The best GBR Island for snorkelling

Old Jan 4th, 2009, 12:07 AM
  #1  
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The best GBR Island for snorkelling

We are looking at spending 4-5 days on an island on the Great Barrier Reef. Then staying in Cairns for 3 days to explore.

On the island, our idea is to be able to just leisurely walk from our room and down into the water and be able to snorkel close to shore to explore the rocks and coral and see the fish. We love to snorkel. To be able to do this is the whole reason for staying on a GBR island.

We are not interested in having to get into a boat to be taken further out to snorkel. That would defeat whole idea of staying on the island. We plan to do that later on in Cairns.

I have searched this site to try and find the best island, but opinions vary.

Our budget is about $AU300-400 per night.

Green Island seems to be just what we want, but I am concerned by the negative comments. We don't mind people and tourism. We are tourists too.

And we are used to a crowd because we usually cruise to the islands in the South Pacific on a cruise ship and there is always plenty of people in the one place at the same time.

What do you think? What island would suit us best? I would appreciate any and all replies.

Thank you.
Jenny
Brushtail is offline  
Old Jan 4th, 2009, 08:48 AM
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Join Date: Apr 2004
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Jenny,

Your best bets for resort islands with excellent snorkeling would be Heron Island, or (if you can afford it) Lizard Island. I havent been to Lizard (yet) but have been to Heron five times.

Snorkelers are well catered for on Heron. The island is similar in many ways to Green Island, only that it is off limits to mobs of day trippers and the condition of the reef is better (I stayed on Green Island one time). It is a small coral cay that you can walk around in 45 mins. It is surrounded by a shallow lagoon which is exposed at low tide and which offers good snorkeling right from the beach. In the lagoon you typically see turtles, small clumps of coral with pretty fish, sting rays, shovel nosed rays, starfish, sea cucumbers, and the odd harmless reef shark. The snorkeling generally gets better the further out you go closer and closer to the reef edge. At low tide you can explore the lagoon ("the reef flats") by walking and wading. Very interesting.

The reef edge is lies anywhere from about 250 yards to maybe a couple of miles offshore depending on which side of the island you're on. This is where the snorkeling is best - absolutely amazing...huge coral formations, millions of fish, all kinds of stuff, including giant manta rays. The reef edge is accessible from shore, though it is best to take the snorkel boat provided (at cost)by the resort. It's a 5-15 minute ride, unlike many other GBR islands where you ride for an hour or more by boat to snorkel. They typically go to different locations on the reef edge twice each day, and sometimes over to the adjoining Wistari Reef, close to Heron. Often they let you drift snorklel with the tide for a mile or so - you just float along over the coral and take it all in - fantastic.

There is also a boat wreck in the entrance to the "harbour", which is an excellent spot for snorkleing - lots of huge fish love to hang around there. I saw an octopus on the wreck one time. In addition, the resort offers daytrips to nearby undeveloped Wilson Island for a barbeque and more snorkeling adventures.

Though it's a year-round destination, best times for Heron are probably the autumn (April-May) and Spring (Sept-Nov). The winter months are lovely (highs in the 70s, low 80s) but the water is a bit cool for some. It's never kept us away - we have always gone in winter, renting short wet suits for long perods in the water. The island is a major nesting place for birds in the summer months, another turn-off for some people. However the summer is the time when all island life (above and below water) is most active - it is the time for turtle nesting/hatching, quite a sight.

The only trouble with Heron Island is that it is a bit off the beaten path, a long way south of Cairns, the major gateway to the GBR and rainforest. Worth it though! And definitely my pick over Green Island.

RalphR is offline  
Old Jan 4th, 2009, 04:56 PM
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Join Date: Oct 2008
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I agree with Ralph re Heron Island and it is far less visited though you can do a day trip, but reason for and to save you looking up near Cairns - it's a long way from Cairns, about a 1000 km south down near Gladstone.

So if you're looking for something Cairns way, another option though not on the reef is Fitzroy Island and it is a reasonable size island with much more to offer and some good fish snorkelling off northern end between Fitz and little Fitz and then you also have some good swimming beach there too.
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Old Jan 6th, 2009, 09:09 AM
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Green Island is a nice place but we found snorkelling very poor if compared to the Outer Barrier Reef where we had to take local cruises, which seems not what you are looking for. Others will surely have better suggestions for a combination of island resort + great barrier reef snorkelling.
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Old Jan 10th, 2009, 01:48 PM
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Join Date: Nov 2007
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Brushtail the snorkelling at Lizard Island is fantastic but the tariff is well above what you have mentioned. Have a look at www.daintreeair.com they do organise day tours and scenic flights along the reefs and rainforest in that area.
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Old Jan 12th, 2009, 01:14 AM
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Ralph, after reading your description of Heron Island, I can hardly wait to go there!
Great reporting, thank you.
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