12 Amazing Things to do on Green Island from Cairns

The Best Things to do on Green Island

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Whether you’re going on a day trip or staying a few nights, below features some things to do on Green Island from Cairns. Even though it’s a small Island, you would be surprised at the many ways you can keep yourself entertained – In and out of the water!

Apart from that, I will dive into how to get there, tours you can book, and some of the frequently asked questions. This will help you prepare, plan and make the most of your trip. Even though we only spent a day trips here, it enticed us enough to want to go back!

So, lets get to the list! 

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Best Things to do on Green Island

Green Island is a 15-hectare size Island lying off the coast of Cairns in North Queensland, Australia. Specifically, a coral cay that’s been created by sand and rubble over time. It’s been attracting visitors for decades and was named a National Park in 1937.

It’s part of the Great Barrier Reef Heritage area, with plenty of varieties of underwater life. And, you can click here to watch my You Tube experience of our day trip.

1. Snorkelling the Reef.

When looking for Things to do on Green Island, you can’t go past Snorkelling the Reef. The day trip tour operators include the snorkelling and equipment in their price, so there is no extra charge.

It has a small section right off the beach, great for snorkelling, and it depends on the tides to what you can find. It’s beautiful clear waters, and even in the winter, you’ll find the water temperature is about 22 degrees.

Snorkelling conditions can vary, pending weather, wind, and tide. At high tide, the reefs are a few metres beneath the surface, but at low tide, the corals can be just centimetres under the water. Best to check the tide times beforehand to snorkel around middle tides for best results.

What will you see?

I’m sure there are plenty more underwater creatures than what is mentioned here, but we were able to see so much in the limited amount of time. This includes Clams, Christmas Tree Ferns, Blue-spotted stingrays, Hard and soft corals, Sea cucumbers, Triggerfish, Parrot Fish, Lion Fish, schools of fish hanging out underneath the jetty, and Porcupine fish.

Apart from that, we were very lucky to find a young green turtle, who didn’t seem to be bothered by us too much and swam around for a long time.

➡ Click to find your Green Island Tours HERE from Cairns with Get Your Guide, or More options HERE with Viator

Watch for Stinger Season

We were snorkelling in the wintertime, but in the summer, you might want to consider a stinger suit. Firstly for protection from the jellyfish, but secondly for protection from the sun. If it’s stinger season, then they will probably add this option to you on board the boat, with the Snorkel gear.

Snorkelling Tours

If you want some different Queensland snorkelling than straight off the beach, then check out the information desk and ask about the snorkelling tours. There is a boat that will take you further out to different and less crowded spots. Obviously, this would be an extra charge!

Snorkelling the Reef - Things to do on Green Island
Snorkelling the Green Island Reef and finding Turtles

2. Scuba Diving 

You might like to consider Diving in the areas they have offshore. Even if you haven’t dived before, there is someone that can teach you an introductory course. Alternatively, for those who are experienced and certified, then the dive instructor can take you to the best spots. All the gear is included in the price too!

You will be surprised at how much extra you’ll see on a diving experience, especially on the Great Barrier Reef. Diving can be much calmer than snorkelling on top of the water, so creatures are less likely to swim away.

There is a small boat trip offshore that can take you to the dive sites. Furthermore, much like snorkelling, you can look out for many larger creatures like Reef Sharks, Rays, and the highly sort after, turtles. 

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3. Semi-Submarine or Glass Bottom Boat Tour

This is your best way to experience underwater life, without having to get in the water. This is a little different from your standard glass bottom boat tour, where you sit in air-conditioned comfort, below the water level. As opposed to a Glass bottom boat tour sitting on top of the water.

This Semi-submarine vessel seats 27 passengers and will cruise along in the water for about 30 minutes. Most of the Day trip tours on your Cairns itinerary will include either the Snorkelling or the Semi-Submarine, but not both.

However, you can do both by paying the extra cost. I feel there is enough time to do both on a full-day tour, but you need to consider if there are other, higher priority things to do on Green Island first.

Semi-Submarine Ride - Things to do on Green Island
Explore the underwater life in a Semi-Submarine Ride

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4. Water Sports (Canoe, Kayak, Windsurfer)

Don’t want to be under the water or in the submarine, then you can try out some of the water sports available. This includes Canoeing, Kayaking, or maybe even Windsurfing. Just chat to the staff at the Beach Hire Hut and see what they have available. 

5. Seawalker helmet diving

Seawalking has been around for some time, and you can add it to your list of things to do on Green Island. The whole process will take about 60 minutes with paperwork, getting suited up, and a safety briefing. After a short transfer, you will put on the Seawalker Helmet and walk on the sea floor for about 20 minutes. 

