Frankland Islands – Normanby Island Snorkel

by Steve Klein


Frankland Islands Snorkel

LOCATION Franklands Islands, Cairns, Far North Queensland

DEPTH 1-5 Meters

WATER TEMP 24-28 Degrees


Snorkel from the beach or join the guided snorkel safari tour.



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Frankland Islands Snorkel

LOCATION Franklands Islands, Cairns, Far North Queensland

DEPTH 1-5 Meters

WATER TEMP 24-28 Degrees


Snorkel from the beach or join the guided snorkel safari tour.


Normanby Island – Frankland Islands Group

Frankland Islands Snorkel

Snorkel on the Great Barrier Reef at the family friendly Frankland Islands on a day tour from Cairns. Enjoy the crystal-clear waters of this uninhabited island surrounded by coral gardens, tropical fish, sea turtles, rays and clown fish.

What can I see?

What Can I See?

Getting There

Getting There

The departure point for this tour is Deeral, 45 minutes south of Cairns. Tour operators will transfer you there from Cairns. From Deeral it is a 30 minute cruise to Normanby Island which is part of the Frankland Island Group.

We were staying in Etty Bay so made our own way to the Deeral Jetty. It is quite hard to spot the jetty from the road so keep an eye out for it about 450m past the public boat ramp on your left.

The cruise begins in the calm Mulgrave River – look out for crocs – before making the short hop to the island so you don’t have long to worry about on the open water if you are prone to sea sickness.

Snorkel Entry

Where & How do you get in?

This is a great tour for families and snorkellers of all experience levels. You snorkel right off the beach. Even if snorkelling is not your thing, there is a semisubmersible tour as well as a guided snorkel included in tour. Which activities you do and when you do them is organised as you cruise out to the island.

Best Season

Best Season

Being close to the mouth of the Mulgrave River, the water can get murky here if there is significant run off – which there is during the wet season from December – March. Much better here in the dry season from April to October.

Current Australian Sea Temperature


Potential Hazards

Stinger season is November-April so a stinger suit or full length wetsuit is a must at that time, and the rest of the year the water is cool so best to wear a wetsuit.

Recommended Gear

Stinger suits or wetsuits and snorkel gear is included in the price of the tour.

How Busy / Crowds

If you want a Great Barrier Reef trip that is less busy than Fitzroy or Green Island, this is the tour for you. With only one boat going to the island, it never gets crowded.


Tour bus transfers are available from Cairns CBD accommodation from 6.55am or if you prefer to self-drive, allow time for the drive and check in at Deeral Jetty by 8.15am.


Costs / Permits

You will need to pay for a tour to get to the Frankland Islands. It is approx $230 per adult for the full day which includes, everything from transfers, lunch, guided tours, and all equipment hire/stinger suits.

The information for each snorkel spot is provided by people who have snorkelled there. However, snorkelling conditions change daily. Please be aware that wind, swell, tides and cloud cover can all affect visibility and your experience in the water.

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Frankland Islands Reef Cruises operated by Divers Den. They are the only operator that goes out to the Frankland Islands.

Best Conditions

The guides are good at getting you to the most sheltered part of the island for your snorkelling. The main consideration is the one mentioned above. Probably avoid the tour after heavy rain as the river run off affects water visibility around the island.

Windy Map Instructions – Click on the wind icon in the top right to see other conditions such as swell, temperature, rain. To clear the four day forecast click and close the wind icon.

Facilities at Normanby Island

There are no toilets on the island, but there are regular runs from the island back to the boat if you need to go. A fantastic lunch and drinks are included on the tour. There are also kayaks and stand up paddleboards available for guests to use.




Picnic Tables




Food & Drinks

About the Snorkel

If you are based in Cairns, you will see a lot of options for going to Fitzroy or Green Island for a Great Barrier Reef experience. But the cruise out to the Frankland Islands is a bit of a hidden gem and a great way to explore the reef for families, less experienced swimmers and anyone who doesn’t like spending too long on a boat in the open water.

Starting from Deeral, the first part of the cruise is along the calm Mulgrave Rive. Keep an eye out for rays and crocs. From there it is just a bit further to Normanby Island in the Frankland Islands Group.

There are lots of activities on the tour. We went on a guided snorkel, a nature walk around the island with a guide and grabbed a kayak and went for a paddle. The nature walk is excellent, we spotted baby rays and sharks, brittle starfish and sea cucumbers.

For less confident swimmers, you can see the reef from a semi-submersible. There was also a treasure hunt for the kids.

There is plenty of time to do your own snorkelling and there is all the colourful tropical fish you would want to see, but without the crowds you get on Fitzroy or Green Island. Straight off the beach is also a great spot to see a turtle, we saw a couple of them as we swam around. There are also several anemones with their resident clown fish.

We really enjoyed this cruise/tour. The uninhabited island is beautiful, the snorkelling was rewarding and easy, there were lots of activities and the catering was very good. Cruising back up the river was a relaxing way to end the day.

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Steve Klein
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