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Michaelmas and Upolo Cays National Park

Cairns, Cairns Area

Michaelmas Cay, part of Michaelmas and Upolo Cays National Park, is one of the most important seabird breeding sites in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. Michaelmas Cay is a small, low sand cay, covered by grasses and low-growing plants. Upolu Cay is a low, unvegetated sand cay.

From the fenced beach access area on Michaelmas Cay, watch seabirds nesting and tending their young without disturbing them. Marvel at the sight of up to 30,000 seabirds occupying the cay at peak nesting periods during summer. Look for sooty terns, common noddies and crested terns. Admire huge flocks of seabirds filling the sky. Go snorkelling to explore the diverse surrounding reefs. Public moorings are provided for private boats.

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Michaelmas and Upolo Cays National and Marine Park
Cairns, Cairns Area
Queensland
Australia

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Fitzroy Island National Park

Fitzroy Island, Cairns Area
Free Entry
This island national park, located close to the mainland, is rugged with diverse landscapes featuring granite outcrops, open woodlands, rainforest, mangroves and coral beaches. The island and its surrounding waters form part of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. Fitzroy Island, named by Lieutenant James Cook, has an interesting history as a quarantine station for the Palmer River Goldfields in the late 1800s, and later as part of an Aboriginal mission growing fruit and vegetables. Explore the rainforested Secret Garden track (one kilometre return) or walk to Nudey Beach (1.2 kilometres return) to relax in the shade, swim and snorkel. Tackle the 3.6 kilometre return Lighthouse track to the lighthouse, which offers spectacular views of the ocean and, in winter, migrating humpback whales. Look for birds such as rose-crowned fruit-doves and metallic starlings and large goannas. Challenge yourself on the 3.6 kilometre return boulder-strewn Summit track which climbs through woodland to the island's summit (269 metres) where slabs of granite and windswept casuarina trees frame magnificent views over the island, surrounding reefs and mainland.

Hope Islands National Park

Cooktown, Cook Area
Free Entry
This island national park includes East and West Hope islands as well as Struck Island and Snapper Island. East and West Hope islands are low-lying cays. West Hope Island is a shingle cay formed from piles of loose shingle (coral debris) on which only the most hardy plants such as mangroves survive. East Hope is a typical sand cay, forested with tall coastal trees such as beach almonds. These islands are among the most important bird-nesting sites in the northern Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Thousands of pied imperial-pigeons visit the islands to breed each summer. A delight for birdwatchers and fishers, these tropical islands provide a haven for nature lovers. Relax and enjoy the natural beauty. Bush camp at one of four camp sites on East Hope Island. Watch the birdlife along the shore. Listen to the calls of the pied-imperial pigeons in the trees during summer months. Go snorkelling or diving to discover amazing reef life. Make use of public moorings and throw in a fishing line.
Free Entry
Michaelmas Cay, part of Michaelmas and Upolo Cays National Park, is one of the most important seabird breeding sites in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. Michaelmas Cay is a small, low sand cay, covered by grasses and low-growing plants. Upolu Cay is a low, unvegetated sand cay. From the fenced beach access area on Michaelmas Cay, watch seabirds nesting and tending their young without disturbing them. Marvel at the sight of up to 30,000 seabirds occupying the cay at peak nesting periods during summer. Look for sooty terns, common noddies and crested terns. Admire huge flocks of seabirds filling the sky. Go snorkelling to explore the diverse surrounding reefs. Public moorings are provided for private boats.

Green Island National Park

Green Island, Cairns Area
Free Entry
This small rainforest-clad coral cay is surrounded by coral reefs and is one of the Great Barrier Reef's most popular destinations. A true coral cay, it was formed over thousands of years by the build-up of sand and coral rubble deposited on the calm side of a platform reef. Tropical vine forest covers the island. Palm-fringed sandy beaches slope gently to the clear, blue-green waters of the surrounding reef, which is within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. Stroll around the island's boardwalks to explore the rainforest and birdlife and find out about the island's history. Walk around the island's beaches to view seabirds and enjoy views over the reef. Relax on the beach and listen to the birds in the forest behind you. Take a break from the beach and picnic on tables placed in the cool shade of the forest. Swim or snorkel or paddle a kayak in the clear reef waters. Go for a ride in a glass-bottomed boat or join a guided nature walk. Visit Marineland Melanesia Crocodile Habitat.

