Boardwalk UX and more. Explore Green Island TNQ

Original post and video March 2019 more video including underwater shark swim chase later in this article 

Green Island has always been a firm family favourite for us at xplor4, as it undoubtedly has been for many thousands of years and peoples too. Hundreds of generations have marvelled at its beauty. Find out about this great spot and its new boardwalk. Plus watch as we go:


As its name suggests this is indeed a luscious little green gem of an island in the crystal coral sea. The English name in fact comes from none other than Captain Cook himself, ostensibly honouring the ship Endeavours Astronomer Mr Charles Green when they sailed by in 1770. Although Id still bet he was referencing the effervescent evergreen foliage too. Miraculous foliage considering the absence of any fresh water spring or source. It’s a true rainforest, surviving purely on the regular rainfall of the tropics to replenish the islands own floating ‘lens’ or moisture sink in the sandy substrate.


The far longer established local indigenous aborigine peoples named the island 'Dabuukji'. Which translates as 'place of hole in the nose' and is said to refer to young blokes initiation rites, a turtle legend, and also a lake in the islands center thousands of years ago when it was many times the size that it is now. The mythical lake might just be why a rich rainforest developed and became self sustaining over thousands of years. Even after shrinking in modern times to just over ½ km long, 4m above sea level and about a 1.6km flat walk around the island perimeter of beach and coralstone. A lovely walk we’ve enjoyed many times, and that is now enhanced with the new interpretive boardwalk option in its interior. Although there is no lake in there now, the Green Island Boardwalk definitely offers a different perspective on this precious jewel in the sparkling sea.



Where and What will you find

Just under 30 km from the tropical tourist center - Cairns, out on the Great Barrier Reef. Green Island has always been a firm family favourite for us at xplor4, as it undoubtedly has been for many thousands of years and peoples too. Hundreds of generations have marvelled at its beauty, from aboriginal indigenous peoples over the ages, to seafarers, colonists and now us. Here’s why we rate it so special:


  • The only Coral sand quay island on the GBR with its own rainforest gives it a truly unique vibe!
  • The only Australian coral island so close to an international airport with tons of fast flights all over Australia
  • Abundance of fast easy island transfers, experiences, nice snorkelling, and of course a bar. (there’s an expensive resort too)


OK that does mean that you will be sharing this sublime little patch of land in the middle of the sea with a lot of other tourists at all times. However it does NOT mean you can’t find your own patch of peace if you know where to look. And that’s absolutely why we keep coming back year after year. This year in addition to relaxing and soaking up the ambiance, we went with a little extra mission in mind. To explore and incorporate the new interpretive boardwalk from a professional trails perspective, and still seek out a little island solitude too..

Green Island boardwalk image xplor4 2019 


Context of our personal history, xplor4 and Green Island 'Dabuukji' 

Growing up in the tropics Green Island was always a local icon. We were lucky to have a boat so quite often ended up there after fishing and diving on surrounding reefs and quays. There were many other daytrips on the ferry and a few extracurricular excursions too. In the 80’s I used to race windsurfers at Green Island. And in the 90’s I was the first to kitesurf there, then the first to kitesurf from Green Island out to the outer reef, and the first to kitesurf from the mainland to Green Island and back again. Also to relive my original kite gatecrash of the sailboard titles. That was one heck of a day! 

Green Island kitesurf mission map xplor4 Alltrails archive 


These days... We generally take the Great Adventures morning boat, which takes around an hour but is big and comfortable. As you disembark on the islands long jetty you enjoy a walk above the water with a view of the island, and often you will see fish, turtles and sharks as we did before you even set foot on the island! The shark in the video below was a fair bit bigger than our youngest boy so I held him close whenever we snorkelled. Harmless reputations aside, blacktip reef sharks are an awesome mean looking machine up close, and a real highlight of any reef adventure. As are the island walks. Like the DES website says, the jetty walk is a must do on any visit.


No wildlife was bothered by anyone in this episode ;)



We will be exploring more islands, with our snorkels at the ready. We also organise tours as well as source and sell equipment!



Arriving at the actual island we went through the shaded atrium area where you can eat, drink, dive into the swimming pool and hire snorkel gear etc. From there it’s a few steps north to the patrolled beach, complete with hire deckchairs. Then but a few steps further brings you to Marineland Melanesia, the islands own museum of islander artefacts. As well as home to the world’s largest captive crocodile - Cassius. He is an absolute behemoth and reputedly actually ate someone once! Partly for this reason we don’t drop in to see him, right before going snorkelling with everyone else. Sort of taints the snorkelling otherwise.

