Green Island coral cay, Queensland

Green Island is a beautiful coral cay off the coast of Northern Queensland, almost 30km off the coast from Cairns, and situated within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park UNESCO World Heritage area.

The popular island destination is easily accessible by day trip from Cairns. The island totals about 15 hectares (300m by 650m, with a 1.5km circumference) but sits on over 700 hectares of reef, and located amidst substantive and beautifully diverse coral reefs.  Green Island is the only coral cay within the Great Barrier Reef chain that also has a rainforest.

Green Island became a National Park in 1937, and the waters around the island were declared a Marine Park in 1974.

Green Island Resort offers the only 5-star resort on a coral cay in Northern Queensland.


The island’s was originally the site for male initiation rituals of the aboriginal Gungganyji people.  The islander’s language is known as “Dabuukji,” which implies that the island might once have been larger with a freshwater marsh or “hole” in its center, because the name most closely means ”the place of the hole in the nose.”

The Dabuukji name for the island is “wunjami,” meaning “a place haunted by spirits,” and those who speak the island’s local language explain that Green Island is a place that should be avoided.

Green Island was named by James Cook in 1770 during his extensive travel expeditions, after the astronomer – Charles Green – aboard Cook’s ship the Endeavor.

Historically, many ships have wrecked due to the shallow reefs around the island, so at the turn of the twentieth century the Queensland government planted coconut palm trees, to provide food for any future shipwrecked sailors.

Natural environment

About six thousand years ago, Green Island formed as waves deposited sand, coral, and other debris onto the underwater coral.  Over time seeds were blown onto the island or carried by birds, enabling vegetation to grow.

Today, the island has a couple of habitats – dry coastline, coral and sandy beaches, and beautiful thick inland rainforest. The island has no natural freshwater source, relying just rainwater.  The rainforest comprises about 130 plant species ranging from palms, to ferns, trees, scramblers, and vines, and grows up to 25 metres high in some places.

The island’s Aboriginal people speak of a time when Green Island was four times its current size – today’s island footprint is just the north-east section of its historical landmass.

Activities (Nature and Wildlife Interest)

Green Island is known for its stunning diving opportunities.

Though most island visitors choose to stay at the Green Island Resort, the resort offers limited facilities for “day trippers,” including a pool and shower facilities, picnic spots, and the option to hire various water sport equipment.

Green Island offers various activities, many offered from the island’s resorts:

  • Snorkeling: beach-based snorkeling, snorkeling boat trips ($)
  • Scuba diving: training courses ($) and certified scuba dives ($) from the island’s Dive Center.
  • Boating: Great Barrier Reef day tour ($)
  • Parasailing ($)
  • Bushwalking: self-guided rainforest walks, guided night nature walks. The best way to see the island is along the circuit track – a 2km trail which takes just under an hour.
  • Bird watching: The island is home to about 60 bird species, including: woodswallows, silvereyes, sea eagles, ospreys, doves, and egrets.
  • Underwater Observatory: the world’s oldest underwater marine observatory, located at the end of the jetty
  • Marine Melanesia Aquarium, Museum, and Crocodile Habitat ($): a small aquarium and crocodile habitat, originally opened in 1972, which features crocodile feeding displays.
  • Glass bottom boat tour
  • Fish feeding
  • Beach volleyball
  • Aerial explorations: helicopter or seaplane scenic flights ($)


Green Island Resort is a peaceful and exclusive resort. It offers 46 air-conditioned suites accommodating 90 guests at its southern rainforest location, which each include a private balcony and either a rainforest or pool view. The accommodations are removed from the hustle and bustle of the resort’s main buildings, ensuring a quiet retreat experience for visitors:

  • Island suites: Suites with two double beds or one king, with separate bath and shower, and a private balcony.
  • Reef suites: Larger and more luxurious suites, with one king-sized bed, with split level floors, a lounge area, separate bath and shower, and a private balcony.

The resort offers guests a restaurant, outdoor casual grill restaurant, pool bar, ice cream parlour, a spa, two pools, a lounge overlooking the guest pool, and beach chairs/umbrellas at the beach.

Getting There

Cairns provides the gateway to Green Island, which is located just 45 minutes away from the mainland.  Accessible by Great Adventure’s high-speed catamaran from Cairns Harbour, Green Island is convenient to travel to. The catamaran transfer is free for resort guests.

Related posts:

  1. Fitzroy Island, Queensland
  2. Hayman Island, Whitsundays, Queensland
  3. Daydream Island, Whitsundays, Queensland
  4. Bedarra Island, Queensland, Australia

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