Fitzroy Island is a continental island located within the UNESCO Great Barrier Reef World Heritage site. The island is a protected area – the Fitzroy Island National Park.
Fitzroy is known for its adventure activities and nightlife, offering an opportunity for budget travelers to experience all that the Great Barrier Reef has to offer.
The Gunghandji have gathered food, hunted, and held special ceremonies on the island for thousands of years.
The Gunghandji aboriginal group, who live on the mainland, believe Fitzroy Island is an island of spiritual significance. They call the island “Gabara” or “Kobaburra,” a name they believe was given to the island by a man named Gulnyjarubay. The term gabara means “the fist,” which they see as the part of the island that is above water.
Fitzroy Island used to be part of the mainland, meaning that the geography and topography (for example the Malbon Thompson Mountain Range) are very similar to the mainland. The island is essentially a mostly-submerged mountaintop, which was separated from the mainland during the seawater rise at the end of the Ice Age.
The island is very steep and rugged, and comprises open woodlands, mangrove forests, coral beaches, granite outcrops, and open woodlands (with eucalypt, acacia, and turpentine trees). The island is covered in tropical forest, boasts abundant birdlife, and is surrounded by fringing reef. Most of the island’s beaches are covered with dead coral, save one sandy beach, named Nudey Beach. Exotic flora is visible on the island, such as native orchids, tamarind, native nutmeg, and Indian beech.
Reptiles are the island’s predominant predators (rather than animals); the 1.2-meter long yellow-spotted monitor is the largest reptile, and hunts birds, mammals, lizards, and eggs.
Activities (Nature and Wildlife Interest)
Fitzroy is a laid-back island with activities that focus on the great reefs surrounding the island as well as the diverse wilderness that can be explored on land:
- Swimming and snorkeling: swimming and snorkeling are available directly from the island (snorkeling spots include Hidden Beach and Nudey Beach), however snorkeling tours are also available – for example to Little Fitzroy Island. Clownfish, anemonefish, parrotfish, and wrasses can be seen frequently, and green turtles are often spotted as well.
- Boating: Sailing and glass-bottom boat, and kayaking tours are all available to guests. Private boats up to 10 meters can anchor in one of the eight A-class public moorings offshore.
- Diving: the resort has a proprietary high-speed boat that they use to transport resort guests to the reef. Beginner scuba dives are available. The fringing reef offers chances to view a variety of hard and soft corals and reef fish, as well as marine mammals.
- Paddle skiing: Paddle skis can be rented from the resort.
- Bushwalking: The island has a National Park, which visitors can explore on foot. There are four walking tracks ranging from 45 minutes to three hours return. An easy walk is the Lighthouse Walk, clocking in under two kilometers, taking up to hours, and rewarding walkers with excellent views. Other walks include the loops Nudie Beach, the Secret Garden, and Summit Trail.
- Bird-watching: Keep a look out for bird species such as ospreys, buff-breasted paradise-kingfishers, pied imperial-pigeons, orange-footed scrubfowl, cockatoos, and emerald doves.
The island’s one resort, Fitzroy Island Resort, was substantially refurbished and renovated in 2007 and 2008. 80 brand new apartment-style accommodations were added in a three-storey complex, and the low-budget backpacker-style accommodations were redone. However, the resort’s new owner went to receivership in late 2009 and put the resort up for sale. The resort was to remain closed until new buyers were found, with plans to re-open in May 2010.
The resort used to cater to the young crowd (as evidenced by the nearby Nudey Beach, swimsuit optional), but is now trying to appeal to a wider group of guests and has upgraded its accommodations to reflect this change.
Guests choose between ensuite beachfront suites, one- and two-bedroom apartments (with varying views and rates), and hotel rooms. All accommodations are air-conditioned, ensuite, offer full cooking facilities, and a washer and dryer. Beachfront suites are private beach cabins that are ideal for families or two couples – accommodating up to four. The apartments have dining and living areas and private balconies. One bedroom apartments cater to up to four people, whereas the two bedroom apartments can accommodate up to six people. The four-bedroom penthouse can accommodate eight people. Hotel rooms are designed for two guests, with either a king-sized bed or two queen-sized beds.
Facilities include: bar and pool bar, wifi internet, BBQ facilities, restaurant, office services, pool, child pool, convention facilities, games room, volleyball court, and spa services.
The resort plans several new structures, such as food court, 50-seat movie cinema, day spa, retail shops, and gymnasium (coming in 2010)
Fitzroy Island has one campground, which is not always open (call ahead to check availability). The camp ground has picnic tables.
Cairns is the gateway to Fitzroy Island, which is 29 kilometers south-east of Cairns.
A 45-minute ferry connects travelers to the island from Cairns Harbour, run by the resort. Day trippers are also able to take the transfer. The ferry service runs multiple times each day.
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