Be social

Only a few kilometres offshore from Port Douglas, the Low Isles Queensland are a beautiful protected marine park in the Great Barrier Reef and a haven for seabirds, green sea turtles, reef sharks and snorkellers.

If you’re staying in Port Douglas, a day trip to the Low Isles should definitely be at the top of your itinerary.

snorkeling great barrier reef low isles
Approaching the Low Isles from the comfort of a luxury sailboat on a glorious sunny morning is guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

The views are stunning and with swaying palm trees and a distinctive lighthouse popping up out of the blue, you won’t forget that ‘castaway on a tropical island’ feeling as the anchor drops into the water.

There are several tour operators heading out to the Low Isles each day but if you’ve got the budget, we would definitely recommend opting for a small group sailing tour rather than one of the big boats. These trips offer a more personalised and intimate service, with comfortable facilities and nice food.


Once we had moored on the outside of the reef, we were given a good lesson on how to snorkel for those who hadn’t done it before, and explained where the best areas to swim were.

One of the reasons the Great Barrier Reef is so ‘great’ for visitors is the fact that you don’t need to be a fully certified scuba diver to experience it up close.

The Barrier Reef’s coral-fringed islands, like the Low isles, are ideal for people who are not confident swimmers.

 picture of low isles reef

The Barrier Reef’s coral-fringed islands, like the Low isles, are ideal for people who are not confident swimmers.

In fact, on the day we went there was at least one fellow guest who couldn’t swim at all, but with a couple of ‘noodles’ tucked under her body she felt confident enough to swim all the way back to the boat.

aquarius glass bottomed boat


What you can expect to see

The reef around the Low Isles is pretty healthy with lots of soft corals and plenty of fish.

soft corals, low isles

And while the visibility and colours around the islands are not as good as the outer Barrier Reef, one of the positives of coming to the Low Isles is the chance of seeing sea turtles and reef sharks.

We were lucky enough to see both as well as lots of others varieties of fish. If you are lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a reef shark gliding through the water with the sunlight bouncing off its body, you’ve definitely hit the jackpot. They are small and timid creatures and nothing to be afraid of.

picture of black tipped shark, low isles

low island

The island where most daytrippers swim to from the boat is a small coral cay formed by a build up of loose sediment from the reef.

picture of low isles lighthouse
On tour trip we were taken on a guided walk which explained how the cay was formed, its role in the ecosystem and its importance as a bird nesting site.

We also had a look at the lighthouse although you can’t go in it.

There are actually two islands in this group – Low Island and Woody Island (a unique mangrove island and fish nursery).

travel nq fast facts

  • Daytrips to the Low Isles include food and drinks. Soft drinks are extra.
  • Snorkelling equipment including stingers suits are provided.
  • This is a protected area so no fishing, hunting or collecting is allowed.

For the record it’s pretty tricky taking a snorkelling selfie, especially when your friend is saying: “Make sure you get the island and lighthouse in the background”!