Visit Green Island Great Barrier Reef, Australian Ecotourism At Its Best

Visit Green Island Great Barrier Reef, Australian Ecotourism At Its Best

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Green Island jetty after sunset
Photos: Irene Isaacson

Green Island Great Barrier Reef is one of the best Australian ecotourism destinations. So what is ecotourism? It is ecologically sustainable tourism with a primary focus on experiencing natural areas. This fosters environmental and cultural understanding, appreciation and conservation.


If you want to visit the Great Barrier Reef Queensland and experience all it has to offer, then an island stay is an affordable way to go. So explore Green Island Queensland, it simply oozes’s all that is Australian ecotourism.

Green Island Ecotourism jetty and rainforest
Top left, clockwise: 1. The Reef Adventure catamaran from Cairns, 2. Green Island’s picturesque jetty, 3. Rainforest boardwalk with interpretive signs, 4. Boardwalk access to a secluded part of the island, 5. Cool shady walk through the rainforest

Green Island Facts and Figures

Only 27km from Cairns, Green Island Great Barrier Reef is an excellent destination for day trips as well as long stay resort guests.

Four metres above sea level Green Island is only one of 300 sand cay islands on the Great Barrier Reef with its own rainforest. 6000 years in creation, it is 660 x 260m in size or 12 hectares, of which 7.93 hectares are National Park. In comparison, its surrounding reef covers 1200 hectares.

Commercial activities on the island are regulated and protected by National Park permits. Meanwhile, the reef and underwater habitats are part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

Both Green Island and the reef come under the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area protected by UNESCO. So, whilst Green Island may be small, it has much on offer.

Beautiful Beaches

Less than an hour is all that it takes to leisurely stroll around Green Island’s 1.6km circumference.

Surrounded by a beautiful tropical sand and fine coral beach, there are two main beach areas close to the jetty.

Those seeking sunbaking and fun in the sun can enjoy sun lounges, beach umbrellas, and beach volleyball.

Green Island Ecotourism sunset beach
Top left, clockwise: 1. PIcnic at sunset, 2-4. Many aspects of Green Island’s beaches

But there are many more secluded spots all around the island. Crystal clear warm waters are very inviting. The generally calm and flat seas well suit novice swimmers and children.

An Underwater World On Your Doorstep

Green Island Ecotourism giant clam sea cucumber corals
Beautiful iridescent giant clam, colorful corals and a sea cucumber Photos: Tony Isaacson, DiveCareDare

As the island is surrounded by an in-shore patch reef, it was perfect for the world’s first Underwater Observatory. This was built in 1954 on Green Island and still exists today at the end of the jetty.

Two marine habitats include seagrass beds near the shoreline which support juvenile fish, feeding turtles and an occasional dugong.

The reef begins in the shallows of the beach and continues out to deeper waters. With over 190 types of hard corals and 100 types of soft coral, there is abundant marine life. Boulder and staghorn corals, anemones, clown fish, parrot fish, turtles are to name a few.

Green Island Ecotourism snorkel glass bottom boat coral reef fish
Underwater Photos: Tony Isaacson, DiveCareDare

Home of the world’s very first glass bottom boat in 1937, modern day vessels cruise the crystal clear shallow waters to reveal the colorful underwater world of this inshore reef.

You can also snorkel at your leisure or scuba dive with the Green Island Dive Shop.

Day trips to the Outer Great Barrier Reef are available to experience cooler waters and very colorful larger coral reefs.

You can fly over the reef in a Helicopter for that unique bird’s eye view. Or non-swimmers can try the fun ‘Scuba Doo’ self-drive underwater tour system.

Green Island Scuba Doo
You don’t have to be a swimmer to enjoy the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef     Photo: Tony Isaacson, DiveCareDare

Rainforest Forest Habitat On A Sand Cay

The coastline of Green Island is scrubby coastal vegetation but a few metres inland is a dense shady vine thicket tropical rainforest.

An easy boardwalk spans the length of the island. There are eco-interpretive signs along the way detailing the island’s fascinating history and its Aboriginal roots. Along the way, you may see some of the 120 plant species and fauna.

Sheoaks, pandanus, beach almond and box fruit are a few island trees. Plus a few historically introduced coconut trees date back to 1889, planted to sustain shipwrecked sailors.

Amazing Island Birdlife

Land, sea and migratory birds pass through the Great Barrier Reef looking for nesting grounds. Over 55 species use Green Island at some time or another as their home.

Green Island Ecotourism fauna birdlife
Varied birdlife on Green Island including Pied imperial pigeons, Reef herons, an Osprey and a Buff-banded rail

The commonest birds are probably the Buff-banded rails and the grey and white reef herons. These have acclimatized nicely to sharing their space with we humans.

