Discover Michaelmas Cay: A Gem of the Great Barrier Reef

  • Location: Latitude  16°34’56.2″S Longitude 146°01’09.1″E
  • Depth: 0-20 metres
  • Visibility 10 to 15 metres
  • Access: Boat
  • Size 1.8 hectares
  • The site is limited to 50 passengers on the cay at any time.

Welcome to Michaelmas Cay, a beautiful jewel in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef. This picturesque cay is a must visit destination for nature lovers, beach lovers, and snorkelling aficionados. Let’s dive into what makes Michaelmas Cay a unique and unforgettable experience.

Michaelmas Cay, situated approximately 40 kilometres off the coast of Cairns, is a beautiful sand cay surrounded by a magnificent reef. This remarkable natural wonder is nestled within the boundaries of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, making it a prime destination for nature lovers and adventure seekers.


One of the distinctive features of Michaelmas Cay is its commitment to preserving its pristine environment. To maintain the ecological balance and ensure a serene experience, only 50 visitors are allowed on the cay anytime. This approach allows you to connect with nature more intimately and sustainably.

This cay is part of a trio of neighbouring coral sand cays near the Outer Reef, making it a hotspot for marine biodiversity. Whether you’re a seasoned snorkeler or an eager beginner, Michaelmas Cay offers excellent opportunities to explore the under water world. The crystal-clear waters teem with vibrant Reef fish, creating a visual spectacle that captivates visitors of all levels of expertise.

For those looking to take their underwater adventures to the next level, Michaelmas Cay boasts fourteen dive sites to choose from. Whether you’re interested in vibrant coral gardens, intriguing under water caves, or encounters with mesmerizing marine life, there’s a dive site to cater to your preferences.

One of the key advantages of Michaelmas Cay is its suitability for anchorage during adverse weather conditions. This ensures the safety and comfort of visitors, allowing them to enjoy the cay and its surrounding reef in various weather conditions.

Natural Beauty Beyond Compare

Michaelmas Cay is a pristine, uninhabited sand island surrounded by crystal-clear turquoise waters. The cay spans just 1.5 hectares, ensuring an intimate and secluded escape for visitors. As part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, it boasts an incredible array of marine life and seabirds.

Marine Life

This reef location has an abundance of green sea turtles and giant clamsScuba divers and snorkelers can see the brightly coloured tropical Reef fish and sharks.

Snorkeling Paradise

One of the highlights of Michaelmas Cay is its exceptional snorkeling opportunities. Dive into the vibrant underwater world and discover a kaleidoscope of coral formations, home to an amazing variety of fish and marine creatures. Snorkelers can get up close and personal with friendly turtles and colourful clownfish, creating fantastic memories.

Scuba Diving

Along the reef wall are swim-throughs, small caves and gullies.  The shallows offer perfect snorkelling over shallow coral reefs.  The bommies provide divers with plenty of interesting marine life, including batfish and crayfish.

Next, scuba divers should watch for eagle and cow tail rays at this location.

Birdwatcher’s Paradise

Michaelmas Cay is not only famous for its aquatic wonders but also for its birdlife. The cay is a vital breeding site for thousands of seabirds, including majestic Sooty Terns and Crested Terns. The sight and sound of these remarkable avian residents will enthral birdwatchers.

Michaelmas Cay is an important bird nesting and roosting ground which provides a sanctuary to twenty-four species of sea birds.  Twenty-seven thousand migratory birds visit this sand cay.   The middle of the sand cay has vegetation that covers an area of 1.5 hectares of the island.  As many as 30,000 birds can be present at any one time.

Sooty Terns and Crested Terns have an important rookery on Michaelmas Cay.

Exploring the Cay

Visitors can stroll along the soft, sandy shores of Michaelmas Cay, feeling the powdery sand beneath their toes. The cay is a protected sanctuary, ensuring the preservation of its pristine environment. Guided tours are available to provide informative insights into the Cay’s unique ecosystem.

Partnership with the Best Operators

To make the most of your Michaelmas Cay experience, we partner with reputable tour operators dedicated to providing exceptional services. Our partners offer guided snorkelling tours, birdwatching excursions, and eco-friendly practices to protect this delicate environment.

How to Get There

Reaching Michaelmas Cay is a breeze. All tours depart from Cairns, and the journey to the Cay is a scenic boat ride through the breath taking waters of the Great Barrier Reef.

Plan Your Visit

When planning your visit to Michaelmas Cay, consider the best time of year for your interests. Whether you’re eager to snorkel with colourful fish or witness the birdlife in full swing, there’s something for everyone.


Michaelmas Cay is a testament to the natural wonders of Australia. With its vibrant marine life, incredible bird population, and pristine environment, it’s a destination that truly showcases the beauty of the Great Barrier Reef. We invite you to explore this hidden gem and create lifelong memories.

At, we are committed to helping you discover the best of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef

. Start planning your trip to Michaelmas Cay today and immerse yourself in the magic of the Great Barrier Reef.

Michaelmas Cay FAQs

Q. What is Michaelmas Cay?

A. Michaelmas Cay is a picturesque sand island located in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef. It’s renowned for its pristine natural beauty, vibrant marine life, and important bird breeding grounds.

Q. How can I get to Michaelmas Cay?

A. Most visitors reach Michaelmas Cay by booking Cairns or Port Douglas guided tours. These tours typically include a scenic boat ride through the Great Barrier Reef to reach the cay.

Q. What can I do at Michaelmas Cay?

A. Michaelmas Cay offers a range of activities, including snorkelling in the beautiful coral gardens, birdwatching to witness the incredible seabird population, guided nature walks to explore the cay, and simply relaxing on the sandy shores.

Q. Is it safe to snorkel at Michaelmas Cay?

A. Yes, snorkeling at Michaelmas Cay is generally safe for all levels of experience. The cay’s protected waters provide an excellent environment for exploring diverse marine life. However, always follow the guidance of your tour operator for safety.

Q. When is the best time to visit Michaelmas Cay?

A. The best time to visit depends on your interests. If you’re keen on snorkelling and observing marine life, consider visiting during the dry season (April to November). The seabird nesting season (October to January) is ideal for birdwatching.

Q. Are there facilities on Michaelmas Cay?

A. Michaelmas Cay is a protected national park, so no permanent facilities like restaurants or hotels exist. However, tour operators provide shaded areas, picnic tables, and restroom facilities.

Q. Can I bring food and drinks to Michaelmas Cay?

A. Yes, many tours allow you to bring your food and drinks. It’s advisable to check with your specific tour operator about their policy regarding food and beverages.

Q. Is Michaelmas Cay suitable for families?

A. Absolutely! Michaelmas Cay offers a family-friendly environment with its sandy beaches, calm waters for snorkeling, and the opportunity for kids to learn about marine life and birds.

Q. Can I take photos at Michaelmas Cay?

A. Yes, photography is encouraged to capture the beauty of the cay, its marine life, and the wonderful bird colonies. Just be mindful of the environment and wildlife.

Q. How can I book a tour to Michaelmas Cay?

A. Booking a tour is easy. You can visit our website or contact us directly to find a range of tour options that suit your preferences and schedule.

Michaelmas Cay Map

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