You definitely need to book this one to avoid disappointment, but it certainly gives you a different perspective on experiencing underwater life. 

➡ Click to find your Green Island Tours HERE from Cairns with Get Your Guide, or More options HERE with Viator

6. Parasailing

This is a recreational kiting activity where a person is towed behind a boat. The sail looks very similar to a parachute but is specially designed for this activity. You enter a boat, get fixed to the Shute, and are slowly released into the air by a winch. It’s exhilarating to be so far up high in the air. On the other hand, quiet and calming at the same time.

If you can’t afford the Helicopter Ride, then maybe Parasailing is one of the best things to do on Green Island as an alternative. You might not get as high as the Helicopter, But those unrestricted views can’t be missed.

Parasailing - Things to do on Green Island
Aerial views while Parasailing

7. Marineland Melanesia – Cassius Crocodile show

On the other hand, you can visit Marine Mainland Melanesia, and specifically, the Crocodile enclosure. Meet Cassius, one of the oldest and biggest crocodiles in captivity. He is said to be about 110 years old and 5 and a half metres long. Additionally, there is one of the world’s largest collections of primitive art and marine artefacts.

Entry to the Marineland Melanesia is an extra charge and it’s best to organise that as soon as you get to the Island. It’s located around the back of the Island, furthest away from the jetty and along the rainforest walking trail. (Check out the Map Below)

I do prefer to see my wildlife, actually in the wild! Consequently, North Queensland has plenty of options to see Crocodiles in their natural habitat, so would always support that first.

8. Explore the rainforest ECO walks

Yes, there is an Eco Rainforest on Green Island’s Coral Cay and, more importantly, listed as a National Park. Over time, birds have travelled from the mainland (or nearby islands) with seeds to the Island. This has transformed the Island into what you see today and made the Rainforest walk one of the best things to do on Green Island.

You can wander about two kilometres around the Island, learn about the plant life, and check out everything the rainforest has to offer. This is home to hundreds of bird species known around the Wet tropics. Including, Egrets, Doves, Ospreys, Sea Eagles, Silvereyes, and Wood swallows. It literally only took us about 40 minutes to walk the path all the way around. Conveniently, it was board walked and very easy to follow.

Eco Rainforest Walk - Things to do on Green Island
Eco Rainforest Walk around Green Island

9. Go shopping or Pick up some Souvenirs 

There are a few stores available on the Island, providing gifts, swimwear, clothing, and beachside souvenirs. This includes the information counter, Treasures resort shop, and dive shop. If you’re looking for souvenirs, then you might want to check out Marineland Melanesia or the Crocodile enclosure for homemade jewellery. 

➡ Click to find your Green Island Tours HERE from Cairns with Get Your Guide, or More options HERE with Viator

10. Relax on the Beach

There is always the option to bring a picnic, or towel and find some space on the beach to chill for the day. The lifeguarded section is very safe, and the waters are calm enough for small children. This is a beautiful section of the Island with white sandy beaches and clear blue waters. Choose to hang around everyone else, or spread out along the beach to somewhere a little quieter. 

The Beach hut hire service can provide umbrellas or chairs to help make the most of the day, but there will be an extra charge. This includes the items you can hire for the water sports like canoeing, kayaking, and windsurfing. 

Relaxing on the Beach - Things to do on Green Island
Relaxing on the Beach at Green Island

11. Take a Helicopter ride

Get the bird’s eye view high above the ground and take a 10-minute scenic flight around Green Island. The reef system surrounding the Island is amazing from this perspective, and you won’t be disappointed.

I wouldn’t say this is a very budget-friendly option when it comes to things to do on Green Island. However, it’s a brilliant way to tick off your bucket Items in Australia and see the Great Barrier Reef from the air.

12. Wunyami (Green Island) Cultural Walking Tour

Let the traditional guides take you around Wunyami (or Green Island) for a captivating local story about 2 tribes who fought and formed the island. Consequently, its lucky that the guide has been given approval from the elders to share this story. Furthermore, helping you learn more about GuruGulu Gungganji people from Yarrabah and the Gimuy Yidinji people from Cairns.

This tour takes about 1 hour, runs twice a day, and will be an extra charge from the general Green Island Day trip. If you wish to book these tours then please talk to the tour operator or the information desk when you arrive.

Please Note: Wunyami means, “A place of hunted spirits”. 

How to Get there?

There are a few different tour companies that will get you to Green Island from Cairns. These will leave from the Reef Fleet Terminal at the Marina on Pier Point Road or Spence Street.

