The Frankland Islands Reef Cruises – Day Tour Experience

Frankland Islands Reef Cruises –  Day Tour Experience
Cairns in Queensland is one of the best tropical destinations you should visit in Australia. Combining the Great Barrier Reef, and UNESCO World Heritage Rainforest with a cosmopolitan city, Cairns is definitely where your holiday must begin. 

During our weeklong vacation in Cairns, we visited the quintessential part of the Great Barrier Reef. 
We hop aboard for a day tour to explore the coral-fringed islands called the Frankland Islands. 

Location of Frankland Islands

Frankland Islands

Just 10km offshore and 45km south-east of Cairns, this uninhabited and World Heritage-listed archipelago – consisting of 5 islands namely, Russell, Normanby, High, Mabel, and Round Islands – is the definition of pristine awesomeness! 

Whether day-tripping or staying longer (self-sufficient campers can stay on Russell and High Islands only) the Frankland Islands are perfect if you want untouched beauty. 

Frankland Islands

Snorkel straight from the beach or sink below the surface on a diving adventure for an audience with the Great Barrier Reef’s star attractions. Hard and soft coral, manta rays, turtles, dugongs, whales, and giant clams will be the main attraction. But the island’s rocky outcrops, coastal vegetation, and dense rainforest also set the scene for a staggering diversity of flora and fauna experiences (including an array of bird species) you won’t find anywhere but Queensland. 


Natural environment - geology and landform
The Frankland Islands are outcrops of weathered metamorphic rock, once part of a coastal mountain range, separated from the mainland by a rise in sea level 6000 years ago. Round Island is a small rocky outcrop rising to 28m in height. Normanby, Mabel, and Russell islands have elevations of 20m, 26m, and 78m respectively. High Island is a steep rainforest-clad island, 10km to the north of the other islands. It covers 69ha and is 158m high, making it the largest of the group.

Normanby Island - Frankland Island Group

The island landforms are diverse and include shallow rocky reefs, mangroves, sand spits, beaches, open woodland, exposed rock faces, and dense rainforest. Extensive fringing reefs encircle the islands.

Plants and animals
The Frankland Islands have diverse vegetation communities including lush tropical rainforest on the high rocky areas. Low woodlands on sand spits support beach sheoak Casuarina equisetifolia, beach almond Terminalia arenicola, Cardwell cabbage Scaevola sericea, and octopus bush Argusia argentea. Beach dunal vegetation is dominated by goatsfoot Ipomoea pes-caprae and coastal jack bean Canavalia rosea, both of which help stabilize the sand. Mangrove communities are dominated by grey mangroves Avicennia marina but there are also small areas of spotted mangroves Rhizophora stylosa in protected intertidal sites on Normanby and Mabel islands.

marine life in Frankland Islands

Various species of birds have been recorded including little, black-naped, and bridled terns, beach stone-curlews (vulnerable), ruddy turnstones, grey-tailed tattlers, white-breasted woodswallows, rose-crowned fruit doves, sacred and forest kingfishers, and a variety of honeyeaters and large raptors. The islands are important nesting locations for a number of species of birds that are increasingly threatened by disturbance and habitat destruction elsewhere. Normanby and Russell's islands host nesting colonies of pied imperial pigeons. These birds migrate to Australia from New Guinea each summer to breed and nest on the islands. They play an important role in the ecology of the islands—feeding on rainforest fruits on the adjacent mainland and bringing rainforest seeds and nutrients to the islands in their droppings.

Normanby Island frequently supports a colony of spectacled flying foxes Pteropus conspicillatus. Russell Island has a small population of sheath tail bats that are found in the rocky outcrops and caves on the island.

The reefs around the islands are diverse with an interesting range of fish, corals, and invertebrates.

Indigenous culture and history
The Frankland Islands are part of the sea country of the Mandingalby Yidinji and Gungandji. The waters and fringing reefs around the islands are still the focus for the traditional use of marine resources.

Non-Indigenous culture and history
Lieutenant James Cook named the islands in 1770 in honor of two 18th century sailors—a Lord of the Admiralty and his nephew, both named Sir Thomas Frankland.

A short-lived beche-de-mer station was established in 1866. The islands were used as a base camp during exploration expeditions in 1848 and during Dalrymple's northeast coast expedition in 1873.
In the early 1900s, the Frankland Islands became a popular fishing and boating destination for local people. The wreck of a steel boat lies off Normanby Island and another wreck has been recorded off High Island.

A lighthouse was built on Russell Island in 1929 and converted to solar power in 1989. Russell Island is now a Commonwealth Island. High, Normanby, Mabel, and Round islands have been protected as national parks since 1936. The surrounding waters were included in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Parkin 1983.