Three Sisters Dive Site

Cairns, Cairns Area
Free Entry
The Three Sisters, part of the impressive Milln Reef, can be found just a short boat trip from Cairns. The three large, colourful bommies are perhaps most famous for the Gorgonian Gorge, with the second and third sisters rising to within one metre of the surface - the three metre gap between them is constantly filled with schools of fusiliers and snapper. Immense schools of snapper, surgeonfish and sweetlips populate the peaks of the pinnacle, while larger pelagic fish are known to use the Gorgonian Gorge as their gateway between the coast and the Pacific Ocean. Snorkellers and divers alike will find lots to see and do, with swim-throughs, overhangs and crevices to explore, as well as deep dives and pinnacles to swim around. The Three Sisters host a huge variety of wonderful coral, often visited by barracuda, reef sharks, moray and garden eels, lagoon rays and turtles.

Nursery Bommie Dive Site

Port Douglas, Douglas Area
Free Entry
One of the most impressive dive sites on the Agincourt Reefs, off Port Douglas, is a large pinnacle called Nursery Bommie. This column of coral rises from 2 metres to 25 metres and is decorated with sea whips, soft corals and gorgonians, but it is the fish life that will be most remembered. At the base of the bommie is always a school of colourful blue-striped snapper, but also common are barracuda, trevally, surgeonfish and fusiliers. Cut by numerous ledges, make sure you check these out as you are likely to see rock cod, lionfish, coral cod, nudibranchs and maybe a lovely leaf scorpionfish. The top of Nursery Bommie is home to hundreds of fairy basslets and also a massive school of snubnose drummer, making for a very memorable dive.

Steve's Bommie Dive Site

Cairns, Cairns Area
Free Entry
Located north of Cairns, Steve's Bommie is an incredible dive site located at Ribbon Reef No.3. The bommie rises from 30 metres deep up to just five metres below the water, and attracts schools of bigeye trevally, barracuda, yellow-lined snapper, Moses perch, yellow-lined goatfish and many others. Macro photographers love the large population of nudibranchs, flatworms, pipefish, scorpionfish, lionfish, mantis shrimps and other small sea life. Other residents are flaming file shells and highly venomous reef stonefish. Closer to the top, you'll find five species of anemone fish and countless other reef fish.

Thetford Reef Dive Site

Cairns, Cairns Area
Free Entry
Thetford Reef, nestled close to the Cairns coast and just a short boat trip from the popular Green Island, is a two kilometre long burst of colour - with scattered coral heads, sandy floor areas inviting glittering schools of sea life, and lots of swim-throughs for adventure-seekers. Giant clams, butterflyfish, rabbitfish, damsels, angelfish and pipefish are always visible among the large gorgonian fans and soft coral. Anemones full of cheeky anemone fish and coral heads covered in multi-coloured Christmas worms make for colourful photos. Thetford Reef is also circled by larger pelagic fish, including mackerel, tuna, trevally, wrasse, spangled emperor, red bass, blue and gold fusiliers and sergeant majors.

Castle Rock Dive Site

Port Douglas, Douglas Area
Free Entry
Castle Rock is a tower of coral at the Agincourt Reefs, accessible from Port Douglas on a day trip. Rising from 25 metres to almost break the surface, Castle Rock is home to trevally, snappers, sweetlips, goatfish, fusiliers, surgeonfish and a very friendly Malabar groper called Colin. One of the features of this site is the wonderful healthy hard coral gardens found in the shallows, which are some of the best on the Great Barrier Reef. Exploring these coral gardens divers and snorkellers will find whitetip reef sharks, turtles, lionfish, giant clams and all the typical reef fish you would expect to find on the Great Barrier Reef.

Jorgey's Patch Dive Site

Cairns, Cairns Area
Free Entry
Accessible on a day trip from Cairns, Jorgey's Patch features a variety of terrains for divers to explore, including bommies, ridges, gutters and ledges. In depths between 10 and 25 metres, divers will find an abundance of reef fish on this reef, including fusiliers, angelfish, wrasses, anemone fish and rock cods. If you have the time you should check out every nook and cranny, as you are likely to find nudibranchs, boxfish, lionfish, moray eels, gobies, blennies, flatworms and maybe a wobbegong shark. Whitetip reef sharks and blue spotted lagoon rays are also seen at this pretty dive site.
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