Most of them can be booked online, and the tickets or boarding passes will be emailed to you. Generally, prices will be based on your ride to Green Island and Return, but there are extra activities you can sort at the time of booking, or as soon as you get on the Island.

➡ Click to find your Green Island Tours HERE from Cairns with Get Your Guide, or More options HERE with Viator

There are a few different options to choose from when booking your day trip tours. This depends on the following:

  • The time you have available
  • The activities you want to do
  • And Your Budget

Make sure you sort through all the Things you want to do on Green Island and then Book online. Once the confirmation is emailed through, follow the directions supplied and enjoy your fun-filled day.

About the Ferry’s

It depends on what company you book with, but all the catamarans were rather large and can fit a couple of hundred people. In particular, the Green Island Big Cat reef cruise we took was 33 metres in Length, had three different levels (the top deck is outdoors), and could fit 330 passengers. 

When we first arrived, we were directed to the middle level to collect our snorkelling hire equipment. We have the option for Snorkel, Mask, and Fins, but thinking in the summer they also supply the Stinger Suits. This is given to you with a small deposit, and you’ll get that back when you return the gear. After that, it was a matter of finding a seat and getting comfortable. 

At this stage, I must mention the importance of Sick sickness tablets. If you are prone to sick sickness, then this is the point you should take them. It is a preventative, so after you get sick, it’s already too late, and you just have to last the distance. 

You have the option to sit at any level you want, but if you do get seasick, then the bottom level at the back is your best option. There is a small café on board serving Tea, Coffee, and a few choices of Snacks (chips and Chocolate) Beer, and soft drinks

Big Cat Green Island Ferrys
Smooth sailing with Big Cat Green Island Ferry’s

How far is Green Island from Cairns

It will take about 1 hour and 15 minutes to get from Green Island to Cairns. Therefore, it’s handy to bring something with you for entertainment like a book or games for the return journey. Especially if you have small children! Many will sit around chatting, or you could always catch a few ZZZZ’s and take a nap. 

What to Pack or bring with you

You will need to bring everything that helps you have fun in the sun, but here are a few suggestions to help you get started:

  • Hat
  • Sunscreen
  • Swimming Suit
  • Rash shirt or sun protection
  • Towel
  • Packed lunch or Money for the Café
  • Water

Where to Stay?

Green Island is not only for the Daytripper, you do have the option to stay as well. In fact, the people who stay overnight, get to enjoy an entire Island with a limited number of people around. Especially, first thing in the morning for sunrise and walking the beach in the evening at sunset. 

The day trippers are only there between 10am and 3pm, so there are plenty of great reasons why you should stay on the Island. The ultimate being able to swim in the Great Barrier Reef at your doorstep!

➡  Click HERE to Book The “Green Island Resort” Accommodation

It’s an Eco-friendly resort, run mostly on solar power and catering to travellers after a little luxury. The huts are located in among the rainforest, with their own balcony and access to a guest-only resort pool. Furthermore, you can enjoy the serenity in a day spa and pampering moments with a massage. 

Green Island Luxury Resort Accommodation
Green Island Luxury Resort Accommodation

Green Island Map

Please click HERE to access your Green Island Map and find out where everything is. 

About Green Island

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the Wonders of the World, and Green Island makes up a part of that. It has over 120 species of plants, beautiful bird life, and an active reef to explore. It lies 30 kilometres off the coast of Cairns and is about 15 hectares in size (which is over 35 football fields).

I have explained that this is a Coral Cay, having been developed from water pushing sand and debris into the area. Additionally, vegetation has grown from birds carrying seeds or blown onto the Island. But did you know this all happened about 6000 years ago and gradually formed what you see today?

Also, know that the “Green Island” name was given by Captain James Cook in 1770. This was named after Mr. Charles Green, who was an astronomer on board the Endeavour.

When Is the Best Time?

Keep in mind that the Jellyfish or stinger season is mainly through the summertime from December to March. While it’s perfectly fine to swim around these times, it’s better to enter the water while wearing a full-covered stinger suit. Shoulder seasons like October, November, April, and May are still warm enough for swimming, but there is less danger for stingers. 

We completed our day trip in July, and while the water was a little cooler at 22 degrees Celsius, there was no fear of stingers. 

Snorkelling the Reef - Things to do on Green Island
Snorkelling the Reef straight off the beach

Tips for making the most out of your day

  • Bring your own snorkel equipment for comfortability.
  • Organise what you want to do, plan your day, and book special activities earlier (if you can).
  • Wear protective clothing throughout the year for sun protection and stingers.
  • Always wear sunscreen.
  • Take sick sickness tablets (even if you’re not prone to sickness).
  • To avoid injury, Don’t touch anything on the reef. This is for your protection, as well as the reef!

