We’ve visited Fitzroy Island twice now. We did a day trip to the island when we visited Cairns as a family a couple of years ago, and recently AJ and I stayed on the island for 2 nights. The day trip we did as a family I described at the time as “our most challenging day access wise during our holiday to Palm Cove, but one of our best. Due to the limited access on the island, visitors to Fitzroy Island really need to have some mobility.” AJ has always wanted to return to the island and because I was looking for some relaxation on our mother-daughter trip to Cairns, I decided a stay was in order. It also allowed me to update my original information and add to it.
Fitzroy Island staff are straight forward about accessibility on the island. The resort has fantastic accessible accommodation but the rest of the island is not wheelchair friendly. On our recent stay we did see a few people with mobility aides but no wheelchair users.
Fitzroy Island is only a 45 minute boat ride from Cairns but the slow pace makes it feel a world away from busy city life. The island attracts less day trippers than some of the other islands off Cairns and is home to the Turtle Rehabilitation Centre. The island is beautiful with clear water, rainforest walks and a relaxed vibe.
The ferry trip was a challenge with BJ’s wheelchair as it was too wide for the gangway (we knew this ahead of time). Fortunately BJ can walk short distances with assistance so the crew carried the wheelchair while Hubby assisted BJ.
The main beach on the island is made up of coral and this is tough on feet because it works like quick sand. When I walked BJ down to the water I kept sinking which made it hard to balance both of us and deal with the small waves.
AJ absolutely loves Fitzroy Island. The calm water (usually), the range of water sports and the slow pace suit her personality. This is where she first tried stand up paddle boarding and she took to it instantly. I suspect her background as an ice skater helped her with balance. There was a trampoline in the water which enticed even me. I jumped off into the water with total abandon. I don’t know what it is about holidays which helps me lose my inhibitions but I like the feeling.
TURTLE REHABILITATION CENTRE
A big draw card for me was the Turtle Rehabilitation Centre. I knew that BJ wouldn’t be able to snorkel and see the turtles in the wild so it was great to take him to see the turtles in the centre. The tour starts with a walk and talk to the centre. The guide talked to us about the history of the centre and then we met the current residents and learnt more about what had brought them to the centre.
The aim of the centre is to restore the turtles back to full health and release them back into the wild. This was a highlight of my visit to the island and a unique experience for us all.
You can read more about the Turtle Rehabilitation Centre on their website.
Hubby snorkelled off the island and saw turtles in the wild. He swam for a long time with turtles and thoroughly enjoyed his peaceful snorkel.
As we usually travel in peak school holiday periods, accommodation is usually fully booked and I haven’t been able to see the accessible apartment accommodation on Fitzroy Island. On our first visit I had the opportunity to inspect a suite which I’m sharing below to give you a general idea of the style of accommodation on the island.
The resort building has easy access with wooden walkways connecting buildings and lift access to the accommodation.
The suite accommodation is spacious and well equipped for guests staying overnight or for extended periods with a full kitchen.
You can purchase your groceries on the mainland and the ferry staff have coolers on board to keep everything fresh for the 45 minute boat ride.
Some balconies have water views.
The one bedroom suite is equipped with a pull out sofa bed in the lounge room. The apartments have the option of an interconnecting hotel room which assists with larger families or friends travelling together.
As I was unable to inspect the accessible room’s bathroom, staff at Fitzroy provided me with photos to share.
The bathroom looks spacious with good circulation space for wheelchair users, a hand-held shower, flip-down shower seat, lever taps and grab rails throughout.
All amenities are at lowered height.
Breakfast is served in Zephr Restaurant which is accessible.
AJ and I enjoyed sitting outside to enjoy the water views. We certainly wouldn’t be sitting outside in shorts on a winter’s morning in Sydney!
These 3 star bungalows have been built since our family visit to Fitzroy Island. I was told they are only about 6 months old.
Due to their compact nature I will describe these as access friendly. These are suited to someone with mobility as direct transfers from a wheelchair to the bed wouldn’t be possible.
Bunk beds are squeezed into a room off the main area in the bungalow.
Although the bungalows are compact, the bathroom is spacious with good accessible features including a flip-down shower bench, hand-held shower and grab rails.
The toilet is equipped with a backrest, the hand basin is wheelchair accessible and lever taps are fitted to the shower and basin.
A mini-fridge and tea and coffee making facilities are located inside the bungalow. On the balcony there’s an outdoor setting, a large esky for food storage, a Webber barbecue and a microwave for alfresco cooking and dining.
Butterfly bungalows are located near the campground and close to Welcome Bay Beach.
Please keep in mind the paths around the Butterfly Bungalows are not paved. These bungalows are best suited to families who intend to be out enjoying the island for the majority of the day. There’s no real living space inside, it’s somewhere to just lay your head after the day’s activities.
You can read more details about Butterfly Bungalows here.
The island has two restaurants. Zephyr Restaurant requires a booking and serves a la carte meals, and Foxy’s Bar offers pub-style meals.
The Foxy’s Bar menu includes items like chicken schnitzel, grilled Barramundi, fish & chips, hamburgers and large salads. It’s a fabulous spot at sunset but it’s also popular in the middle of the day for lunch. All the swimming and walking seems to make visitors and guests super hungry.
There’s a step up to the bar area which is where visitors order food. Unfortunately, there’s no ramp available. When we travelled as a family, Hubby and the kids sat at the outside tables while I went in to order.
I say a cocktail at sunset is a must. It wouldn’t be a tropical island getaway without one surely?
If you are having lunch at Foxy’s Bar my tip is to get there before orders are taken at 12pm, get your table and head to the bar to order just before 12pm. It is a stampede for lunch.
If day-tripping to Fitzroy Island I recommend catching the first ferry of the day to make the most of the day. If you book the late afternoon return it will give you a full day on the island. The island is at its quietest early in the day and there’s less of a queue to hire equipment. Please note, Cairns does have morning traffic and the berth for the Fitzroy Ferry is one of the furthest from the car park so allow time. Don’t be running for the ferry like us!
The spy paddle boards (kick boards with perspex to watch the sea life) are quick to be hired so get in early for one of these if you want one.
The beaches on Fitzroy Island are made up of large coral rather than sand and it’s tough on feet. I recommend taking beach shoes (lycra snorkelling shoes are usually available in summer at Target and Big W) to save your feet. AJ and I bought a pair for $12 a pair for our return trip to Fitzroy. It was money well spent.
When you arrive on the island head to reception to book your visit to the Turtle Rehabilitation Centre. A nominal fee applies per person ($8 when we visited) which assists with the care of the turtles. There’s limited numbers per group and this is sometimes booked out by hotel guests before day-trippers arrive I peak times. If you miss out, head to the centre anyway and take a look through the wire door. You may be luck to spy a turtle or two in the large pools.
A large stand-alone unisex accessible bathroom facility is available near the pool area of the main resort. Although for hotel guests as a general rule, day trippers with a mobility restriction may use it.
We had a fabulous day on the island. It was tough going but I am sharing this as I know we have people with different needs and at varying stages. When BJ was younger and in his back carrier this would have be an easy day for us.
There are some beautiful walks on the island but these are only going to be accessible to families who have a child with special needs who is still in a back carrier. The walks are inaccessible. I really enjoyed showing AJ the areas we’d been unable to explore when we visited as a family.
For more information about Fitzroy Island please visit their website.
Our visit to Fitzroy Island was self-funded.
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