Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland

Lizard Island is a continental island located on the Great Barrier Reef, 240km north of Cairns and 27km off the coast of North Queensland. Lizard Island and associated smaller islands is the only island group close to the outer barrier reef. Lizard Island is about 4.5km by 3.5 km and is surrounded by clear blue waters and fringing reefs. More than half of the island in grassland, with areas of woodland, heaths, paperbark swamps and mangroves are also found on the island. Lizard Island is home to Gould’s sand monitor, the lizard after which the island was named by James Cook during his exploration of Australia in 1770.

Visitors to Lizard Island have access to amazing diving opportunities, including the world renowned Cod Hole where divers can come face to face with the massive Potato Cod (Epinephelus tukula). The Ribbon Reefs off Lizard Island have some of the top big game fishing spots in the world. From the beautiful beaches you are just moment away from snorkeling amongst brightly coloured tropical fish in the coral reef gardens.

Accommodation ranges from rough bush camping to luxurious resort accommodation. Bush camping is available at Watsons Bay on Lizard Island. If you arrive by plane, you will need to carry all your stuff from the airstrip to the campground over a kilometre away. Toilets, picnic tables and gas barbecues are provided. Untreated water is available from a hand pump 250m from the campground. Boil the water before drinking. There are no supplies available on the island, although the resort has a bar and restaurant for non-residents.

Voyages Lizard Island Resort Accommodation

If the bush camping is not your thing, then you can go to the other extreme and stay at the Voyages Lizard Island resort. The resort has 40 suites/rooms ranging from the luxury Pavilion to the Anchor Bay Rooms.

  • The Pavilion offers luxury and complete privacy with spectacular views of Anchor Bay, Osprey Island and Sunset Beach. The suite has large decking area, private plunge pool, sun lounges and a daybed area
  • Anchor Bay Suites are set in an arc along Anchor Bay, with sea views and easy access to the main Lodge. The suites are open plan design with large verandah with daybed.
  • Sunset Point Villas are located on Sunset Ridge amongst eucalyptus woodland with filtered ocean views overlooking Sunset Beach or Anchor Bay. Each Villa has its own private deck with wooden chairs as well as a hammock.
  • Anchor Bay Rooms are located in a garden setting with handy access to Anchor Bay and the beach. Anchor Bay Rooms have a private balcony with hammock.

The resort offers arrange of complimentary activities including catamarans, glass bottom paddle skis, motorised dinghies, snorkeling equipment and lessons, tennis, picnic hampers for beachside lunches, self-guided island walks and nature trails, paddle ski tours, nature slide presentations, gymnasium.

Activities with additional charge include diving and snorkeling trips to the inner or outer reef, diving courses, night diving, full or half day private game fishing, interpretive glass bottom boat tour, research station tours, champagne sunset cruise.

Nature and Wildlife

  • The reefs around Lizard Island contain over 200 species of hard corals. In Watsons Bay, not far from the beach, is the “Clam Gardens”, with large giant clams and numerous species of soft corals and hard corals. The continental shelf edge is only 20km east of Lizard Island where the ocean plunges to over 2000 metres deep into the Coral Sea, with spectacular ribbon reefs along the shelf margin. Black Marlin cruise the outer reef during their breeding season. You may be lucky enough to see one of the huge Manta Rays that are sometimes seen around the island.
  • There are over forty species of birds seen on and around Lizard Island, including a number of tern species, the White-breasted Sea Eagle and Osprey. Land birds include the pheasant coucal , the bar-shouldered dove and the yellow-bellied sunbird. Migrants include the Imperial Pigeon, Dollarbird , White-tailed tropicbird and Rainbow Bee-eater. The nearby Osprey island, Seabird island, South island and Palfrey island are important sea bird nesting sites for terns and other seabirds.
  • The most well known reptile on the island is Gould’s Sand Monitor from which the island gets its name. These are found al over the island and are often wander around the resort complex. There are several kinds of geckos and skinks on the island. Tree snakes and pythons are common. The brown-headed snake, is the only species of venomous snake on the island, but it is rarely observed.
  • During spring, Green Turtles and Loggerhead Turtles nest on the beaches of the islands, and can be seen around the islands in the shallow water. Hawksbill Turtles are sometimes seen grazing on sea grasses along the beaches.
  • From June to September Humpback Whales and Minke Whales can often be seen in waters off the island. Black Flying Foxes and a few species of insect eating bats are the only land mammal species on the island. You can see the Flying Foxes roosting in the mangroves during the day. The camp sizes peak in summer providing a spectacular sight at sunset as they fly out to feed on the melaleuca nectar and eucalypt blossoms. They can be seen around the resort feeding on mango fruits in spring.

Walking Tracks

Lizard Island has a network of walking tracks through the National Park.

  1. Chinamans Ridge is a short track with rocky steps leading over a steep ridge between the resort and the Pandanus track. There is a lookout at the top with views over Watsons Bay. (340m one way – 20 minutes).
  2. Watsons Cottage and Pandanus track. Start at Watsons Bay beach and take the short sandy track to the ruins of Watsons Cottage. From there continue along a boardwalk through the mangroves to a rough track round a paperbark and pandanus swamp to the airstrip. There is self guiding information about Aboriginal uses of plants and animals along the way. (685m one way – 30 minutes)
  3. Cooks Look is a hard walk, but the views are worth the effort. Starting from Watsons Bay beach, near the campground, there is a very steep rough track that takes you up to the 359m high summit. From the top you have spectacular views over the surrounding reefs and islands. The track surface has loose gravel in parts and steep granite rock slabs, with rough steps cut out. The track is suitable only for fit and healthy walkers, and care is required. (2.25km return – 2 and a half hours)
  4. Blue Lagoon. Start at the end of the airstrip (800m past the junction with the Pandanus track) and take a short, sandy track to the Mangrove and Coconut beaches on the edge of Blue Lagoon. The walk has views over Blue Lagoon to Palfrey and South islands and Cape Flattery on the mainland. (455m return – 40 minutes)
  5. Research Road. There is a sandy road from the western end of the airstrip to the Lizard Island Research Station, where guided tours are available at certain times. (4.4km return -1 hour)

Getting There

Lizard Island is located 240km north of Cairns and 27km off the coast of North Queensland. You can travel there by air or boat.

Hinterland Aviation operates a 60 minute flight transfer to Lizard Island from Cairns International Airport. Most visitors to the resort travel by air.

Lizard Island provides sheltered anchorage for private and commercial vessels. There are a number of rules and regulations about where you can anchor, so see the Queensland Government Environmental Protection Agency web site for details.

Related posts:

  1. Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef
  2. Wilson Island, Great Barrier Reef
  3. Lady Elliot Island, Great Barrier Reef
  4. Orpheus Island, secluded Barrier Reef sanctuary
  5. Great Keppel Island, Queensland

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