Looking for islands near Cairns? Try this hidden gem

One of the top things to do in Cairns is spending the day on an island. Snorkelling, swimming and relaxing on a white sand beach – what could be better? There are several islands near Cairns that offer various resort amenities and tourist experiences. Here’s why we (and our customers!) recommend the Frankland Islands for your Cairns day trip.

They’re off the beaten track

The Frankland Islands are something of a hidden gem, sitting about 45 minutes southeast of Cairns.

Some other islands near Cairns, like Green Island and Fitzroy Island, are a little closer to the city. However, they’re also much more heavily advertised and can receive thousands of visitors per day. If you want to get off the ‘tourist trail’ and enjoy a unique Cairns island experience, consider the Frankland Islands.

“I have lived in Cairns for 20 years, and I cannot believe that this was my first visit to these beautiful islands.”

Tanya, TripAdvisor
Islands Near Cairns - Frankland Islands Reef Cruises

No crowds

Frankland Islands Reef Cruises has the only commercial permit to visit Normanby Island, giving you exclusive access. We cap numbers at just 80 people per day, so you’ll have the island practically to yourself! No queues, no crowds… just you and a handful of other adventurers, enjoying your secluded island paradise.

Pristine national park

The five islands in the Frankland Islands Group are a national park. They are home to a diverse and flourishing range of wildlife, both in the water and on the land. Because of their national park status, there are no resort facilities on the island. But don’t worry, you’ll still be taken care of with a delicious lunch and all the gear you need to enjoy your day.

If you’re looking for a less commercialised Cairns island day trip, where you can get back to basics and enjoy nature, then this is the island for you.

“Normanby Island was a wonderful, pristine and protected environment with so much to offer above and below the water line. Mother Nature at its best.”

William H, TripAdvisor

The best snorkelling of all the islands near Cairns

Stunning, healthy coral reefs surround Normanby Island and the other islands in the group. The snorkelling experience here has been compared by experts to the top outer Great Barrier Reef dive sites.

The water quality around the Frankland Islands is excellent, offering great visibility and calm, sheltered snorkelling. You can snorkel right off the beach and find beautiful hard and soft corals, a huge variety of fish (including everyone’s favourite, the clownfish aka Nemo), turtles and more.

The day tour also includes an adventure snorkel safari. Hop into the tender and zip around to the western side of the island for even more impressive coral gardens. You could spend all day on a boat to find reefs like these, or you could come and discover the Frankland Islands.

Because of the calm conditions and easy entry to the water, the Frankland Islands are a family-friendly island trip from Cairns. Certified divers can also explore the coral gardens further out.

“We have dived and snorkelled all over the reef and this tour and destination is an absolute little gem… the snorkelling was terrific. Great coral bommies…we saw turtles, reef tipped sharks, sting-rays and Nemo! The quality and variety of the coral exceeded expectations.”

Rob M, TripAdvisor
Cairns Reef, Rainforest, River Day Tour

A day trip with a difference

The location of the Frankland Islands gives you a unique experience compared to other Cairns island cruises, before you even arrive at your destination.

The trip starts with a coach ride through sugarcane plantations, past scenic highlights like Walsh’s Pyramid and areas of coastal rainforest. Board the boat at Deeral and cruise down the Mulgrave River, keeping an eye out for crocs as you go. And from the mouth of the river you venture out to sea and over to the islands. It’s the shortest crossing of any Great Barrier Reef day trip, a huge selling point if you’re prone to seasickness.

As well as our guided snorkel tour and adventure snorkel safari, we also offer a guided walk around the island, led by our expert team. From the tide pools to the tropical rainforest, from sea hares to rare migratory birds, you’ll learn so much about this fascinating jewel of an island.

River, rainforest and reef – it’s the ultimate way to see the best of Cairns and Tropical North Queensland all in one day!

Friendly, expert staff

The top quality service and enthusiasm of our friendly crew sets Frankland Islands Reef Cruises apart. All of our crew are highly trained and knowledgeable about the islands and their wildlife. However, we’re especially proud of our Master Reef Guides, led by trained marine biologist Alessandra Giannascoli.

Ale has been leading our day trips for upwards of seven years. She knows every inch of the islands and their surrounding reefs like the back of her hand. Follow her or any of our guides on a snorkel tour and you’re guaranteed to spot all manner of wildlife.

“The staff are helpful and attentive. Got a question? Ask! Want to be shown more stuff? Ask, they’ll happily take you out on a 1:1 tour on the reef. Ale and Paolo, thank you for loving your job and sharing the islands with us, you were the highlight of our trip.”

Lacey Y, Google

Build your perfect day

When choosing to visit the islands near Cairns, everyone has their own ideal way to spend the day. Do you prefer to stay active? With two guided snorkel experiences, kayaks and paddleboards plus our island walk, there’s no shortage of things to do.

If you’re wanting to relax and recharge, you can do that too! Enjoy the tranquil atmosphere, lie on the beach or float in the water to your heart’s content.

When you book with Frankland Island Reef Cruises, you can choose the all-inclusive day tour option or the transfer-only rate. This lets you bring your own gear and lunch and do your own thing. You can hire snorkel equipment, kayaks and paddleboards and add on extras if you like.

“Lots of activities for all, or you can choose to find a quiet and personal relaxing spot on the cay, surrounded by the Great Barrier Reef.”

William H, TripAdvisor
Frankland Islands Reef Cruises day tour Cairns

Spend the night on a deserted island

If a Cairns island day trip doesn’t feel long enough, how about staying the night? The Frankland Islands don’t have any resorts or hotels, but you can camp on Russell Island (next door to Normanby Island.)

You’ll need to get a camping permit from the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service and arrange transfers with our reservations team. We’ll drop you off in the morning so you’ll have plenty of time to set up your campsite, spend the day exploring and sleep under the stars on your own private island!

Ready to start your adventure?

Find out more about the Frankland Islands – or better, yet, book a day trip and come see for yourself!

Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook or Instagram for stunning pics, updates and special offers – and tag #franklandislands to be featured!

© Frankland Islands Reef Cruises 2022

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