If you’re reading this post chances are that you’re contemplating a visit to Lizard Island. You’ve made the right decision to choose Lizard Island as it’s one of Queensland’s top islands and it’s situated smack bang in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef. However, it does cost a pretty penny to get here, and to stay here (if you don’t want to camp). So read on to find out why it’s worth flying to Lizard Island from Cairns.


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7 Reasons Why You Should Visit Lizard Island

  1. Lizard Island has 24 superb beaches for swimming, ranging from long stretches of white sand to idyllic little rocky bays
  2. It also has a relatively untouched fringing reef for snorkelling and diving; the water is crystal clear and magnificent coral that support a multitude of marine life (including giant clams) surrounds the island
  3. Lizard Island is less than 20km away from the outer Great Barrier Reef including two of Australia’s best-known dive sites – Cod Hole and Pixie Bommie
  4. Spectacular views of the Great Barrier Reef from Cook’s Look (360m)
  5. Expect privacy and isolation here as no day-trippers are allowed on the island and the resort has only 40 villas
  6. Choice to stay in five-star luxury accommodation or camp
  7. Stay at one of most luxurious five-star resorts in Far North Queensland


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Interesting Facts About Lizard Island

Lizard Island is actually part of the spectacular Lizard Island Group of islands. This group of five islands are located 27km off the coast, about 100km north from Cooktown.

  • Osprey Island – with its nesting birds, is right in front of the resort and can be waded to
  • Palfrey Island – located around the edge of Blue Lagoon, south of the main island, has an automatic lighthouse and a beach accessible by dinghy
  • South Island – has a beach which is also accessible by dinghy
  • Seabird Islet – located further south, is a popular nesting site for terns, and visitors should keep their distance

Apart from the ground where the luxury resort stands, the entire island is national park.

According to the traditional custodians, the Dingaal people, Lizard Island is known as Jiigurru. Based on the Dingaal creation story, the island group represents a stingray – with Jiigurru (Lizard Island) forming the head and the other islands snaking south forming the tail. Historically, the Dingaal used the islands as a place for important meetings and initiation ceremonies; they were also used as a base for collecting shellfish, fish, turtles and dugongs.

Captain Cook and his crew were the first non-indigenous people to visit Lizard Island in 1770. Having successfully patched up the Endeavour in Cooktown, they sailed north and stopped on Lizard Island, where Cook and botanist Joseph Banks climbed to the top of what’s now known as Cook’s Look to search for a way through the Barrier Reef maze and out to the open sea.

Banks named the island after its large lizards, known as Gould’s monitors, which are from the same family as Indonesia’s Komodo dragons.


Top 5 Lizard Island Activities

Lizard Island is well known for its postcard beaches, surrounding coral reef and its proximity to the outer Great Barrier Reef. However, there’s more to this island than what meets the eye.


1. Lizard Island Beach, Swimming and Snorkelling

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With close to 20 beaches to choose from, you’ll be spoilt for choice on Lizard Island. Lizard Island’s beaches are nothing short of sensational, and range from long stretches of white sand to idyllic little rocky bays. The water is crystal clear and magnificent coral surrounds the island. These beaches provide easy access for both swimming as well as snorkelling.

The three most popular, postcard beaches are immediately south of the resort – Sunset, Pebbly and Hibiscus Beaches.


2. Diving from Lizard Island

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Most people visit Lizard Island for its great diving. In fact, many dive company use Lizard Island as their base to get to the famous dive sites of Code Hole and Pixie Bommie. While it’s advisable to take a trip to the outer Barrier Reef, you don’t need to as there are good dive sites right off the island. The resort also offers a full range of diving facilities to its guests so you don’t need to organise anything yourself.


3. Bushwalking through Lizard Island

The climb to the top of Cook’s Look is a great walk (three hours return). Near the top there are traces of stones marking an Aboriginal ceremonial area. The trail, which starts from the northern end of Watson’s Bay near the camp site, is clearly signposted and, although it can be steep and a bit of a clamber at times, it’s easy to follow. The views from the top are sensational, and on a clear day you can see the opening in the Reef where Cook made his exit.


4. Wildlife Viewing on Lizard Island

Lizard Island has plenty of wildlife and it’s easy to spot them around the island. There are 11 different species of lizard, including Gould’s monitors, which can be up to 1m long. More than 40 species of birds have also been recorded on the island and a dozen or so actually nest here, including the beautiful little sunbirds with their long, hanging nests. Bar-shouldered doves, crested terns, Caspian terns and a variety of other terns, oystercatchers and large sea eagles are other resident species.


5. Touring the Lizard Island Research Station

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The Lizard Island Research Station is a permanent research facility, which has examined topics as diverse as marine organisms for cancer research, the deaths of giant clams, coral reproductive processes, sea-bird ecology and life patterns of reef fish during their larval stage. The station runs a one-hour tour on Monday at 11am for the island’s visitors. It also runs one- to two-weeks volunteer programs, which involve helping with maintenance around the station, rather than helping researchers. Accommodation is included but not food or transport to the island.


Where is Lizard Island Located?

Lizard Island is located 27km northeast off the coast of Australia, about 100km north from Cooktown in Far North Queensland. It is situated in the Great Barrier Reef and is part of the Great Barrier Reef islands.


Lizard Island Map

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How to Get to Lizard Island?

Unless you have your own boat, the easiest way to get to Lizard Island is on a flight from Cairns or Cooktown.

Hinterland Aviation has two scheduled flights a day from Cairns to Lizard Island which must be booked through Voyages.

Daintree Air Services has full-day tours from Cairns at 8am. The trip includes lunch, snorkelling gear, transfers and a local guide.

Ahoy Plane-Sailing has an exciting day tour from Cooktown, which lands in Watson’s Bay by seaplane; camping drop-off can also be arranged.


Lizard Island Camping

Fortunately for those with less cash to spare, Lizard Island has a camping facility on its grounds. The facilities are basic – toilets, gas barbecues, tables and benches, and untreated water (boil first) which is available from a pump about 250m from the site. The bush camping ground is located at the northern end of Watson’s Bay.  A permit is required to camp here; permits can be obtained online from QPWS.

Note – campers should bring all supplies with them as there are no shops on the island.


Lizard Island Resort

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This is five-star luxury at its best; it does come at a price, but if you want to pamper yourself, this is the way to do it. You’ll be one of a maximum of 80 guests in 40 villas on one of the most exclusive and luxurious resorts in Far North Queensland. Room rates include all meals and many activities: snorkelling and glass-bottom-boat trips, catamarans, paddle-skis, fishing tackle, tennis, and hiking trails, such as the muscle-straining 545m (half mile) climb to Cook’s Look.

The 40 elegant free-standing villas are tucked under palms along the beach or perched on cliff tops overlooking the bay. They are built of timber and stone, in a casual tropical style, with earth and sea tone finishes. A guest lounge has Internet facilities, TV and video, bar facilities, and a book and games library. The Azure Spa offers a Vichy shower, double-massage room and steam room, and a range of therapies.

The most exclusive accommodations option, the Pavilion, is a villa offering complete privacy, sheer luxury, and spectacular panoramic views. It has private decks leading down to its own plunge pool, and comes with extras such as a laptop, binoculars, and Bollinger on arrival.


Tell us what you think. Do you think it’s worth spending the money to holiday on Lizard Island? If you’ve visited Lizard Island, what did you enjoy the most about your holiday? 


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