Australian Natural Adventures
Wildlife, Nature & Soft Adventure Tours
Custom Australia, New Zealand & Pacific tours and travel
The Frankland Islands are completely uninhabited. They are a short distance south of Cairns, in North Queensland, and are their own small National Park within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Zone. Like the Whitsundays, the Franklands are mainland islands, and owe their island nature to a rise in sea level about 8000 years ago, cutting them off from what is now the coast. Since then they have developed their own off-shore coral reefs, and are home to many birds, crabs and other island-loving wildlife.
Although anyone can visit the island, there is only one commercial operator with permission to do so. As most visitors will arrive this way, the description below is based on that tour.
You first drive south from Cairns for about 30 minutes, through typical North Queensland countryside, to the Mulgrave River. Here you transfer to the boat, high up in the freshwater reaches of this tropical river. As the boat makes its way towards the sea you first pass through canefields, then rainforest, and eventually the important mangrove ecosystem. Eventually you reach the sea, where a short 20-minute ride lands you at the islands. These islands, once part of the mainland, are now isolated, and surrounded by coral reefs. On shore there is a small forest, where pigeons, doves and other rainforest birds roost and feed. The surrounding waters are alive with coral, reef fishes, giant clams and all the life forms of this rich underwater habitat. Unlike many parts of the reef, the coral starts just offshore, and can be seen by both wading, and evening walking along the exposed reef at low tide. On the other hand, world-class snorkeling and diving is just a few minutes further out, by small boat or swimming. Lunch is served under the trees, and it's not until about 3pm that you have to leave this island paradise. During the day a naturalist will lead you on a guided walk through the forest, and is available for a guided underwater snorkel as well. There's also a glass-bottomed boat, and a semi-submersible submarine for coral viewing.
The Franklands are an ideal place to visit the coral reefs if you are new to snorkeling, or would like to brush up on your skills before tackling the mid and outer Barrier Reef, where you enter the water either of the boat or off a moored platform, with no beach to wade in off. On the Franklands you just walk out into the water and bend over, going further out as your skills and confidence increase.
The forest walks and beachcombing time (but you can't take anything except memories and photographs off the island) are just added benefits to this beautiful day out on a tropical island.