All of Lizard Island’s beauty and luxury comes at a considerable price, however; as one of Australia’s most expensive resorts, with a stay at Lizard Island Resort you’ll be paying a minimum of around $1,400 AUD per night. Fortunately, those looking to save can also opt to camp on the island at one of the limited number of campsites as an alternative.
Lizard Island is a relatively rugged, rocky and hilly island where seclusion and isolation play key roles in its appeal; visitor numbers are greatly limited, and there’s no day trip option to speak of so there’s never a mass influx of short-term visitors to deal with.
The island is largely covered in grassland as opposed to the typical tropical environment, with much of its surface a highly-protected National Park; take a stroll through its greenery and you’ll no doubt encounter some of the characteristic lizards from which it derives its name. It’s the beaches, however, that make Lizard Island a true gem; 24 wonderful and isolated stretches of sand can be found here, and the sparse number of fellow travellers at any one time means it’s highly possibly to have one of the world’s best beaches all to yourself.
Snorkelling here is absolutely gorgeous and available just off the beach, with a very large variety of fish species calling the island home. The fringing reef surrounding Lizard Island is typically healthy, vibrant and colourful, however some of it has been damaged by recent cyclones – a continuous factor that has effected the island’s wellbeing in recent years.
Snorkelling highlights include the extensive clam gardens off Watson’s Bay, with massive clams measuring up to 2 metres long able to be found nestled amongst the blend of hard and soft coral. Anchor Bay also offers a walk-in coral environment and beachfront snorkelling, and in both locations you’ll seldom have to worry about stingers which are a perpetual concern in most other reef locations.
Diving is also available just a short boat trip away, with regular dive boats that head out from the resort to some of the local surrounding dive sites. Visibility in these closer sites is reasonable if not spectacular, as travellers are taken to dive sites along with snorkellers – as a result, they’re not truly high-end dive locations.
Those thus looking for higher quality diving can choose to take part in an extended full day dive excursion to further reef locations including the Ribbon Reefs; these are home to the famous Cod Hole dive site where massive potato cod can be found en masse. Over 350 species of hard corals can be found in the surrounding waters, and many multi-day liveaboard trips from surrounding departure points also include Lizard Island as an item on their itineraries, too.
Staying on Lizard Island is largely an exercise in two completely different extremes – your only options for accommodation are to book the gorgeous and expensive Lizard Island Resort, or go for the other end of the scale and pitch a tent. The resort itself is the northernmost island resort in Australia and is truly luxurious; it comes with a number of indulgent room options each with an increasing price and associated level of luxury, and offers the typical high-end food and dining options one would expect for the pricetag. The ability to gaze out over the Great Barrier Reef waters from within a private plunge pool is difficult to match, while a particular highlight of the resort is its wonderful terrace that offers a picturesque view of the bay alongside which it is built.
On the other end of the accommodation spectrum, camping is also on offer at Watson’s Bay, with only five spots available that require a camping permit to stay. No supplies are available here – prepare to be largely self-sufficient – and while there is a public barbecue, toilet and picnic tables, facilities are bare bones, at best. This lack of facilities means that it’s both not very family-friendly or a social experience for those with kids; a camping trip to Lizard Island is thus more about isolation and escaping from humanity than anything else. There’s also a long and tiresome walk between the island’s small airstrip (its primary means of transport) and the campsite, which can make moving luggage a chore. The island’s Marlin Bar is open 2 nights a week, and allows campers to purchase beverages – albeit at typical high island prices.
Lizard Island also isn’t the easiest place in the world to get to, either; getting there requires a 60 minute flight from Cairns, with prices that clock in at around $250 per person one way arranged through Hinterland Aviation. Private vessels can also reach the island, with several sheltered anchorages on offer for those with an appropriate boat and licenses. Those of higher income levels or celebrating special occasions will likely appreciate the combination of sheer luxury and beauty that Lizard Island offers – if you’re looking to indulge, there are few Great Barrier Reef locations better – but for the rest of us who aren’t looking to camp, it largely remains out of budgetary reach.