GREAT BARRIER REEF MARINE PARK The Pristine Frankland Islands Group

The Great Barrier Reef’s Frankland Islands are a pristine archipelago located 10km offshore, about 45km south-east of Cairns. The group consists of five continental islands: Normanby, High, Russell, Round and Mabel. Together they form part of the World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. All the islands are uninhabited and surrounded by healthy fringing reefs, full of hard and soft corals, giant clams, schools of fish, turtles, octopus and more. Dugongs, manta rays and whales have been sighted here.

The islands’ terrain varies from sandy beaches lined with coastal grasses, pandanus and coconuts, to mangroves, rocky outcrops and dense rainforest. As a result, they are home to an abundance of birdlife. They are an important nesting site for the little tern (Sterna albifrons), the beach stone-curlew (Esacus neglectus), the pied imperial pigeon (Ducula bicolour) and the crested tern (Sterna bergii).

While camping is allowed at Russell Island, Frankland Islands Reef Cruises is the only company to hold a permit to visit Normanby Island, making ours an exclusive day tour option.


Full of marine life for you to explore…


The fringing reefs around the Frankland Islands are a part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and are home to a diverse array of marine life. During your day tour you’ll have the chance to explore this  underwater world on a guided snorkel tour. Optional activities include an adventure snorkel safari, guided island walk and certified scuba diving. Kayaks and stand-up paddle boards are available for hire.

  • Hard and Soft Corals
  • Green Sea Turtles
  • Anemonefish
  • Nudibranchs
  • Giant Clams
  • Sea Stars
  • Stingrays
  • Feather Stars
  • Wrasse
  • Butterflyfish
  • Angelfish & Parrotfish
  • Damselfish
  • Sea Cucumbers
  • Manta Rays


Normanby Island provides the best snorkelling of the Frankland Islands group. It rises from sea level, peaking at 20 metres high. It’s a continental island, which means it was once connected to the mainland but became separated hundreds of thousands of years ago with rising sea levels. As such, it is home to rainforest vegetation, as well as coastal species.

As the only operator with a permit to visit Normanby Island, we can choose any of our mooring locations on the day, based on the conditions. We also have the flexibility to take you to several of the offshore fringing reefs, for our adventure snorkel safari and scuba diving tours.

Our guided island walk is a must-do! Join our marine naturalists for an informative and fascinating exploration of the island’s rock pools, birdlife and lush tropical vegetation.


The Frankland Islands Group National Park is a part of the traditional sea country of the Mandingalby Yindinji and Gungandji peoples. Historically and to present times they use these waters to fish, hunt and gather food.

The islands were named by Lieutenant James Cook in 1770, in honour of two 18th century sailors, Lord of the Admiralty and his nephew, both named Sir Thomas Frankland.

A lighthouse was built on Russell Island in 1929. Today, bush camping is available on Russell Island and High Island, which must be booked in advance. We provide camping transfers to Russell Island.

Russell Island is a Commonwealth island. High, Normanby, Mabel and Round islands were declared National Park in 1936. The surrounding waters were included in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park in 1983.


© Frankland Islands Reef Cruises 2020

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