfers from Cairns and Northern Beaches. Transfers are available from $25pp
- Snorkel equipment hire $30
- Glass bottom boat ride $20
- Snorkel Experience Tour – Guided tour from the Green Island beach $39
- Snorkel Safari Tour – Visit the reef by boat with a qualified guide $40
- Introductory Scuba Dive AU$152
- Semi-Submersible Boat Tour $22
Where to catch the ferry to Green Island
The ferry departs from the Reef Fleet Terminal in Cairns. You can find parking at the Pier Shopping Complex opposite the terminal for $1.60 an hour or at the Trinity Wharf for around $3 for the day.
The catamaran takes around 1 hour & 15 minutes to reach Green Island or the speedier “Reef Rocket” which departs at 11am takes around 45 minutes.
Book your trip here. Booking through Viator is a great option because they offer free cancellation if you give at least 24 hours notice.
Helicopter to Green Island
Green Island has it’s own heli pad so it is possible to reach the island by helicopter. This package offers you a one way heli flight and a cruise return.
You can also take a scenic flight over the Great Barrier Reef departing from & returning to Cairns.
Activities – What do to on Green Island, Cairns
The most popular activities on Green Island is snorkelling, which lets you explore the nearby reef, watch out for turtles and other marine life, and enjoy stunning views of colourful fish and corals. You can also take a glass bottom boat ride that let you see the marine species in their natural environment. You can also enjoy some fun water sports or just relax on one of the sandy beaches.
Green Island snorkelling from the beach
There are two main spots to snorkel on Green Island. The best for beginners is to the right of the jetty where the area is patrolled by a life guard. If you are a confident swimmer you can snorkel to the left of the jetty. You need to swim a way out and this is at your own risk as it is not patrolled. HOT TIP The fish love to hang out under the jetty so if you swim out along the edge you will see an impressive amount of fish. Be careful not to go over to the right of the jetty because boats use this area.
Green Island Snorkel Safari Tour
The Snorkel Safari Tour can be added onto your experience for $40 and it’s definitely an experience you don’t want to miss. The tour includes a boat site out to the outer Green Island reef wall with magnificent coral formations & 50 minutes of snorkel time.
You are accompanied by a marine biologist who will point out interesting things to see and provide information about the ecosystem. This is the perfect chance for confident snorkellers to experience the more spectacular parts of the reef not accessible from the shore.
Green Island Glass Bottom Boat Ride
Take a cruise over the coral and learn about the marine life from the driver. This is a great way to experience the reef if you aren’t wanting to enter the water. The 30 minute boat ride will take you over the wondrous reef with a huge array of colourful coral and marine life. Keep your eyes peeled for turtles! The experience includes a fish feeding display where some huge specimens flock to the boat for some tasty snacks.
Other Activities on Green Island
Swim – There is a pool on the island if you want to take a dip. This is a good option during stinger season when you have to have a full protective suit to enter the ocean.
Relax – Although it’s not a big island you can often find a piece of the beach just to yourself to kickback and relax.
Parasailing – On arrival you can book into a parasailing experience.
Marineland Croc Park – Marineland has captive crocs & an aquarium. I do not support animals in captivity so I would not recommend this experience.
Accomodation & Facilities – Staying on Green Island
A visit to Green Island is easily done as a day trip from Cairns but if you think you need a bit longer enjoying the pristine beaches you can also spend a night or two at the Green Island Resort.
Locker Hire Green Island
There are lockers on Green Island which can be hired for the day or a few hours with gold coins. The price is around $7-9 so make sure you bring plenty of coins. The lockers are spacious and are perfect for storing valuables like cameras while you are in the water.
Green Island Vegan Options
There is a small selection of food outlets on Green Island. The Emerald Restaurant, The Canopy Grill & The Cafe. There is nothing marked vegan on their menu. *I have reached out for information on what they can offer so I’ll update soon*
Buffet lunch has a couple of vegan salads but if you are thinking about going for this option get in touch and see what else they can offer.
I chose to bring food with me from Cairns so if you have dietary needs bringing a picnic might be your best option.
Green Island, Cairns – FAQ
The scenery on the two islands is quite different. Green Island is around 12ha in size and is covered in a rain forest. Fitzroy Island is much larger at 339ha and has diverse landscapes featuring granite outcrops, rainforest, woodlands mangroves and beaches. There is a wider range of activities on Fitzroy Island including hiking and Fitzroy Island has a larger range of accommodation.
The reef on Green Island is very impressive so if you primarily plan on diving and snorkelling Green Island might be your best option. If you want a wider range of activities try Fitzroy Island.
Both offer an amazing experience just a short ride from Cairns so you can just visit both and decide for yourself!
Yes! A visit to Green Island is a must do experience when visiting Tropical North Queensland. The snorkelling is world class and the ease of access from Cairns makes this an easy option for all travellers.
The price for a full day experience comes in at just under $100 including your choice of snorkel equipment or a glass bottom boat ride. You can get a transfer only for $89.
The catamaran takes around 1 hour & 15 minutes or the smaller “Reef Rocket” boat takes approximately 45 minutes from Cairns to Green Island.
Yes! The snorkelling from the beach is fantastic on Green Island. You need to swim out a little way from the shore to reach the coral. The left side of the jetty is a great spot away from incoming boats.
Yes both the Green Turtle and the Hawksbill Turtle can be spotted in the waters surrounding Green Island.
Yes the Green Island Resort is the only hotel on the island.
The ferry departs The Reef Fleet Terminal daily at 9am, 11am & 1pm heading to Green Island.