So much so the Green Island Resort has a specific Buff-banded rail management scheme to combat their cheeky nature of stealing food from the cafes and restaurant!

Migratory pied imperial pigeons are not uncommon and if lucky, you may even spot one of the two resident ospreys in their high nest or out hunting.

The Interesting History Of Green Island

Tourism on the Great Barrier Reef actually began on Green Island in the 1880’s. Starting off with a few Fijian-style huts for fishers, occasional pleasure cruises ran out of Cairns in 1890.

In 1929 Hayles (now Great Adventures) began a regular ferry service to Green Island and later built a small-scale hotel in 1942.

The Green Island Great Barrier Reef Movie Theatre was opened by the Monkman’s in 1961. It became the world’s first island movie theatre.

Then 1963 saw the hotel renovated as the Green Island Reef Resort. A privately owned and operated Crocodile Farm later opened in 1964, re-named Marineland Melanesia in 1972. It still exists today run by the multi-generational Craig family. Crocodile Habitat is home to the world’s largest living ‘saltie’, Cassius Crocodile, well worth seeing!

Green Island Ecotourism Marineland
Clockwise from top left: 1. Entrance to Marineland Melanesia, 2. Cassius Crocodile, 115+yrs old, and still going strong        3. Papua New Guinea artifacts in Marineland Museum, 4. Selfies with a baby croc, 5. Old diving memorabilia in the Museum

Redevelopment of Green Island Resort started in 1992 with day facilities created and a new luxury resort opened in 1994.

Sustainable Management ‘Behind The Scenes’

In a bid to make Green Island a flagship for Queensland ecotourism, owner’s Daikyo in 1990 built Australia’s first island tertiary sewage treatment plant. It was first of its kind and ‘state of the art’ at the time. It gained many environmental awards by minimising the impact on the reef using a biological system of UV radiation and sand filters.

Continuing on the same sustainable theme, there are no natural rivers or springs on Green Island.

All freshwater on the island comes from rain. Rainwater feeds the rainforest and island plants. So to minimise the impact on the island, potable water was brought to the island until 2001.

The Green Island Resort desalination plant was developed and became operational in 2001 providing water to the whole island.

As a reverse-osmosis desalination plant, it currently produces 60,000 litres of water a day, or 3000 litres per hour. And the only waste product is hyper-saline brine which is discharged through the tertiary sewage treatment outfall pipe.

Green Island jetty at sunset

World Class Environmentally Sustainable Resort Eco-Features

Green Island Resort was constructed with eco-tourism in mind. It is based on best practice for construction design, choice of construction materials, appearance, landscaping, litter management and resource recovery.

Steep roof designs to allow free flow of rainwater onto the island ground. Elevated boardwalks to allow animals to move along the forest floor minimising interference with tree root systems. All service pipes and wiring are also hidden from view.

Green Island Ecotourism Resort
Clockwise from top: 1. Emeralds Restaurant & Bar, 2. Oiled Massage boutique, a great place to relax 3. Green Island Resort tropical pool surrounded by rainforest, 4. Tropical souvenirs on Green Island

Building materials complement the natural rainforest surroundings, including sympathetic color choices. The two swimming pools are only 2.2m deep so as not to encroach on the natural freshwater table or lens of the island.

Landscaping includes only plants native to the island-grown from seed, with imported exotic plants strictly regulated and kept only in pots.

Green Island Awards

Quite deservingly, Green Island has won many awards.

From Top Luxury and Deluxe Island Accommodation as well as Customer Service Awards to Ecotourism Certification, Cleanest Beach, Litter Prevention, Resource Recovery, Waste Management, Environmental Protection and Best Environmental Practice Awards.

Visit Green Island, A Great Cairns Attraction

So you can see there is much more to Green Island than meets the eye. With all of this as well as boutique shops, cafes, a top restaurant, and a crocodile farm, is it worth a visit?

Absolutely! There is certainly something for everyone. And the best bit? It’s all available with minimal impact on one of Australia’s best natural assets, our World Heritage Listed Great Barrier Reef.

What more could anyone ask for?

Green Island Ecotourism sunset

Discover Queensland

Green Island is one of several islands in Queensland. There are several in Tropical North Queensland. Here’s a review of the differences between Green Island and Fitzroy Island.

When visiting Green Island, you will most likely pass through Cairns. It’s worth spending a bit of time exploring the sights, such as the Cairns Aquarium and other attractions in the region such as Kuranda Village, the Tolga Bat Hospital and Paronella Park.



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