Top things to do on the Low Isles | Cairns Tours

Top things to do on the Low Isles

By James Dixon | 29th September 2015


The Low Isles consist of two beautiful coral cays, with the largest of these being Woody Island. This cay is more of a mangrove island and – except for the very important and very large bird population – is uninhabitable. The smaller of these cays is Low Island, which is a picture postcard perfect tropical island. The Low Isles encompass a four-acre coral cay that is surrounded by 55 acres of spectacular reef. The reef is situated very close to these isles, making swimming, snorkelling and diving very relaxed and pleasant experiences.

Its wide, sandy beach and crystal clear, tranquil lagoon waters are ideal for swimming, diving, snorkelling, walking or just doing nothing at all. As visitor numbers are limited, you will be one of the select few who are privileged enough to completely immerse yourself in this delightful wonderland.

Snorkelling and Diving

What an excellent way to view this incredible treasure trove of the deep! Seeing Low Island this way for the first time – or even after the hundred and first time – is an absolutely sensational sensory overload. Gliding effortlessly through the crystal clear, cobalt blue waters around these islands is truly magical. The exquisitely coloured tentacles of the soft coral sway effortlessly in the watery current to catch tiny morsels of food. Hard corals sit high and majestic, scattered through and blending beautifully with the underwater landscape. Watch the nimble little clown fish as he darts in and out of his ‘safe house’ (i.e. the toxic anemone). Count the different types of colourful or not so colourful sea cucumbers you can spot, which range from simply astonishing Picasso type colours to plain brown. Going out and about undertaking their daily business for all to see is the plethora of fish life that inhabits these waters, with regular sightings of large and small angelfish, striped damselfish, eel-like wrasse, psychedelic parrotfish, sweetlips and trevally just to name a few. Don’t forget to keep your eye out for the resident turtle and dugong population that pop over to say hello occasionally.

Walking and learning

Discover how humans used the island in the past and present day. Low Island has its own active lighthouse, which has been operational since 1878. This important piece of infrastructure was the first of its type and was primarily used to light the inner passage of the Great Barrier Reef. Low Island is situated on the western side of the main channel, so is perfectly positioned to ‘light the way’. Construction of this 20-metre high, purpose built lighthouse commenced in 1874 and it was first lit in 1878, with full automation using solar power in 1993.

It was de-manned in 1994 and the two cottages that formerly housed the lighthouse keeper and his assistant are now known as the Low Isles Research Station. There is a laboratory under the house that will accommodate six people, an original powerhouse, plus its newer more modern counterpart, as well as an old and new fuel store, boathouse, toilet block and even a graveyard, for those of us who love to delve a little deeper into human history. Data regarding the weather has been collected from here since 1887 and the first scientific study of its kind that examined the ecology and structure of the surrounding reef system was based here, with information from this research still being used today. After all that learning, why not lunch under the spectacular palm trees, then prepare yourself for a rejuvenating but peaceful afternoon siesta in these serene surroundings.

Swimming the day away

Low Island has a relatively small circumference and – with the magnificent coral reef within reaching distance of the shoreline – you won’t be disappointed or miss a thing when swimming, floating or paddling in these unspoiled waters that are teeming with wildlife and natural wonders. Whether you’re just dunking your toes in or swimming laps, you can splash, swim and play all day. With so much happening in the water, you will never see the same thing twice. Moor your boat at the lagoon where private vessels can anchor overnight, wake up to the glorious hues of the pre-dawn light show, dive in for a couple of laps around the island or just a few laps up and down the shoreline, then enjoy breakfast, relax, back in the water, lunch, relax, back in the water and so the day goes. Peaceful, restful unadulterated bliss.

Guided Tours

Unless you’re lucky enough to own your own boat or seaplane, the only way to get to this particular piece of paradise is via guided day tours, where you’ll be chauffeured around the Coral Sea by one of the many local operators in the area. The following are just a couple of examples of what you can expect on this wonderful day out. Cruise in the deluxe 5-star Lagoon 500 sailing catamaran, the Sailaway IV, or luxuriate on board Quicksilver’s impressive 30 metre sailing catamaran, Wavedancer. These guided tours offer restorative rest and relaxation, allowing you to laze away the hours on and around the island. Whether you prefer to be in or out of the water, our marine biologists will be on hand to explain the magnificent flora and fauna on land and the eccentricities of our scaled, webbed or finned sea creatures. From the moment your boat moors in the intoxicating calm waters of this islands scenic lagoon, a multitude of reef activities await you. Choose from a glass bottom boat or snorkelling tour to peruse the lagoons fragile corals and exquisite marine life, or enjoy a leisurely walk around the island to visit the lighthouse. Snorkelling gear is provided and trained instructors will show you the most interesting sights. The always informative, friendly and helpful crew will take you on an unhurried, very enlightening day.