Your Own Island (Almost)

Lizard Island is secluded and simple with five-star amenities

By: Maryann Hammers

LIZARD ISLAND, Australia The tune from Gilligan’s Island keeps popping in my head here at the northern tip of the Great Barrier Reef.

When Captain James Cook discovered this spot off the Australian coast in 1770, he noted that large monitor lizards were pretty much the only creatures inhabiting the lush land. It hasn’t changed much since. Now a national park reserved for Lizard Island Resort and a marine research facility, the tropical island remains as secluded and pristine as ever. Lapping waves and bird songs are the only sounds I hear; the only footsteps on the sand are mine. And with 24 beaches dotting the isolated island, it’s easy to find a private stretch of sand all to myself.

My toughest decision on the island: Whether to go reef diving or snorkel in the warm Pacific waters; kayak to one of the island’s two dozen perfect, private beaches; hike to the top of Cook’s Look; or steal a snooze in my hammock.

Given Lizard Island’s location on the Great Barrier Reef, which boasts some of the world’s best snorkeling, I grabbed a wet suit from the boat shop and went out on the resort’s boat. After a fairly choppy hour or so, the captain stopped; we donned our gear; jumped into the water and were immediately presented with a spectacular underwater world of neon-bright and friendly fish, undulating sea plants, giant clam gardens, and colorful coral. At the famous “cod hole,” massive and curious potato cod swam by, just inches from my face. I even had the chance to pet Humphrey, an affable 10-year old Hump-Headed Maori Wrasse (a colorful striped fish) who, I’m told, typically comes by to greet boaters.

The resort’s 40 oceanfront villas and suites are simply decorated with light woods and cobalt-blue accents. The minimalist look is deliberate, “so as not to detract from this,” says resort manager Caroline Dey, as she gestures towards the stunning ocean view.

While plain and understated, the accommodations are luxurious offering everything from a pillow menu allowing me to choose precisely the size and softness of where I rest my head to in-room espresso, fresh-baked cookies, and hammocks on my large wood deck that faces the sea. There’s even a flashlight to light the path at night, a fine restaurant (with meals included in the daily room rate), and a bar that specializes in yummy kiwi-vodka caprioskas, a drink typically made with lime juice, crushed ice and sugar. The sunny Azure Spa is as casually sumptuous as the rest of the resort just the thing to recover after a day snorkeling and basking in the Down Under sun. I was treated to a foot massage with a lavender-peppermint potion that kept my feet cool, tingling and feeling fresh for hours.

But while the resort hasn’t left out a single creature comfort and convenience, technology lags behind. The Internet connection is slow and unreliable; cell phone service is iffy. Rooms do not have televisions. So even I a person who is frequently accused of suffering from workaholism have no choice but to forget about deadlines and daily stressors.

Not even Mr. and Mrs. Howell could ask for more except perhaps a slightly faster Internet connection.


Rates: From $740 to $1,850 per night, per person includes all meals and most island activities (dinghies, paddle skis, sailboards, glass-bottom boat trips, snorkeling equipment and lessons). Extra person: $450.



It’s now easier than ever for Southern Californians to get to Lizard Island, and many other Queensland destinations, thanks to Qantas’ new nonstop service between Los Angeles and Brisbane the most convenient gateway for U.S. travelers to the Great Barrier Reef. This is the first time any airline has offered nonstop service on this route.

Qantas operates nonstop Boeing 747-400 Los Angeles-Brisbane service on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Flight QF 176 departs from Los Angeles at 11:20 p.m. and arrives in Brisbane at 6:20 a.m., plus two. Flight QF 175 departs Brisbane at 11:40 a.m. and arrives in Los Angeles at 7:30 a.m. the same day.