The actual snorkel sightseeing has suffered from extensive coral bleaching, but is still worth it. Although we always go for at least one snorkel off the northern flagged and patrolled beach, our fallback is actually around the southern side of the jetty. Accessed either from the pretty southwestern sandy cove, or otherwise from the gangway steps at the bend in the jetty. This trip was no exception with a fair part of our snorkelling done from the jetty gangway, giant clams, schools of fish, spotted stingrays, sharks and all. Snorkelling is allowed ONLY on the non boat side of the jetty, for obvious reasons. 


And now about the new boardwalk.

The Green Island boardwalk eco-walk is a relatively recent addition and utilises plastic rubbery planks and tiles which I hope are all recycled. Although only a few hundred meters in length it has plenty of interpretive signage and even an interactive postcard flipboard so could possibly add an hour to your journey across or around the island. We did not note any promotion of the boardwalk prior to arriving at the start. For example on the ferry, at the terminal or even the Atrium. And so it misses a critical point on our ‘UX matrix’. Although it is promoted online...


Market/advertise/introduce the experience effectively



Once on the boardwalk it’s very built, parallel/geometric as opposed to natural and freeflowing, it could perhaps could have been done differently to achieve a more natural organic feel. But at least it seems wheelchair and walking frame friendly. The Path tends to curve back and forth to the trees of interest, and is generally just a few feet wide allowing it intimacy if not authenticity. It seems like a bit more foliage than necessary was cleared or cut back but in general appears to be low impact. The colours of the boardwalk are darker than the island palette. perhaps they could have gone lighter and varied it more, as well as the width. It does look like the materials will hold up well and that its positioned safely.


Appropriately constructed trail surface and route  



At regular intervals along the walk there are big and little signs about the natural and cultural heritage. A story with some resonance can be found for most people, however I'd say engagement is somewhat dampened by lack of emotion. As usual the real extent of human and environmental travesty inflicted by colonisation is glossed over if not omitted for pleasant painless reading. Our view at xplor4 is to bring back a bit of raw for authentic impact. And although the signage seemed somewhat gaudy compared to what we envisage these days in the trails industry, given the context of bright Coral reef and also Asian arrival numbers, let’s say its mostly ok. We thought the postcard flipboards were cool too.


Interpretive signage and interactive installations


This is by no means a rigorous evaluation, barely even a start. But well we were on holidays! Anyway at a glance we give it 3 or even a bit more out of 4 stars overall. That said there are several suggestions we’d make to improve Green Island boardwalk UX straight away. And naturally xplor4 can do complete professional case studies as well as help with tours. Do you have a trail or experience in mind, otherwise any you will want to explore? we can help both professional and private enquiries. Get in touch via our online chat below right or comment, call us, or even








P.S. Tips and tricks to enjoy Green Island


  • Weather, pick your day for the least wind. And if it’s raining in Cairns that does NOT mean it’s raining out on the reef, and v/v
  • Park under the Pier complex to save your car and everything in it being superheated by the sun. Its close anyway
  • Take 2+ litres of Water per person, (refilled recyclable bottles of course as at xplor4 we always refill and recycle)
  • Maximum clothing coverage ie stinger suit. Minimal exposed skin hence need for sunscreen that harms the reef


You may know that many sunscreens can be dangerous to your health and skin, and also to the Great Barrier Reef. And of course excess sun exposure is deadly too. Combine that with the real risk of stings in the water and it makes a whole lot of sense to wear something with longlegs and longsleeves , ie stinger/sunsuit instead of lathering up in microchemical substances.


Some other curious facts about Green Island.


Home of the world’s 1st underwater observatory, opened in 1954 ! and 1st island cinema

England’s Queen Elizabeth the 2nd visited in 1970 as part of her retracing of Captain Cooks voyage

George Lawson the islands 1st colonial caretaker and ahead of his time conservation advocate, died on the island in 1907 aged 68. A plaque and interp sign honoring his legacy are at Yorkeys Knob esplanade park on the mainland. see below 

Have you been to Green Island or intend to go? write your comment below, or chat us. If you are in Cairns, and the weather is good, get on out there then tell us what you think. Thanks to like and share our articles and share them round.


about the author - Mat Colefax.

Mat grew up in the vibrant luscious tropical world heritage environments along QLD's coral coast. He still shares the stoke on it even now.

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