BY IGNACIO MAZA
The Great Barrier Reef, Australia’s best-known natural landmark, is a series of superlatives. For starters, this is the largest expanse of coral reef in the world, over 1,200 miles long. Within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (official name), there are over 900 islands and 3,000+ individual reefs. The abundance of marine life is mind boggling – 1,500 different species of fish, 400 kinds of coral, and so much more. The reef runs from the central Australian coast, all the way up to New Guinea. You can get a taste of the reef by taking a ‘day trip’ from, say, Cairns or Townsville, but — nothing compares to actually staying on the reef itself, which I highly recommend.
Of all the resorts near and on the reef, Lizard Island (a Signature partner property and member of Luxury Lodges of Australia) is THE premier property, for many reasons. The resort is located NE of Cairns, and shares the island with a National Park of the same name, that covers 90% of the landscape. The entire island is about 7 square miles/10 sq. km.
Here are my top 10 reasons to stay here:
- Lizard Island is ON the Great Barrier Reef, so you can either snorkel/dive right off the property’s beaches, or reach the outer reefs in under 30/45 minutes’ time.
- The island offers twenty four, beautiful white sand beaches to choose from. Note – I am a “beach connoisseur”, and have to say, Lizard Island’s beaches are top drawer.
- The property is intimate, with only 40 rooms and suites, yet it has all the facilities of a much larger resort – including a swimming pool, tennis courts, and spa.
- Lizard Island has a great team of 105 professionals looking after the guests. The better than 1:1 staff to guest ratio ensures service level is very high.
- The resort is all inclusive –your room, meals, beverages, wine and spirits, picnics at the island’s beaches, mini bar, non-motorized watersports, snorkel gear, stinger suits (when necessary) – all included in the nightly rate.
- Lizard island offers 7 types of rooms and suites, starting with the garden view rooms (offering 500 sq. ft of space) and going all the way up to the villa & pavilion, the largest room categories on property. The Villa is the only category with 2 bedrooms, accommodating up to 5 guests. The most requested room type is the Beachfront suite category, with direct access to Anchor Bay. All rooms have been recently refurbished, have terraces, sitting areas, and plenty of space. Décor is simple, understated, comfortable and serene, with light colors throughout.
- The menu of activities to choose from daily is unparalleled anywhere else.
- Dining is memorable. I was really impressed with the range of options, the freshness of the ingredients, the quality of the meals. At a remote location like this, you lower your expectations, but my experience was just the opposite. If you are a wine lover, you will be in heaven with the property’s extensive wine cellar.
- The setting, seclusion, and the “privilege of place” as Luxury Lodges of Australia expressed to me. You feel as if you were a million miles from civilization – yet – have every creature comfort.
- Special experiences, which I will cover separately below.
Lizard Island: Unique Experiences
Here are some of my favorite included activities on property:
- Snorkel off the beaches of Lizard Island. Make sure you see the giant clams!
- Swim with turtles at low tide, on Casuarina Beach. Ask for a beach drop off around 11/11:30am, and follow the turtles as they come into the bay.
- Zip around in a glass-bottom kayak, looking for parrot fish and other crispy critters floating in the clear waters
- Try stand up paddleboard on Anchor or Sunset Bay
- Visit the scientists at the National Park’s research station (by appointment only)
- Be dropped off on a deserted beach with your picnic lunch, umbrellas, chairs
- Swim in the clear waters of the island beaches
- Guided snorkel trip, right from the property
- Hike to the summit of ‘Cook’s Look’, the island’s highest mountain, a demanding 4 hour hike going up to 359mts/1,000+ feet high
In addition, Lizard Island offers additional options which can be purchased a la carte, including:
- Half day or full day snorkel/dive on the outer reef. I highly recommend going to the outer reef, at least once. The abundance of marine life is amazing, and well worth the journey.
- Charter the resort’s cruiser, called Fascination, for the day, overnight, or for two nights, and create your own itinerary on the reef
Whatever you do – don’t miss the sunset! Guests on property come out every evening for this all-important occasion.
On my last night on property, I found a card on my bed that read: LIZARD ISLAND: LIKE NOWHERE ELSE. I must say – I agree!
One last word– Lizard Island is a truly magical, restful, peaceful place. If possible, leave this destination as your last stop in Australia.