Escape to the Great Barrier Reef: Your 6 Step Guide to Getting to Low Isles

By Greg McLean
Sep 29, 2017. Last updated Mar 3, 2021


Low Isles is the perfect getaway for the whole family to explore wonders of the reef, swim with turtles or simply relax on the beach and absorb the beauty of the tropics. Located only 25km off the coast of Port Douglas, Low Isles consists of two islands, the uninhabited mangrove-swathed Woody Island and the smaller vegetated sandy coral cay of Low Isle surrounded by 55 acres of inshore reef.

Easily spotted from Port Douglas’ Four Mile Beach on a clear day by the historic lighthouse that peers out over the Coral Sea, Low Isles is a haven for playful green turtles and a myriad of friendly sea creatures, soft coral, giant clams and birdlife that seek out its sheltered waters as a playground to feed and breed. A number of tour operators visit Low Isles each day to explore its many features, with each one offering something different.

Sailaway Port Douglas delivers two fantastic options to visit Low Isles aboard their spectacular sailing catamarans, a full day family sail and an afternoon adults-only cruise if you want to avoid the crowds and capture the sun setting over the McAllister Ranges on the way home. Dive in for a guided snorkel, take an interpretive tour of the reef on a glass-bottom boat, enjoy a heritage walk on the island or just kick back on the white sandy beaches under a coconut palm or thatched shelter and watch the world go by.


Wavedancer also sail to Low Isles in comfort and style for full-day excursions aboard a luxury 30-metre catamaran. If you want to up the ante and get there so quick you don’t have time to get seasick, you can jump aboard Reef Sprinter which whisks you there in just 15 minutes and gives you more than two hours to snorkel the reef and return to Port Douglas in just a few hours.


Reef Sprinter also operates a longer Island and Lagoon tour of Low Isles that gives you time to snorkel the reef, enjoy a glass-bottom boat ride and visit the island for a guided walk.


Undoubtedly one of the most unique ways to visit Low Isles is to unleash your inner pirate and set sail aboard the Chinese junk, Shaolin. What this beautiful old girl lacks in speed she more than makes up for with character. The iconic local family-owned hand-crafted masterpiece was built in Hong Kong almost 50 years ago and has a history as colourful as the tropical fish you will find on your snorkel tour where getting there is half the fun.


If you’d prefer to explore Low Isles under your own steam and at your own pace then Indigo Port Douglas is a fabulous sailing private charter that operates with a maximum of 12 passengers. Enjoy morning tea with friends or family in the blue lagoon before snorkeling to the beach to join your guide for an informative and leisurely stroll around the island. After a delicious prepared lunch aboard the luxurious catamaran you can dive back in for a snorkel session with the turtles before cruising back to Port Douglas with a cold BYO beverage of your choice.


If you want to see parts of Low Isles that most visitors don’t get to experience then Windswell offers an adrenaline-filled day of watersports adventures where in addition to snorkeling you can paddle over to Woody Island to enjoy a fascinating stand-up paddleboard tour of the mangroves minus the crowds. Windswell also operate kitesurfing tours of Low Isles for a truly sensational circumnavigation of the island, with beginners able to learn the basics off Four Mile Beach prior to getting airborne over the reef.


Whichever way you choose to get there and spend your day, you’re guaranteed to leave Low Isles with a greater appreciation of the reef and the fascinating marine creatures who call it home.


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