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Green Island, located on the inner Great Barrier Reef, is one of the most accessible snorkeling spots in Cairns. Bordered by coral reefs and seagrass beds, the small island allows exploring varied and vibrant underwater environments. A few steps only from the beach, you will encounter green sea turtles, giant clams, phosphorescent corals, as well as multi-colored fish.

Sixbar angelfish in Green Island
The sixbar angelfish is one of the Great Barrier Reef’s most beautiful fish. Noted in snorkeling area 1.

How to go snorkeling Green Island?

Green Island is accessible mainly by boat from Cairns. Several companies offer simple transfers to the island (about AUD100 per person round trip, approx. 45 minutes, various schedules available).

Combined excursions to Green Island and the outer reef are also offered. If you choose this option, know that the stop at Green Island lasts about 2 hours, which leaves enough time for a nice snorkeling before heading to the Great Barrier. These combined trips cost around AUD250 per person which includes lunch, as well as snorkeling equipment and sting suit.

In these two types of excursions (Green Island alone or combined with the outer reef), you will be free to explore the island at your own pace. It is also possible to stay on the island at the Green Island Resort. In this case, the hotel will organize your transfer to the island.

Green Island snorkeling map

Water entrance for snorkeling Green Island

Two areas of Green Island are recommended for snorkeling. In both cases, you will enter the water from the beach. To access the western zone (zone 2 on the map above), enter the water at nearly the foot of the dock, as the water on the reef flat is not deep enough.

Green Island snorkeling tips and recommendations

There are two recommended snorkeling areas in Green Island:

1/ The area facing the main beach, located north of the island (zone 1 on the map). The beach is easily reached in a ten minutes walk from the jetty. The seafloor has mainly seagrass beds, but also some coral patches that attract many fish, including parrotfish, sixbar angelfish, batfish and snappers.

The depth increases gradually from the shore and reaches approximately 4 to 5 meters (12-16 ft) some 200m from the beach, near the orange buoys. It is in these remote areas that you will most likely see green turtles, although they are sometimes spotted closer to the beach.

Snorkeling with sea turtles in Green Island
Green sea turtles are probably Green Island’s most popular residents. They are mostly seen in snorkeling area 1.

2/ The fringing reef which extends to the east of the island, south of the jetty (zone 2 on the map). This is the area you see on your right when you land on Green Island. Here, a shallow reef flat extends from the beach to a small reef front at about 150m from the shore.

The reef flat allows some interesting observations (including large triggerfish and blue sea stars, etc.) when it is not too shallow to snorkel over it. However, it is at the front of the reef (↕3-10ft/1-3m) that the underwater life is the densest: angelfish, parrotfish and schools of surgeonfish dwell around multicolored corals and giant clams.

Coral bommies in Green Island
A coral bommie in Green Island.

Be careful because the front of the reef is also the area, close to the jetty, where there is important boat traffic. Make sure to stay away.

Restaurants and accommodation nearby

The Green Island Resort is the only accommodation on the island. Day trippers can access the hotel’s restaurant and several shops.


  • Level required Beginner
  • Protected areaGreen Island National Park
  • Maximum depth15ft/5m
  • Water entranceFrom a sandy beach
  • LifeguardYes, only in the main beach area (zone 1 on the map)
  • Visitor numbersHigh
  • Access costsTour price (from AUD100pp.) or stay on the island
  • Restaurants nearbyYes
  • Public toilets & showersYes

MAP Spot

These snorkeling spots are accessible to beginners and kids. You will enter the water gradually from a beach, or in a less than 3ft. deep area. The sea is generally calm, shallow, with almost no waves or currents. These spots are usually located in marked and/or monitored swimming areas. It is not necessary to swim long distances to discover the sea life.

This level only apply when the spot experiences optimal sea and/or weather conditions. It is not applicable if the sea and/or weather conditions deteriorate, in particular in the presence of rough sea, rain, strong wind, unusual current, large tides, waves and/or swell. You can find more details about the definition of our snorkeling levels on our snorkeling safety page.