This post may contain affiliate links. Read the full disclosure
By far one of the most popular day trips from Cairns is a visit to Green Island. This national park island on the Great Barrier Reef is a perfect way to spend a full or half-day, or even an overnight stay off the coast of Cairns, Queensland!
We share the ultimate guide to taking a Green Island day trip from Cairns, including how to get to Green Island from Cairns, the best things to do on Green Island, tips for making the most of your day and how to easily get there and back.
Get ready to plan your Green Island day trip from Cairns and make it a memorable visit to this tropical Queensland island destination.
Whether you are looking to spend a day soaking up the far north Queensland sunshine, lazing on the beach, or if you want to make the most of the location, exploring the Great Barrier Reef, a Green Island Cairns day trip has something for all ages!
This island resort is a popular day tour option from Cairns and surrounding towns since it is quick and easy to get to from the mainland.
Where Is Green Island?
Green Island is located approximately 13 kilometres off the coast of Cairns, in tropical north Queensland, Australia. It is a tropical coral cay of the Great Barrier Reef, in the Coral Sea.
How To Get To Green Island From Cairns
The easiest way to get to Green Island is by a Cairns to Green Island ferry.
There are several fast catamaran tours to Green Island that run throughout the day. Taking a day tour to Green Island means you will also have the use of facilities and snorkelling equipment upon arrival.
Most of the day tours depart from the Reef Fleet Terminal at the Cairns Marina.
Alternatively, there is also a sailing boat, Ocean Free, departing from the A Finger Jetty. Or daily helicopter flights if you want to experience an aerial view of the breathtaking Great Barrier Reef.
The Best Green Island Tours
Choosing a Green Island tour will depend on the type of visit you are planning. If you only have a short time in Cairns, a half day Green Island tour is a perfect way to experience the National Park, without a lot of time to spare.
If you have a full day, you can easily find things to do on Green Island Queensland to fill up your time.
Most reef tour operators offer both options, with different departure and return times to suit your preferences. Many of these Green Island discovery tours also depart from Port Douglas or Palm Cove.
Green Island Reef Catamaran Cruise from Cairns
Enjoy a full or half-day Green Island visit and sail to the Great Barrier Reef by catamaran. The day tour includes snorkel equipment and your choice of either a semi-submersible or glass-bottom boat experience.
We did this day tour on our first visit to Cairns during winter. While we did not snorkel, it was still warm enough to do so.
On our most recent visit, we went during spring with Great Adventures who provide a very similar service. Both were amazing!
Take a leisurely day trip sailing on a 2-masted schooner from Cairns to Green Island for a full day of snorkelling, swimming, fish feeding and more. This cruise includes a buffet lunch, plus morning and afternoon tea aboard the sailing boat.
You also have the option to scuba dive at an additional cost.
Experience the best of the Great Barrier Reef by both boat and helicopter with this full-day tour from Cairns. Take a 20-minute scenic helicopter flight to Green Island, where you can then spend the day enjoying the activities.
Your package also includes a glass bottom boat with a coral reef viewing tour and snorkelling equipment. Then once your day is complete, hop on board the fast catamaran to return to Cairns.
If you are short on time in Cairns, this combined Green Island cruise and Kuranda day tour includes two of the most popular attractions in Cairns.
Spend the morning at Green Island before heading up the mountains to Kuranda village by Skyrail Cablecar. Spend a couple of hours exploring this rainforest village in the mountains, with plenty of fun things to do for the whole family.
Afterwards, make your way back down the mountain by scenic rail.
Included are 2 nights in a standard island suite amongst the rainforest in Green Island National Park, a full day tour to the Outer Great Barrier Reef pontoon including snorkelling & a semi-submersible tour, some included meals and drinks and use of the resort facilities and water activities.
There are many fun things to do on Green Island, to suit all ages and interests. Since most visitors only spend 4 to 8 hours at the island, there are a lot of activities you can do that don’t take a lot of time. Best of all, many of them are free too!
Here are some of the best things to do on Green Island:
Green Island is a perfect place to go snorkelling for beginners. The snorkelling is right off the beach and is supervised by lifeguards.
It is relatively shallow which makes it a great place to take kids snorkelling in Queensland also.
Green Island tours provide you will use of the snorkelling masks and flippers, which you can retrieve at the snorkelling centre near the resort entrance.
The snorkelling beach is approximately a 2 minute walk from where you pick up your gear.
A lot of people also choose to snorkel near the jetty, however, there is no lifeguard on duty in this area. This can be a great area for spotting sea life, including sea turtles.
Tip: We recommend you bring a rash vest and consider a stinger suit just for the purpose of keeping you from sunburn. We got very sunburnt on the back of our legs while snorkelling. And if you are snorkelling with kids or not a strong swimmer, consider using a life vest too!
You can also book a boat snorkel trip from the island that takes you 1.5KM offshore with a lifeguard guiding you to some of the best snorkelling in the area. This is an additional cost.