What makes Green Island so Unique, and what is it known for?

Out of the hundreds of Islands available on the Great Barrier Reef, Green Island is the only one that has a Rainforest growing on it. This makes it very unique and stands out from the rest. 

Swimming turtle On The Great Barrier Reef
Swimming Turtle On The Great Barrier Reef

Is Green Island worth visiting?

Most Australian Islands require a higher budget than other activities on the Aussie mainland. Therefore, you would like to make sure that Green Island is worth visiting, with the extra cost. The answer is yes, it’s a great option if you have a limited time and looking at ways to explore the Reef. This is an easy Island to complete in a day and get a small taste of the Great Barrier Reef.

On the other hand, if you’re wanting to relax and chill on the beach, then I’m sure you could find more suitable places for your budget. White sandy shores are hard to come by along the Queensland Coast, but a few suggestions come to mind. These include places like Mission Beach, Palm Cove, Port Douglas, Agnes Water, Rainbow Beach, and Woodgate

How long do you need there?

The Day trip tours give you enough time to enjoy the Things to do on Green Island. This allows you to have some fun in the sun and check out the reef system. However, if you stay overnight, there will be ample time to see everything the island has to offer, and all the activities. 

Facilities, Where to Eat and Drink?

Green Island itself has a nice big jetty, and a walking path around the Island through the Rainforest. Additionally, with a few shops, cafes, a bar for cocktails, a crocodile enclosure, and a small resort and restaurant. They also have an underwater viewing submarine which you can book before you visit, but we choose to do the snorkelling instead on our visit.

It will take you only a few minutes to walk through the main shopping district, and a few more to exit the other side to the beach. There is a resort pool available for day visitors and the “Reflections Pool Bar”, right beside it.

Chill with a couple of drinks
Chill with a couple of drinks at Green Island


After you finish swimming or snorkelling, there are cold, outdoor showers available and bathrooms for changing into dry clothes. The Cafe will serve some coffee, light snacks, and premade sandwiches. However, the “Canopy Grill” seemed to be the very popular choice for freshly cooked seafood, burgers, and chips. “Emeralds Restaurant” is for guests only staying on the Island and not the Daytripper’s.

NOTE: Everyone prospective is probably different but I found the food options lacking, basic and very overpriced. However, this is what you should expect on any island in Queensland. Therefore, it might be a better option to bring your own lunch to Green Island.


More importantly, there are lockers available behind the bar to store your gear while you’re out in the water. This is handy if you intend to go snorkelling, or don’t want to carry your gear around all day. It cost $7 for a 4-hour hire, and we could open and close the locker as much as we wanted.

Grab a bite to eat at the Canopy Cafe
Grab a bite to eat at the Canopy Cafe on Green Island

How to get to Cairns?

Travelling to Cairns is easy by car from all other areas around Queensland, or the other states in Australia. However, if you are wanting to fly in, then the local Cairns Airport is an international gateway to many major city’s in the world.

➡  Find your favourite brand & compare prices for your Rental Car HERE

Eventually, you will still need to rent a car and drive around and see all the sites worth visiting in Cairns.

The History of Green Island

  • 1770 – Captain Cook first explored Green Island.
  • 1863 – The “Antagonist” shipwrecked while carrying horses to India.
  • 1889 – Coconuts were planted & Grass Huts were constructed to provide shelter, food, and drinks for sailors.
  • 1890 – The First Pleasure cruise called “Zeus” commenced
  • 1906 – It was declared a recreational Reserve & first Jetty was built.
  • 1931 – A replacement jetty was constructed.
  • 1934 – Was declared a fauna Sanctuary.
  • 1937 – Named a National Park, the first glass bottom boat launched & the first 20-year lease for a hotel supplied.
  • 1942 – The Coral Cay Hotel opened.
  • 1946 – New Jetty was built after a cyclone.
  • 1963 – The Green Island Reef Resort opens its doors.
  • 1964 – The Crocodile Farm opens.
  • 1970 – The Island was visited by Queen Elizabeth on her 44th Birthday.
  • 1991 – Daikyo Purchased the Resort and Ferry services.
  • 1994 – Green island luxury Resort opened.
  • 2017 – The resort goes solar.

Wrap up on the Things to do on Green Island From Cairns

Thanks for reading this blog post today on the Things to do on Green Island from Cairns, and I hope you found what you were looking for. However, if you’re still researching, please get more Cairns Blogs post information here for planning.

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