Frankland Island Reef Cruise Day Tour

Frankland Island Reef Cruise Day Tour

This cruise offers a unique Great Barrier Reef experience based on the stunning Frankland Islands National Park, south of the City of Cairns. 

The Frankland Islands Reef Cruises is the only tour operator licensed to visit the untouched beauty of the Frankland Islands, offering small groups the opportunity to snorkel and dive the healthy fringing coral reef that surrounds the island. 

We visit Cairns back in June 2021 where COVID cases haven’t reach Queensland State yet. 
Our island day tour experience is one of the best experiences we had in visiting Cairns Queensland!

colorful Mulgrave River
30-minutes cruise in colorful Mulgrave River

Our tropical island adventure begins in the early morning at about 6:00AM and driving our rental car from our Airbnb home in Trinity Beach Cairns to point of Deeral (for about an hour drive) where the Frankland Islands & Reef Cruise Jetty is located. Our luxury boat tour departs at around 8:30AM. 
We booked our reservation two days ahead to make sure that we can get a slot because this tour is one of the most popular tour experiences in Cairns.

Upon our arrival near the dock area, we waited for the rest of the guests to arrive from the city. You can choose to have a pick-up service by bus from your hotel going to the dock station. 

After 40-mins of waiting, the other guests arrived, and we did our online check-in using the Queensland Service app and sanitized our hands. Although during those days COVID hasn’t reached the region yet, they already start implementing safety rules within their premises. 

inside the vessel of Frankland Island tour

The vessel takes up to a maximum of 100 passengers which ensures your day on the reef is both service and safety orientated.

We enjoyed a leisurely 30-minute cruise down the colorful Mulgrave River were migratory and breeding birds can be seen and occasional crocodile appearances. While cruising the river, guests can roam around the vessel, soak up the beauty of the surrounding rainforest-clad hills from the cabin or shaded deck and admire the panoramic views, while sipping free-served unlimited coffee, and tea.

group tour

After a short open water crossing (about 30 minutes of sailing) we arrive at Frankland Islands National Park for the day, specifically in the luscious Normanby Island. We have 4.5 hours of relaxing and exploring this secluded part of the Great Barrier Reef that sees no more than 100 visitors each day. All snorkeling equipment and tutorials on how to use masks, fins, and snorkel are provided. During the summer months, a protection suit is provided.

We snorkel straight from the pristine white sandy beach where an expert marine naturalist guides you over colorful corals and tropical fish while explaining this unique and wonderful ecosystem.

The weather is so good for swimming, but the water is a little rough for us to fully enjoy snorkeling however, we still had a great time in the water. 

Frankland Islands Reef Cruises –  Day Tour Experience

Frankland Islands Reef Cruises –  Day Tour Experience

Included in the tour is a delicious tropical buffet lunch served on the island with a choice of local fresh prawns, salad, chicken, ham, bread, and an abundance of fresh tropical fruit. 

sumptuous lunch
You can also bring your personal snacks and drinks, provided that you won’t leave any trash on the island. 

Frankland Islands Reef Cruises –  Day Tour Experience

After our very sumptuous lunch, we decided to fly our drone to capture the beauty of the Frankland Islands in aerial view and see the rest of the islands. 

You can watch our 4K drone footage on our YouTube Channel:

The boat departs the island in the afternoon and there’s coffee, tea, and cake on board to enjoy while you sail back to our departure point at Deeral.

Frankland Islands Reef Cruises –  Day Tour Experience

Looking after the island: Dos’ and Don’ts

Everything in the park, living or dead, is protected. Please leave everything as you found it.
Camp only in designated campsites and use the tarpaulin poles provided—disturbance to vegetation can cause erosion and spread weeds.
To protect nesting seabirds, the sand spits on Normanby and Russell islands may be fenced off from 1 September to 31 March. Please stay out of any fenced areas.
Do not feed wildlife including birds and fish—it is harmful to their health.
Domestic animals are not permitted in the Franklands Group National Park or on tidal lands adjacent to the national park within the Great Barrier Reef Coast Marine Park. Tidal areas include beaches, rocks, and mangroves.
If you decide to self-camp, use fuel stoves only—fires are not allowed.
Always keep on walking tracks.
Avoid damaging coral—never stand on or touch coral.
Rubbish bins are not provided. Do not bury rubbish—take it with you when you leave.
Do not leave cigarette butts on the island or in the water.
Where toilets are not provided, bury human waste and toilet paper at least 15cm deep and 100m from campsites and tracks. Take nappies and sanitary products home with your rubbish.

About the tour

Frankland Islands Reef Cruises –  Day Tour Experience

The Frankland Islands Reef Cruises is the only tour operator licensed to operate and access the Frankland Island Group.

Tours depart Friday – Tuesday (five days a week).

