Your kids jump off the snorkelling boat, still babbling with excitement about the sights they have seen: spiky corals with long, delicate branches, entrancing hawksbill turtles, flashes of brightly-coloured fish, round corals in bunches like flowers, and schools of silvery fish. One of them eagerly waves the underwater camera, thrilled to have captured so many wonderful images. The other one is talking about a huge grey shape – was it a stingray or maybe a shark? But it’s not long before the other delights of the island claim their attention – the soft, white sand to play in, the rainforest to explore, the swimming pool…
45 min east of Cairns by fast catamaran
Depart from Reef Fleet Terminal, end of Spence St, Cairns; (07) 4044 9944
■ The Great Barrier Reef! This is your main reason for visiting Green Island. Kids who are not old enough to swim in the sea and snorkel can view the reef from a glass-bottomed boat.
■ The easy, self-guided walk around the island. You can download information brochures from the website in several languages, or pick up a brochure at the information desk in the resort.
■ The many different birds. In the forest, look for emerald doves or buff banded rails foraging among leaves on the ground, and listen for the cooing of Torres Strait pigeons. On the shore, watch for seabirds diving for fish.
■ The underwater observatory (extra cost) located at the end of the jetty. It was a world-first when it opened in 1954. Look through the portholes for a deeper view of the sea without going scuba diving.
■ Marineland Melanesia (extra cost), located next to the resort. See turtles and huge saltwater crocodiles and hold baby crocodiles; (07) 4051 4032; www.marinelandgreenisland.com.
Green Island is located on the famous Great Barrier Reef, a World Heritage area. It is the most extensive coral reef in the world, and the only living thing on earth that is visible from space. There are more than 400 different types of coral on the reef, over 1500 species of tropical fish, 200 types of birds, and 20 types of reptiles.
■ Green Island is the most accessible place for exploring the Great Barrier Reef.
■ Having an island for a base is ideal for families because you can alternate water activities with sand play and rainforest walks. This is the only coral cay on the reef with rainforest growing on it.
■ The best way to view the reef is to take a snorkelling trip by boat (extra cost). It is possible to step straight off the beach to snorkel, however snorkelling areas are not patrolled by lifeguards (swimming areas are patrolled).
■ The cruise ticket may include snorkel equipment, wetsuits, snorkelling trips or glass-bottomed boat tours, depending on the package you choose.
■ Great Adventures (the main cruise operator on the island) operates three departure times to the island daily, which means you can go out for just half a day if you wish.
■ There is a hire facility on the beach for canoes, beach umbrellas, and volleyball equipment.
■ The optional extras of scuba diving and underwater walking tours are restricted to those aged 12 years and over.
■ There is a range of eating places on the island.
■ Accommodation is available on the island at the luxury Green Island Resort. If you’re on a Great Adventures cruise you are entitled to use the resort’s swimming pool.