Things to Do on Queensland's Fitzroy Island
Featured destinations: Australia
Published 30 March 2016
Before I went to Cairns, I asked my boss (a Brisbane native), if she’d heard of Fitzroy Island. Turns out: she hadn’t. It was a revelation that got me rather excited – after all, untouristy spots anywhere in the world are pretty hard to come by these days.
Departing the docks on a blissful, blue-sky morning, I couldn’t imagine a better day to be visiting a secluded isle, fringed by the Great Barrier Reef. We reached paradise in under an hour and while Fitzroy wasn’t exactly a well-kept secret, it was relatively crowd-free, which is what made it such a heavenly experience. The island is home to a hotel, water sports centre, shop, restaurant, bar, turtle rehabilitation centre and, well, little else. Other than soft white sands and a penchant for laid-back living, that is.Fitzroy Island (Image: Tourism Tropical North Queensland)
Snorkel and take a glass-bottom boat tour
There are several glass-bottom boat tours that run during the week, but we opted for one that departed at 10am, about 30 minutes after we arrived on the island. It didn’t give us much time to explore beforehand, but we were keen to combine our tour with a one-hour snorkel on the reef – and this was the slot in which to do it. Under the watchful eye of our guide, we cruised out to the opposite side of the island, grabbed our flippers, masks, snorkels and noodles (or to non-Aussies: floats) and plunged into the water.
There's plenty of snorkelling opportunities in the waters around Fitzroy (Image: Tourism Tropical North Queensland)
The scene beneath us seemed murky at first, but as the sun emerged from behind a cloud suddenly the corals were injected with colour. Marine life darted between rocks and reef, and nearby one of the group called out saying she’d spotted a small reef shark. For nearly an hour we scoured the corals, stunned by the myriad species, before returning to the boat and shedding our soggy stinger suits. We cruised slowly back to the dock, stopping to spot sea life as it swam beneath the transparent belly of the boat.
Foxy's Bar and Cafe (Image: Tourism Tropical North Queensland)
Eat fish and chips at Foxy’s Bar
After working up quite an appetite while snorkelling, I was ready for lunch. We headed over to Foxy’s – located on the opposite side of the hotel to the water sports centre – where we were treated to a feast of fresh fish (including some delicious calamari), chips and salad. That, washed down with a crisp glass of cider, was exactly what I needed to refuel me for the afternoon. Full and happy, we sat on the decking and took a moment to take in where we were: the floating isle, the crystal-clear skies, the pristine, still waters, only rippled by a light summer breeze… It was utter bliss.
Do your bit for injured sea turtles
Before long we were ready to get going again – especially as we knew what lay ahead: turtles. Volunteer Jenny met us at reception to talk about the work of the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre, located on the far side of the island. We strolled to the centre on a tour (a charitable donation of AU$8.80pp will cover you), stopping in the shade every five minutes for a reprieve from the beating sun, and to hear from Jenny about the region’s sea turtle population.
Ella the injured sea turtle (Image: Alexandra Gregg)
When we reached our destination we made a new acquaintance: a green sea turtle called Ella. She moved majestically around the recovery tank as Jenny told us her story, which saw her being rescued after a collision with a boat. You wouldn’t have thought it though. Ella seemed calm and happy, well on the road to recovery, and took great pleasure in chowing down on the tasty strips of lettuce that Jenny was distributing.
I’ve seen turtles in the wild before, but to see one so close and so vulnerable, a victim of human modernity, was a truly humbling experience. It makes you realise that, despite their seemingly impenetrable outer shell, they’re not invincible – a fact people navigating turtle-inhabited waters seem to forget.
Fitzroy Island has plenty of jungle-clad hiking trails (Image: Tourism Tropical North Queensland)
Hike the Lighthouse Track
If you’re not planning to spend the night on Fitzroy Island, the last boat leaves at 5pm. Don’t worry though, there’s still plenty of time to cram in all the good stuff I’ve talked already talked about before you depart. There’s also time to expend any excess energy too, with a hike along the Lighthouse Track.
The island has plenty of hills to climb and trails to tackle – all offering great views across the reef and surrounding isles – but this one is undoubtedly the most rewarding. A steep, two-mile route, it’s not one for the faint hearted. Take plenty of water, wear sturdy shoes and avoid the midday heat as much as possible. Follow all these rules and, once you’ve navigated the steep paths and winding rainforest trails, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic vistas. You can also take pride in the fact you’ve burnt off that your lunch while everyone else has been lazing by the pool and eating ice cream. #Smug.