Modern boat
Spectacular 30-minute river cruise
Up to 4 hours on the Great Barrier Reef
Guided snorkel tour PLUS adventure snorkel safari
Island walk with marine biologist
Buffet lunch
Morning and afternoon tea
All snorkeling equipment
Protection suits (seasonal)
Flotation devices
Kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding
Coach transfers from Cairns
Tours are limited to just 100 passengers per day.
Expert marine biologist onboard

Prices for Day Tour 
Adult – AUD$139 
Child – AUD$59  - (child age 4 to 16 years old) / Infants (0-3yrs old) travel free, but must be pre-booked.
Family Pass, 2 adults + 2 children – AUD$517

If you are using KLOOK Travel, you can check the Frankland Island Reef Cruises discounted tickets here 

Contact details:
Website: https://www.franklandislands.com.au/
07 4046 7333  (Intl: +61 74046 7333)
319 Draper Street, Parramatta Park, Cairns, 4870


Frankland Islands Reef Cruises –  Day Tour Experience

Acknowledgment of the Country:
We acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the Country throughout Queensland and recognize their continuing connection to land, waters, and culture. We pay our respects to Elders past, present, and emerging and ask that during your travels you respect these cultures, peoples, and land. 

Share this:


  1. I would love to experience this Frankland Island Reef Cruise! I am very happy to hear they are taking safety precautions! The buffet on the Island is a great touch, I am sure after time spent snorkeling that everyone must have been hungry. I must confess I have yet to dive or snorkel despite visiting different locations in the Caribbean, I will definitely have to give it a go someday. I also appreciate seeing your drone videos as they make me feel like I am there.

    1. Thank you for enjoying reading our latest experience! Visiting the Frankland Island is such an amazing experience. Queensland is truly a best destination!

  2. Wow what an incredible looking corner of the planet. Those beautiful blue waters and all that incredible sea life looks like an amazing place to explore.

  3. Australia is on my travel list as soon as restrictions for international travel ease up. I've always wanted to visit Queensland and see the beaches there and go to the reefs.

  4. What an incredible place. I would love to see it in person one day.

  5. That's a really great experience to have. The fresh prawns with tropical fruits is so enticing.

    1. I didn't realized I ate lots of prawns during that trip! Glad my stomach didn't ache :)

  6. The place looks absolutely beautiful but kinda made me sad. I wish we can travel like normal again soon.

    1. Very true! I hope that by year 2022 Australia will be open for international travelers coz we can't afford being isolated even longer.


  7. This is an adventure cruise, off the beaten track and out of the world. In short, a charge of pure energy and life. What a show!

  8. This is such a beautiful place. I have visited tropical places but this is the best!

    1. Thanks Elizabeth! If only the water is calm, we could have capture more clearer underwater footage.

  9. Looks like you had a great time in Cairns. This is one of the best places to visit in Queensland

  10. More reasons for me to visit Australia! The Frankland island reef cruise looks so awesome and indeed pure awesomeness! I can't wait to go someday.

  11. What a stunning shoreline! The water is so crystal clear would love to visit one day

  12. Such a beautiful island, and the water is pristine! Thanks for share your trip and it's nice to see you had a great time there!

  13. It would be SO COOL to experience a Frankland Island Reef Cruise! Your photos are all so beautiful and I can only imagine what an incredible adventure it must have been. Adding it to the bucket list :)

    1. It was a marvelous experience. I can't wait to visit the other islands!

  14. This is so cool. I would love to go to Australia because there are also few places in there on my list. This will be one of them as well. Thank you for sharing!

  15. I can't get over the color of the water! It is fabulous! All your photos were amazing too! Looks like a great time!

  16. What an awesome adventure.. That crystal clear water and the powdery sand is absolutely a definition of paradise. Also i love all those underwater activities too... This seems like an amazing tour and i bet you guys had a great blast.
    Thank you for the virtual tour

    1. We did enjoy the whole tour, and the foods! Definitely worth experiencing this island tour!

  17. That water is so absolutely beautiful

  18. Even though I did some travelling even during the pandemic, I didn't make it to the beach. I'm really longing for another beach vacation, and the Frankland Island looks perfect.

    1. It feels like all my worries was sweep away by those waves. Amazing feeling!

  19. WOW! Love how you shared this with all the photos here. I felt so envious, wish we are already allowed to travel.

  20. This looks like the perfect day out! I would LOVE to visit an island right!

  21. I had a good read & can really tell it's absolutely a great trip for sure. I wish I can enjoy the same too. Cheers Siennylovesdrawing

  22. Nnnniiiicccceeeeee....this would be a refreshing tour for me! And the fact that it's Australia we are talking about, I am more interested!


DISCLAIMER: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any partner brands/company(s), beauty & lifestyle brands, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities, unless specified.
Copyright © For Urban Women - Awarded Top 100 Urban Blog / Fashion, Lifestyle and Travel. Designed by OddThemes