Day trip green island

The ultimate Green Island day trip

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While fashionistas might muse that blue and green should never be seen, Green Island, 45 minutes from Cairns, is floating proof that mother nature’s style breaks all the rules.

You’ll find this trendsetter in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef – best known for being one of the smallest islands in its 900 island lineup.

In fact, this 15-hectare coral cay can be circumnavigated in just 20 minutes – giving you good reason to use the phrase, “been there, done that, bought the T-shirt” after eight hours on the atoll.

If you’ve got a day up your sleeve in Tropical North Queensland, here’s how we recommend you spend it on Green Island.

1. Get there early

Green island

Photo by @greenislandcairns via IG

While Green Island might be small in size, it’s big in activities, so don’t write this GBR island off as just a flying-stopover.

Time on the ground is essential if you want to make the most out of the snorkelling, diving and windsurfing on offer – and an early start will give you the best chance to see it all.

There’re a few reasons to get here first – and for keen snorkellers – early birds get to watch the Great Barrier Reef wake up

An early start also ensures you beat the crowds who opt for a morning in bed over one at the Cairns marina and a 45-minute commute to paradise.

It’s not just us singing Green Island’s praises, this island welcomes more than 300,000 visitors each year, hardly one of the secret islands you’ll find in this list.

2. Snorkel the emerald waters

Snorkelling on Green Island

Photo by @seewantshop via IG

If you know what’s good for you, you’ll be head down, snorkel up on Green Island.

Most people who come to Green Island, come here to snorkel and to cater for the demand, the tour desk offers free equipment for visitors.

If you take the 45-minute fast cat to Green Island, you’ll be given a snorkelling demonstration en route, so you can hit the ground swimming by the time you drop anchor at the jetty.

You don’t need to be an Olympic-grade swimmer to see the best highlights either – snorkelling can be done right off the shore under the steady watch of lifeguards.

For the more adventurous though, it’s a short boat ride to the best snorkel sites, 1.5km off the island.

3. Meet the residents

Green Island Great Barrier Reef

Photo by @travelsofsophie via IG

The fringing reef off Green Island harbours 190 soft corals and over 100 different hard corals, promising a veritable smorgasbord of things to see through a snorkel mask.

What’s more, you don’t need to be an independent snorkeller either. There’s scuba diving, glass-bottom boat tours, semi-submarine coral viewing tours and supervised snorkelling to meet the locals (aka the Great Eight). 

Not keen on getting your hair wet? No worries! Walk on the ocean floor with Seawalker, a helmeted-walk that allows you to submerge without any of that pesky swimming business. Want more where that came from? Check out these ways to see the reef without getting wet.

It’s not just under the sea where you’ll find creatures great and small. Green Island attracts a wide range of migratory birds with over 55 species of birds nesting on its shores. It’s no surprise they’re attracted – Green Island is the only coral cay on the Great Barrier Reef with its own rainforest.

4. Treat it like an island escape

Green Island Resort

Photo by Green Island Resort via FB

Just because Green Island Resort isn’t available for your exclusive use, doesn’t mean you can’t pretend.

Enjoy a freshly prepared gourmet picnic hamper to dial things up a relaxing-notch.

For those who book holidays with their stomachs, take note, the seafood game on Green Island is strong and Emeralds Restaurant and Bar dishes up crustaceans a few different ways.

5. Rise above it

Green Island

Photo by @julianinparadise via IG

We do love a helicopter experience and it doesn’t get much better than flying over the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef.

Cairns Heli Scenic depart from Cairns Marina and fly daily to Green Island and the Great Adventures pontoon.

What’s more, it cuts your island commute time by more than half, which is good news if you’re in a rush to get back to the thick of it in Cairns.

6. Let the only croc you see be Cassius

Lucky for swimmers, there’s only one crocodile on the island – and he’s safely kept behind bars.

Meet Cassius – the oldest male on the island – said to be more than 110 years old, weighing 1300-kg and measuring 5.5m nose to tail.

During his daily show you’ll see the connection between George Craig (the original croc hunter) and Cassius, which has developed over 30 years of serving this giant his dinner.

7. Stick around a while

Green Island

Photo by Green Island Resort via FB

Not keen to call it a day yet?

Why not spend the night in postcode paradise? Green Island is one of the best examples of million-star accommodation on the reef with 46 different suites to choose from.

Need more island wanderlust? Find out which island is for you.

Have you been to Green Island? What was your favourite thing to do?