48 hours on Fitzroy Island
It’s one of the most accessible islands in the sunshine state, yet for many, this pocket-sized paradise off the coast of Cairns remains somewhat off the holiday radar (a riddle in itself given its neighbouring proximity to Tropical North Queensland‘s adventure capital, Insta-famous beaches, and Great Barrier Reef locale).
But alas, this works in favour for Fitzroy Island. Home to only one resort, two restaurants, a general store, and a hire hut, there’s not much to distract you from the simplicity and pure natural goodness that it affords, like snorkelling coral gardens right off the beach or national park trails with views so beautiful you might overwhelm your social media audiences.
If you’ve got 48 hours up your sleeve, here’s how we recommend you discover Fitzroy’s assets with room to spare for the carefree slow ‘n’ flow of island time (aka cocktails by the pool).
8am: Buh-bye Cairns
Your ferry awaits!
One of the closest islands to the mainland, Fitzroy is just a quick 45-minute zip from the Reef Fleet Terminal at Cairns Marlin Marina (near the Pier) with the Fitzroy Island Fast Cat.
Arrive at least 30 minutes prior to check-in for your mini voyage, leaving time to spare so you can fuel up with a coffee and quick brekkie at Al Porto Cafe on the waterfront.
Tip: For those wanting a sleep in, there are two more departure times from Cairns with Fast Cat Ferry to Fitzroy Island Resort: one at 11am (not available during Feb and March) and the last at 1:30pm.
9am: Ola, Fitzroy
Although check-in time at Fitzroy Island Resort isn’t until 2pm, they do offer bag storage and changing rooms with lockers, showers and pool towels for resort guests so you can slip straight into island mode.
But while tempting to throw off your kit and jump straight into the crystal waters of Welcome Bay upon arrival, hold back and hit up the Dive and Adventure Centre first to book your spot on the morning glass-bottom boat tour.
Note: The Dive and Adventure Centre is located inside the resort. The Hire Hut on the beach just off the jetty is run by the lads at Raging Thunder for day trippers but can also be used by resort guests.
10am: Ogle. Swim. Snorkel. Repeat.
Waste no time getting up close and personal with Fitzroy’s fringing reefs! The resort’s first glass-bottom boat tour of the day allows you not only the chance to learn more about the coral gardens and local marine animals, but you can jump in and explore for yourself with a 50-minute snorkel session following the 25-minute coral viewing with commentary from your skipper.
Depending on visibility, you could be taken ‘round the back of the island to Hidden Beach (named so because you can only see it underwater) or Shark Fin Bay with its great boulders – either way, it’s a great intro to the island and will help you learn the lay of the land (both dry and sea) before going out on your own.
Note: Glass-bottom boat tours can be booked on arrival.
12pm: Lunch at Foxy’s
Fuel up with lunch at Foxy’s Bar and Restaurant on the beachfront at Welcome Bay, just a two-minute walk from the resort.
These guys do classic pub-grub style meals (aka hearty and delicious) but better, offering the mother of all side dishes… sweet potato fries! #hellyeah
If you can nab one of the tables or benches facing directly onto the beach, kudos to you! And since you’re on island time, why not set the scene with one of their delish cocktails. Our pick? The Weis Bar, which as the name suggests, tastes exactly like the iconic Queensland ice-cream, made with mango, fresh cream and ice, but with an extra kick.
The rest of the day is yours to play with. Those who can’t resist jumping back into the azure waters can hire a snorkel set from the Dive and Adventure Centre to explore the fringing reefs right off the beach. Hot spots for fish and turtle spotting are around the boulders framing both ends of Welcome Bay.
Alternatively, stand-up paddleboards and sea kayaks (with glass-bottom portals) are available if you want more water time without the full pruney-skin effect.
If you want to treat your eyes (and Instagram followers) to one of the most beautiful beaches in Queensland, walk the 1.2km rainforest track to the coral-strewn Nudey Beach, where you can set yourself up on a private patch of sand for the rest of the day. Just remember to keep the kit on folks, because it’s nudey by name only.
Tip: Although it’s not recommended to venture further than Welcome Bay or Nudey Beach when snorkelling or kayaking, you can book a guided kayak tour with Ranging Thunders at the Hire Hut, where you’ll paddle past White Rock to explore Shark Fin Bay and Fitzroy’s sibling island, Little Fitzroy, stopping in at private beaches to snorkel some less-ventured spots.
PM: Get well acquainted with your island digs
If there’s some daylight left after checking into your room (or setting up your tent if you’ve chosen to camp), high-tail it to the resort pool where the swim-up bar will have your sunset drinks sorted. Afterwards, swap your bikinis and boardies for a nice frock or pants as you dine under the stars on the outdoor terrace of Zephyr Restaurant.
8am: Rise and shine, it’s adventure time
After scoffing down a buffet breakfast, it’s time to sort out your activity list for the day.
If you’ve got diving on your mind, waste no time by hitting up the Dive and Adventure Centre. These guys are PADI accredited and offer underwater adventures for newbies and scuba enthusiasts.
If it’s your first time, you can suss out whether you’ll dig it or not with a free 10-minute trial in the pool before going gung-ho on an introductory scuba dive, where you’ll step straight off the beach at Welcome Bay to explore the coral gardens by White Rock.
More experienced divers can opt for a guided buddy to take them on a tour of the island’s fringing Great Barrier Reef assets, but if you want to venture further, boat drop-offs with your new pal can be organised for an additional cost.
If you’re looking to further your diving creds, the centre also offers courses with their SSI dive team starting with open water through to advanced adventurer.
If you’re not so keen on the whole underwater-for-long-periods-of-time thing, turn your attention away from the salty seas to the rugged and diverse landscape of the island’s core. Here, the scene is swapped for granite outcrops, open woodland and rainforest as you traverse the national park tracks to the island’s summit.
Start with the Lighthouse Road trail, a steep and butt-burning climb north-east through the forest towards – you guessed it – the lighthouse, which was the last staffed lighthouse purpose-built in Australia in 1970. If it’s a clear day, you should be able to spot island neighbour, Green Island, in the distance as well as migrating humpbacks during the winter season.
Return via the Summit Track, which veers off to the left on your way back from the lighthouse. The boulder-strewn track climbs 600m through woodland to the island’s summit, where you’ll find slabs of granite and windswept casuarina trees framing jaw-dropping views over the island and its surrounding reefs, all the way to the mainland. From here, you’ll descend 1.4km through open heathland, exiting at the rear of the resort.
12pm: Fuel up
Back to Foxy’s for some much-needed sustenance after burning all that energy with this morning’s adventures.
Keep in mind your eyes might be bigger than your stomach at this point, and while tempting to order a round of firsts (we’re looking at you buffalo meatballs and the half-kilo of FNQ cooked prawns) to go with your main meal (lager-battered barramundi or parmesan-crusted chicken schnitzel, anyone?) you might want to slow up if you’re planning on being active instead of a
couch beach potato for your final afternoon.
1pm: Turtle time
On the surface, Fitzroy might appear to be all fun and games, but behind the scenes, this island is doing a helluva lot of good to keep our Great Barrier Reef locals in check.
Find out first-hand about their conservation efforts on a guided tour of the onsite Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre, a volunteer-operated, non-profit organisation dedicated to the rehabilitation of sick and injured turtles.
During the 45-minute tour, you’ll learn about the journey of recovery these marine beauties undergo prior to their release back into the ocean, and the number of threats facing them today.
Tours run daily and can only be booked on the day.
Tip: Book first thing in the morning at reception if you want to secure one of 15 spots, with admission costs ($8.80 per adult and $5.50 per child) contributing towards the Centre’s mission.
The rest of the day: Kick back and relax
It ain’t really an island vacay if you don’t indulge in little relaxation and cocktails.
Start with an oil shiatsu massage in the comfort of your room, combining the slow, soothing motion of relaxation oil massage (using pure Australian golden Jojoba) with traditional Japanese acupressure point Shiatsu.
Afterwards, grab a cocktail by the pool or head down to Foxy’s for Happy Hour between 4:30pm and 5:30pm (on every day, mind you), where you’ll find a selection of house wines and tap beers going for as cheap as chips (speaking of chips, order a side of sweet potato while you’re at it).
If you’ve got the kids in tow, swap the tipple for ice-creams at the general store and bounce out the sugar on the ocean trampoline, before circling back to the resort for dinner.
9:30am: Back to Cairns *sad face*
If you can squeeze in an early-morning dip before the ferry, do it because you’ll be kicking yourself for not making the most of your 48 hours in paradise, especially as you watch it fade into the distance on your way back to Cairns.
On the mainland, why not let ‘island time’ stretch for a little longer with a few hours lazing and grazing by the saltwater lagoon on the esplanade.