Tropical Island Paradise Cairns Qld Australia
Almost 1000 islands dot the coastline of the Great Barrier Reef, and some of the most beautiful and accessible are located in Tropical North Queensland. Islands on the Great Barrier Reef are classed either as reef islands or continental islands - depending on their original formation.
There are over 300 reef islands and coral cays - about 100 of them permanently vegetated, and more than 600 continental islands surrounded by reef. Reef islands and coral cays are best described as Aerial view of Lizard Island sandbanks which are formed by continuous wave action breaking down shells and coral and depositing it in a lagoon or against a reef. Some of these sandbanks or cays continue to grow, and if exposed above water for a length of time, will accumulate vegetation by seeds germinating and growing.
The continental islands were once part of the mainland, and are linked through underwater plates. Both styles of islands can have diverse vegetation, including tropical rainforest, and are encircled by shallow aqua water and beautiful fringing reefs.
Many islands in the Cairns region host accommodation - ranging from camping or backpacker style, to luxurious resorts and exclusive lodges. Lizard Island is a continental island which is home to a five-star resort and is best known as a base for deep sea game fishing or diving. It is located 80km north of Cooktown - best accessed by air from Cairns.
The Low Isles sand cays, 15km off Port Douglas, is a picturesque destination for day visitors and houses a lighthouse which was once manned by a lighthouse-keeper, but is now fully automated.
Located off the coast of Palm Cove, only 20 minutes north of Cairns is the continental island of Double Island with its small exclusive resort, reached by boat from the Palm Cove jetty.
The closest islands to Cairns are Green and Fitzroy Islands, and are easily accessible by day excursions on catamaran cruises. Green Island is a small 12 hectare coral cay with National Park, and features an exclusive five-star low-rise resort, an underwater observatory and wildlife attraction. Fitzroy Island is a continental island which includes a resort as well as backpacker-style accommodation, and as a continental island, has well-established rainforest, as well as a clam farm. Just south of Cairns are the idyllic Frankland Islands - a group of five continental islands protected as National Park. They are accessible to visitors from Cairns on a day boat cruise.
Traveling to Mission Beach, popular Dunk Island with its resort lifestyle, is very accessible but to in-house guests, seems a world away from the near-by mainland. Beyond Dunk, towards the Cardwell area are the exclusive hideaways of Bedarra and Orpheus Island - all continental islands, complete with villas and private beaches. Beautiful Hinchinbrook Island, located off the coast of Cardwell is Australia's largest island national park. There is a small resort and hiking tracks through the rugged wilderness of this continental island. Camping permits must be obtained.