If you wish to go swimming at Green Island, stick to the lifeguard beach area. You are in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef so remaining in the approved area is certainly safer!
Make sure you take care not to step on the coral reef beneath you if you swim near the reef areas.
Relax On The Beach
Being an island, you can easily find a beautiful and relatively secluded spot of beach anywhere on Green Island. Roll out your towel or camping chair and spend some time relaxing in the sunshine (don’t forget your sunscreen)!
There are plenty of shady trees around the island that give great beach views as well and help protect from that strong north Queensland sun.
Or if you don’t have your own chairs, you can hire beach lounges and an umbrella for the day. Each come with 2 sun lounges and a large umbrella, which is $40 to hire.
There is a hut near the lifeguard station where you can pay and also purchase snacks, drinks and ice creams.
The Green Island walk around the entire island does not take very long and it is a beautiful walk. It takes approximately 30 to 40 minutes to walk the entire island and when you do, you will find yourself away from the crowded areas.
There are beautiful photo opportunities and when the tides are low, you can explore the rock pools and shallow waters for crabs and other interesting marine life.
We even saw what might have been a small shark fin around 10 metres from the shore on the far side of the island.
Or for a shady walk, follow the rainforest boardwalk through the centre of the island. Here you will spot plenty of birdlife along the way.
Visit The Crocodile Park – Marineland Melanesia
Marineland Melanesia is home to the largest captive crocodile in captivity – Cassius. It is also home to one of the largest private collections of exotic Melanesian tribal artefacts and aquariums.
They have 2 crocodile shows daily, so make sure you time your visit to coincide with one of these shows. They are held at 10:30 AM and 1:30 PM. You will have the opportunity to hold a baby crocodile.
This is a fun experience for the whole family. For more information about Marineland Melanesia and current ticket prices, visit their website.
Glass Bottom Boat Tour
If you aren’t so keen on snorkelling or have younger children who aren’t yet confident swimmers, a glass-bottom boat tour is a wonderful way to experience a small part of the Great Barrier Reef without being in the water.
Many tour packages will include this as part of the inclusions or you can book this as an extra activity when you visit the island.
The Great Barrier Reef tours will take you across different areas of reef where you can spot coral, fish and, if you get lucky, other sea creatures such as sea turtles and giant clams.
We were lucky enough to see Nemo (a clownfish) during our most recent visit.
Anyone visiting Green Island as part of a day tour is able to enjoy the resort pool during their visit. The pool is not huge but it is popular with the kids. This is also a good alternative to cool down if you prefer not to go swimming in the ocean.
More Green Island Activities
The tour operators and Green Island resort offer a range of other guided activities from Green Island. These are at an additional cost when you visit but are a fun way to fill some of your day if lazing around the beach and snorkelling aren’t quite exciting enough for you!
Here are some of the other things to do on Green Island:
Seawalker – Alternative to snorkelling that is perfect for non-swimmers
Scuba-doo underwater Scooter – Also a snorkelling alternative, offered by Great Adventures tour company
Canoeing & Kayaking – Available to hire at the beach hut
Green Island Resort
If one day is not long enough for your visit, or you would like to enjoy Green Island overnight, Green Island Resortis a perfect way to spend a night or two of your Cairns itinerary.
It is considered one of the most unique places to stay in Australia, located on a coral cay in the Great Barrier Reef. Imagine waking up in the surrounding rainforest, with a short walk to the beach from your room.
Guests of Green Island Resort also have complimentary access to many of the resort activities, including free use of kayaks and canoes, snorkelling equipment and windsurfing boards.
You also get complimentary sunset drinks and private fish feeding presentations during your stay on the island. And evening rainforest tours.
Many resort packages also include glass-bottom boat tours and entry into Marineland Melanesia, plus it means no heading back to your Cairns accommodation when you’re still having too much fun on the island!
The most popular places to get food on Green Island for day-trippers is at The Canopy Grill, for contemporary Australian cuisine or Lite Bites for snacks and drinks.
Depending on the season, Emeralds Restaurant & Bar may also be open for lunch for a fine dining experience as well.
You can also pack your own picnic and snacks when you visit the island, if you are looking to keep your spending down during your trip.
Below is a map from the Green Island Resort website:
Things To Take On A Green Island Day Trip
When you are visiting an island for a full day, you want to make sure you’ve packed everything you will need for an enjoyable day trip.
After all, you can’t just duck to the shops and pick up something you’ve forgotten!
They do have some essentials for sale at the store where you collect snorkel gear, such as hats, sunscreen, insect repellant and towels. However, you are better off bringing everything you need with you!
Here are the essentials you will need for visiting Green Island:
Swimmers & protective vest
Waterproof swimming bag
Change of clothes
Slip on shoes or sandals
And here are some optional things you may wish to bring with you: