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Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef hotel review

Dive into the waters of the Great Barrier Reef with a stay at Lizard Island, one of Australia’s leading island retreats, writes Gwen O’Toole-Luscombe.

Located within a 1013-hectare national park on the Great Barrier Reef, Lizard Island is an exclusive island resort in the most beautiful and private natural tropical surrounds. The island takes its name from the varieties of monitor lizards, geckos and skinks you’ll find there.

The facts

Traveller: Gwen O’Toole-Luscombe
Room: Beachfront Suite
Address: Lizard Island National Park, Queensland
Date: February 2018
Best for: Romantic retreats, honeymooning, babymooning and simply escaping the world.

The Signature factor

You’ll love relaxing on your oversized daybed looking out over the Coral Sea. Or simply grab your provided snorkel gear and walk down a short private path for direct access to the ocean where you can marvel at the wonders of the coral reef.

Lizard Island

The concept

The 40 luxury rooms and suites are set among one of the natural wonders of the world, the Great Barrier Reef. The island has 24 private beaches and takes a maximum of 82 guests, making it completely possible to take a provided dinghy and find your own corner of paradise with white sand, crystalline water and sea turtles swimming by.

Lizard Island is an all-inclusive resort so once you unpack, there’s no fuss about where to go or what to do. Everything you could want or need is at your fingertips – just sit back and relax. Guests must be at least 10 years of age, but younger visitors are not especially common.

First impressions

Guests fly into Lizard Island from Cairns via light aircraft which can be booked with your stay. The one-hour flight over blue waters and coral reefs is a spectacular experience in itself. Touching down on the runway, you’re met by welcome staff with fresh cool towels and golf buggy transport to take you to your champagne check-in. Rooms are bright, sunny and spacious, with views that cannot be faulted. The Beachfront Suites are a stone’s throw from the ocean’s edge, where you can spend your days lounging on oversized daybeds, wading in tropical waters or simply taking in the paradisiacal view.

Lizard Island

The room

The Beachfront Suites are best described as Lizard Island’s mid-range accommodation. Guests can also choose to stay in stunning Plunge Pool Villas or go all out for a stay in The Pavilion. All suites are private, quiet and feature a large living space with oversized lounge chairs, plus a master bedroom, a walk-in wet room, spacious bathroom and outdoor deck area.

In keeping with the island’s philosophy of disconnecting from the stresses of daily life, Wi-Fi will not be found in the rooms. It is, of course, available in the reception area as well as the fitness centre and day spa, and rooms are equipped with an iPhone docking station for your portable music device. Alternatively, allow the lapping of waves outside to provide the soundtrack to your holiday.

Top suite

Perched on a cliff above the Coral Sea, The Villa is a retreat within an island retreat. The Hecker Guthrie-designed space offers complete privacy and 270-degree panoramas. The lounge opens onto the expansive deck creating the perfect inside-out ambience and the eight-metre private plunge pool is a dream.

Lizard Island

On my plate

Dining options at Lizard Island Resort are all-inclusive, with a few exceptions such as the chef’s degustation dinner (more information below) and premium alcoholic beverages.  Breakfast and lunch are served à la carte in Salt Water Restaurant with a menu that changes daily. The ocean views from Salt Water make it the ideal spot to enjoy the menu, created from fresh local produce which arrives via daily flights. Dinner is also served in Salt Water, but if you’re after a more relaxed setting, try the open-air beach bar and pub-style fare of Marlin Bar. Here you can play some pool and enjoy a casual drink and catch up on the latest sport or news.

Alternatively, gourmet picnic hampers can be organised the evening prior and guests can self-drive a dinghy to any of the several private beaches for an unforgettable and romantic picnic, all included with your stay.

For those looking for something truly special, book in for a Sunset Beachside Dinner. This incredible seven-course, wine-matched meal is put together in consultation with Lizard Island’s executive chef. Prior to dining, you’ll have a meeting to discuss the menu and together create two customised dining experiences for you and your dining companion. These take place under one of two private beach pavilions that sit on Anchor Bay, where you can enjoy the sunset.

When you’re keen for a drink, Driftwood Bar & Wine Cellar is the place to pop in for a great variety of wines as well as unlimited soft drinks. If you’re after a special bottle, check out the impressive cellar which houses some seriously tasty drops.

Highlights from the mini-bar

The mini-bar is all-inclusive and incredibly generous. Inside you’ll find the usual suspects with plenty of sweet and savoury snacks, soft drinks, bottled water (sparkling and still) as well as wine and beer. You’ll also find a fruit bowl and chocolates to welcome you back to your room each evening.

It’s important to note that Lizard Island takes special care to reduce the amount of plastic single-use water bottles that go into waste. All guests receive a reusable water bottle to use throughout their stay and to take home as a souvenir. The tap water is some of the freshest and cleanest you’ll find anywhere so no disposable bottles are needed.

I wish I could take home…

If there’s a way to transport the outdoor oversized daybed (with its view) to my own coastal town, sign me up! The giant lounge chairs are also the perfect size for curling up with a great book and are incredibly comfy.

Spa life

The on-site Essentia Day Spa offers a wide range of treatments using La Biosthétique skincare products (the same as those provided in guest rooms). There’s also the option of on-site yoga classes, included in your stay, to rebalance yourself and unwind.

Staying in

There’s a huge range of included activities available to guests staying on Lizard Island, including guided snorkeling tours (where you’re likely to spot stingrays, giant clams and sea turtles), dinghy hire, gourmet private beach picnics, stand-up paddleboarding, nature hikes and talks, glass-bottom sea kayaking, meditation, yoga and Pilates classes, food-and-wine-matching talks, cocktail-making classes and more. You’ll also find a fitness centre, tennis court and pool on-site.

While the water usually hovers around a blissful 28 degrees and you’ll be tempted to dive right in, there are certain times of the year when stinger suits are needed as jellyfish are about! At these times, snorkelling is best done wearing a protective stinger suit. Check with on-site staff about jellyfish in the area before planning your diving excursion.

Stepping out

The resort offers a variety of options for venturing out further onto the reef at an additional charge. These half-day tours run most days and take you to the inner and outer reef where you can scuba dive or snorkel with experienced guides. There are also sunset fishing charters, a twilight cruise and visits to the Research Station located on the island.

A tour of the Research Station, owned and operated by the Australian Museum, gives guests an insight into the 100-plus research projects conducted each year. Since opening in 1973, more than 1200 scientific publications have been produced by Australian and international researchers as a result of work undertaken at the facility.

Celebrity sightings

Rumour has it David Attenborough called Lizard Island home during the filming of his docuseries Blue Planet I and II. Will Smith also recently visited Lizard Island to conquer his fear of the ocean in a YouTube clip for a new web series called The Bucket List. You can see it here:

Where to find Lizard Island

Lizard Island can only be accessed by light plane (East Air) via Tropical North Queensland’s Cairns International and Domestic Airport. Flight time is approximately one hour and gives bird’s-eye views over the 200-kilometre expanse of the Great Barrier Reef. There are two flights arriving and two departing daily. It’s important to book these transfers with Lizard Island directly, prior to your Cairns flight.

Gwen Luscombe is a Melbourne-based travel and food writer who is always on the lookout for a new restaurant or bar to check out or an exciting new destination to discover. Having been bitten by the travel bug early in life, she’s lived in a variety of cities around the globe before making Australia home. Follow her on Instagram at @gwennieo

All images © Lizard Island Resort