Fitzroy Island

Fitzroy Island
Little known but attractive island with excellent bushwalking
Fitzroy Island is a large continental island (ie. it was once part of the mainland and the area between the island and the coast was drowned after the last Ice age - 6,000 years ago). Today it has a small area given over to a resort. The vast majority of the island is a National Park .

The island is of great spiritual significance to the Gunghandji Aboriginal people who live on the mainland. They believe that during the Dreamtime a person named Gulnyjarubay came to the area and named the island Gabara meaning 'the fist'. It was a way of saying that the arm and the wrist had been submerged and all that was left was 'the fist' standing up out of the water.

The Gunghandji Aboriginal people have used Fitzroy Island for thousands of years as place for hunting and fishing. Today they still have an active involvement with the island.

In 1770 Captain Cook became the first European to sight Fitzroy Island. He named the island after the Duke of Grafton who was the Prime Minister when the Endeavour left England on its epic voyage through the Pacific.

Throughout the nineteenth century the island was visited by itinerants. By the late 1800s a beche de mer (sea cucumber) industry was operating on the island. It was also around this time (1876) that the island became a quarantine station for the Chinese who arrived in north Queensland eager to try their luck on the goldfields around the Palmer River.

By the early 1900s there was an Anglican Aboriginal Mission at Yarrabah and by 1929, after a number of shipwrecks, the first lighthouse was built. It was little more than a navigation light and was established on Little Fitzroy only to be replaced by a more substantial lighthouse on the main island in 1943. The current lighthouse, a far cry from the solidity of the great 19th century edifices, was built in 1970 and continued to operate until 1991 when an automatic system was established.

Things to see:

Vital Information About the Island
1. The Island Itself
25 km south east of Cairns.

Description of the island
A substantial island (339 hectares) which has been largely ignored by visitors to Cairns because of the more attractive options of Green Island (a coral cay) and Outer Reef journeys to reef platforms. It has a lot to offer and is sufficiently large and close to the mainland to have diverse vegetation and fauna.

How do visitors access it?
Great Adventures, which operate from Cairns harbour, offer regular trips to the island. The cost (1/9/98) was $30.


Activities on the island
Excellent bushwalking particularly to the lighthouse. Both swimming and snorkelling are available around the coast. There are four main walking trails on the island. (a) the secret garden - a pleasant 45 minute walk (return) through rainforest (b) Nudey Beach - a pleasant and easy walk to a quiet and peaceful beach through rainforest and coastal bush - 1.2 km - 45 minutes return (c) Lighthouse road - frighteningly steep road (it is concreted all the way) up to the island's modern lighthouse (built 1970). It is 3.6 km return (2 hours) but the views are spectacular and worth the effort (d) Summit trail - just below the lighthouse is the 1.5 km return walk to the summit. It offers even more spectacular views but is also very steep. Really for fit bushwalkers rather than day trippers.

2. Resorts on the Island
Due to major refurbishments the resort is closed to overnight guests until 2007. 

How big is it?
40 rooms capable of holding around 150 people

Who does it appeal to?
Daytrippers from Cairns as well as people who want an economic, budget holiday.

Free activities
Bushwalking, non-motorised water sports, swimming and sunbathing.

Other activities
Diving, catamarans, Outer Reef trips.

Eating at the resort
A range of eating is available from the Fitzroy Island Kiosk (sandwiches, burgers, ice creams) to the Flare Grill (meats and seafoods grilled) and the Rainforest Restaurant which is open for breakfast and dinner.

Island accommodation closed untill 2007 due to major refurbishments.