Our catamaran out to Fitzroy Island was due to depart at 11am from Cairns harbour. The sun was shining on this winter day and there was hardly any wind at all, although there were some dark clouds on the horizon. We were a few minutes early, so we sat up in the seats on the upper deck and waited in the sun. The captain passed by. Unfortunately, we couldn't stay out here, because the ride could be "rough". And it was rough. As soon as the catamaran rounded the protective peninsula south of Cairns, we were met by the waves. Just sit still inside the boat and ride the roller coaster among the waves. It was a bit like a "little free fall" at Gröna Lund with every wave.
I was honestly quite happy when I finally saw the hotel looming among the palm trees in front of us and I was even happier when I got to put my feet on stable ground again. However, the views from the jetty were well worth the slight seasickness on the way here. What a paradise! Few people, calm water, white beaches and sunshine. God so beautiful!
We checked in at Fitzroy Island Resort, the island's only hotel. The hotel is located right by the catamaran's pier, surrounded by rainforest and coral beaches. Very quiet and very nice hotel. On the island there is only one hotel restaurant and then Foxy's bar, which serves slightly simpler food and drinks. Not really a party place, but best suited for those who want to enjoy nature.
The island is quite hilly and has several nice beaches that offer snorkeling just a few swims away from the beach. If you want to go on a boat trip to slightly deeper reefs and snorkel or dive, there is a wide range of options to book with the hotel. We felt like walking a bit, so we threw some towels over our shoulders and walked towards Nudey Beach – a beach that has been voted one of Australia's most beautiful beaches several times.
The walk through the rainforest to Nudey Beach only took 25 minutes (Fitzroy Island is not a big island) and went through the dense jungle over a hilly terrain. It was quite dark even though it was the middle of the day, the rainforest gobbling up almost all sunlight. There was a rustling in the bushes. We thought we saw one of the yellow-spotted creatures that live on the island. The creatures can be up to 1,2 meters long, but the guy we saw was probably more like a ruler.
It was not difficult to understand that we had arrived at Nudey Beach, when the forest suddenly opened up in front of us. What a revelation! The beach shone towards us and once down on the beach we were basically on our own. We, the corals and the turquoise sea.
We sat on an old log on the beach and watched as big dark clouds towered on the horizon. It was more windy now and it wasn't as inviting to take a dip anymore. But the view of nature here by the beach was absolutely magical.
Quantities of coral had washed ashore. We walked for a long time and picked up the shells and the dead coral remains. Some of the last few years have been very tough out here on the Great Barrier Reef. Bleaching of the corals has happened several years in a row, due to warmer summers. I've probably never been to a beach with so many large pieces of coral before. I can only hope that it doesn't look like this on all the beaches around here.
Before we leave the beach, we put all the corals and shells back at the water's edge. Nature is at its most beautiful when it is left untouched.
We just made it back to the hotel room before the dark clouds caught up with us. We sat on the balcony and looked out over the sea and the rain. The persistent rain made the forest almost completely silent. When the rain stopped, we saw large flying dogs flying between the palm trees just outside the balcony.
The sun slowly started to set and we got ready for dinner at the hotel restaurant. It was my birthday the day before, so we took the opportunity to splurge a little extra. Seafood platter and a bottle of good local chardonnay. We swapped out the raw oysters for a tempura variety, so we could all eat the seafood. Best on the seafood platter were the grilled Morton Bay Bugs, a mini version of lobster that tastes like lobster but is horribly ugly. A bit like a back-and-forth crayfish, where the eyes are on the tail. The plate also contained marinated clams, a lightly grilled cutlet fish and lightly cooked tiger prawns. Very good!
Woke up the morning after to brilliant sunshine and calm seas. The dark clouds were no longer visible. Cooked breakfast at the hotel and then went and sat and read for a while by the pool. The water in the pool was a little too cold for our taste (probably only 22-23 degrees), but it was lovely in the sun.
Watched the fish feeding on the pier at 11:30am. Lots of big reef fish swam past to get some snacks. Had a simple lunch at the bar - chicken salad with mango and a plate of stir-fries and nibbles to catch up with the guided tour of Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre.
Fitzroy Island is one of the places on the Great Barrier Reef where green sea turtles lay their eggs on the beach. But here in the national park there are not only wild sea turtles, but also Queensland's largest turtle hospital. Sick sea turtles are flown here from basically the entire barrier reef. The center relies entirely on voluntary aid workers and donations, and with the help of the airline Qantas and several other major sponsors, the turtles can be flown here. Turtles that have suffered from "floating" come to this centre. Floating affects turtles that have eaten plastic corks, plastic bags or the like. The debris has stuck in the stomach, which has become infected and formed air pockets that mean the turtles cannot dive, but can only lie on the surface and float. If a turtle can't dive, it can't eat. So the turtles come into the center completely starved and with twisted muscles. Some poor turtles have been floating for 12 months before they are found and can be rescued.
First the turtles get veterinary help and medication, but after they get healthy they need to train their muscles and eat themselves. It takes an average of 18 months from the time a turtle arrives at the center until they can be released. We got to say hello to two of the turtles that had been at the center the longest, the other six turtles were still too fragile and sick to meet visitors.
After the visit to the turtle hospital, we hopped on a glass bottom boat tour with the chatty guide Kurt. Didn't see that many big fish, but a sea turtle and lots of "smaller" fish. However, it was interesting to hear about the animal life and what kind of fish we could meet around the island when we snorkel.
We had plenty of time before our boat back to the mainland was due to depart, so we went on a snorkelling tour. The daughter was not in the mood, so we adults had to take turns. Although we didn't venture into deep water (as we were snorkeling ourselves), there were plenty of fish around the corals. There really is something special about the corals and marine life here on the Great Barrier Reef. Everything is so much MORE here than the other coral reefs around the world that we snorkeled at.
Walked a bit on the beach in the sun to dry off before the boat trip back to Cairns. This really is a real little island paradise. Clean and clear water. Rattling palm trees. White beaches. Cockatoos screeching in the palm trees. I could have stayed here much longer. I close my eyes and "photograph" a memory image of the beach and the clear blue sea. I intend to pick up this memory on a cold November day at home in Sweden.
The catamaran slides out from the dock. We are sitting on the upper deck this time and enjoying how we glide on the waves in the sunset on the way to Cairns. Hello Fitzroy Island! I'm pretty sure we'll see each other again soon!
How do I get to Fitzroy Island?
The island is 45 minutes by catamaran from Cairns city centre. It is possible to go out to the island on a day trip, but I recommend that you stay at least one night at the hotel and enjoy the barefoot life in paradise.
Do you want to read more about Fitzroy Island and Queensland?
- Fitzroy Island National Park
- Fitzroy Island
- Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre
- Read more about our Queensland tips? Check out our Queensland side!
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Have you been here? What did you think of the destination?
Travel blogger, gastronaut, photographer and family adventurer with over 55 countries in his luggage. Eva loves trips that include beautiful nature, hiking boots and well-cooked food. On the travel blog Rucksack she takes you to all corners of the world with the help of her inspiring pictures and texts.