When it comes to exploring all the magic that lays below the ocean’s surface, you just can’t beat snorkelling. Affordable, easy to learn, relaxing and awe-inspiring, snorkelling is the ultimate way to explore incredible sea life (and in some areas, river ecosystems, too).
Unlike scuba diving, where you are required to undergo certification before taking your first dive (in addition to gearing up with all the relevant, heavy equipment), snorkelling is comparatively easier- all you need is your snorkel, mask, fins and a sense of adventure and you are ready to go!
Tropical Far North Queensland (TFNQ) is one of the most spectacular locations anywhere on the planet for breathtaking snorkelling. Amazingly, TFNQ is home to not just one but two World Heritage Listed sites (and the only region on Earth where two World Heritage Listed sites meet): the infamous Great Barrier Reef, and the world’s most ancient tropical rainforest, the Daintree Rainforest.
Thousands upon thousands of awe-inspiring sea (as well as freshwater) animals call Tropical Far North Queensland home (many of which are unique to this part of the world), including tropical fish, coral, sea turtles, giant clams, dolphins, whales, enormous rays and crustaceans.
What you may not already know, is that there are a number of fabulous snorkelling locations close to Cairns (in addition to the Outer and Ribbons Reefs, which are frequently visited by joining a local tour). Let us introduce to you now our top three picks when it comes to amazing snorkelling near Cairns.
Fitzroy Island, near Cairns
Fitzroy Island is one of the most outstanding locations for great snorkelling nearby to Cairns. Located just 45 minutes from the Cairns Marina (via Fast Cat), Fitzroy Island is 97% National Park and is also the proud home of breathtaking Nudey Beach, which took out the number one spot in Australia’s Top 101 Beaches awards in 2018. Fitzroy Island is also ideally located right in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef, meaning you can snorkel straight from the shore of the island out onto the Reef!
Depending on how much time you have in the region, you may choose to visit Fitzroy Island for just the day, or stay and relax a little longer at Fitzroy Island Resort (a wide array of accommodation types are available to suit all tastes and budgets). No matter how long your visit, snorkelling at Fitzroy Island is a wonderful experience. Choose to bring your own gear or hire some from the island’s Dive and Adventure Centre. Snorkelling the surrounding waters of Fitzroy Island, you shall have the opportunity to admire numerous beautiful tropical fish, giant gropers, hard and soft corals and magical sea turtles.
Mossman River, Mossman
The exceptionally clear and pristine Mossman River (located north of Cairns and Port Douglas) winds its way through the oldest tropical rainforest on the planet, the spectacular Daintree Rainforest. Participating in a river drift snorkelling tour (with local tour company Back Country Bliss) is the ultimate way to explore the wonders of the Mossman River and surrounding rainforest vegetation.
Suitable for adults and children aged 3 and upwards, this tour explores unspoilt parts of Mossman River away from the popular Mossman Gorge tourist hotspot. While gently drifting downstream with the natural current of the river, you shall have the opportunity to spot tropical fish, eels and potentially a platypus or turtle, too. Your experienced guide will also point out magnificent animals that live amongst the Daintree Rainforest, including birds, butterflies and lizards.
Transfers are available from Palm Cove and Port Douglas and your tour includes fresh local snacks as well as all relevant gear hire (mask, snorkel, fins, wetsuit and boots).
Image Credit: backcountrybliss.com.au
Low Isles, near Port Douglas
Low Isles, near Port Douglas (one hour north of Cairns) is a very popular option for great snorkelling near Cairns. The Low Isles, which is in fact two individual islands that together share the same reef, is located just 15km from the Port Douglas Marina, making it a fabulous option for visitors not wanting to venture to the outer reef for a full day.
The Low Isles are also well suited to people who are not overly confident swimmers or snorkellers, including children, thanks to beach access to the reef, and gentle, shallow waters. Snorkelling the reef that surrounds the Low Isles means you have the chance to spot many unique species of coral, tropical fish, docile reef sharks and sea turtles, for which this location is famous, if luck is on your side!