When my American mother said that she would be coming to the land down under for the very first time, I wanted to show her the best that Far North Queensland has to offer. Fortunately, there is no shortage of sites to see in this tropical El Dorado from the oldest rainforest in the world to exotic wildlife and, of course, the renowned Great Barrier Reef. And there is certainly no place that says “Great Barrier Reef” quite like Green Island, with its reputation for luxury and conservation as well as an extensive history to its name.
Some may, like myself, mistakenly believe that the island is named for its verdure or even its iconic green turtle, but in fact, in 1770, Lt James Cook sighted the verdant island and named it after Charles Green the Chief Observer and Astronomer on his ship, the HMS Endeavour. But of course, its history begins long before pre-European settlement when local aboriginal tribes used the site for fishing in addition to sacred manhood initiations ceremonies. Now it is known for its national park status, first declared in 1936, and for its eco-friendly Green Island Resort, first opened in 1994.
A 45-minute cruise takes you to the magnificent five-star resort located on the 6000-year-old coral cay. And so my mother, my husband Ludo and I set off on our adventure bright and early from the Cairns Reef Fleet Terminal via Great Adventures. The trip was all the more adventurous due to high winds making for a rollercoaster of a ride that particular day, but courtesy ginger tablets helped ease our motion sickness!
Upon our arrival we were met at the dock by the Green Island Resort manager who escorted us to our room and furnished us with all the information we would need to enjoy our stay. She informed us of the range of activities included gratis as resort guests: a glass-bottom boat tour, snorkelling equipment, beach chair access, a breakfast buffet, use of all pools on the island, guided nature walks & sunset drinks. We were then escorted to our room where I promptly threw open the balcony windows to take in the view of the national forest complete with a complimentary cuppa.
Not wanting to let the time slip away, we immediately headed for the beach to soak up some rays, mom desperately trying to get a solid tan before heading back to Chicago. Getting our snorkelling gear and suits from the dive shop was easy peasy and the attendants were very warm and friendly. Ludo dived headfirst into the reef, hoping to spot a turtle or two (he did!). Mom and I soon followed for her first-ever snorkelling lesson; once she got comfortable we couldn’t get her out!
After a blissful day spent on cloud nine, one of the first things we remarked on was that toward the end of the afternoon, a veil of silence descended on the island, surrounding us in an ambience of stillness and tranquillity- definitely one of the main reasons to stay a night at the resort. But ultimately, the highlight of the day was the sunset drinks provided by the resort in combination with fish feeding on the jetty. At twilight, the fish are fed by the resident wildlife guide. It’s quite remarkable watching these colossal tropical fish rush to the surface while simultaneously combating the local gulls for their daily feed. After that spectacle, we headed back to have our on-the-house sunset mimosas and a superb sunset on the beach, toasting family and good fortune.
Following our aperitif, with the advice of the Resort manager, we made a booking for Emerald’s Restaurant and Bar with no regrets! Mom and I opted for the Butter Poached Bay Lobster Tails which consisted of Australian slipper lobster cooked in vanilla and lemon myrtle infused butter, Saffron and orange risotto caramelized witlof and champagne pickled asparagus. Yummers! Ludo wisely picked the best of both worlds with the Premium Tableland Beef Rib and Grilled Bay Lobster with hand cut cassava chips, fresh rocket leaves and red wine sauce. Alternatively, it’s possible to reserve a private, romantic dinner on the beach, where you will be served a sumptuous seafood feast with your toes in the sand.
Shortly after dinner, we enjoyed the guided night walk. Don’t forget to bring the torch from your room! After meeting at Reception, we joined the group for a moonlit stroll with a guided wildlife expert who enlightened us on the nocturnal activities of the island’s flora and fauna. Take this opportunity to make a magical moment of stargazing to the sounds of the crashing waves.
Waking up wide-eyed and rested, our first thought was food! Cue the Breakfast Buffet. Mom was shocked to see so many healthy yet delicious options to choose from. After a long and leisurely meal, we started our Day 2 at the jetty for our glass bottom boat tour (the captain of Great Adventures advised us to opt for the morning tour since the tide would be high and therefore, we would have a better view of the sea life below). Seeing the Great Barrier Reef all while staying dry in the ‘Coral Explorer’ glass bottom boats was not only convenient but also educational. I learned that green turtles are the largest of the hard-shell sea turtles and can hold their breath for hours at a time. All and all, spending an additional day allowed us more time to do some more snorkelling and sunbathing as well as doing a walk of the entire island, which is a must-do. The Eastern and Southern sides are pristine and serene with few tourists. It’s the best place to take your “wish you were here” postcard selfie!
Boarding the 4pm boat back to Cairns City, we left happily exhausted and sun-kissed with the smell of the ocean in our hair. It was one of the highlights of my mother’s trip to Oz, with her introduction to one of the world’s greatest wonders, the Great Barrier Reef and I definitely recommend it for a bit of luxury on your travels. If you want to find out more about Green Island visit https://www.greenislandresort.com.au/ and see CCEB Travel.
–Nina, CCEB Teacher