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The Lizard Island Experience

This article was originally published in 2014.
Lizard Island resort, a land based option to a premier marlin fishing destination!


Secluded white sandy beaches, coral gardens full of fish and marine life of all shapes and colour alongside eco-friendly, luxurious private accommodations serving gourmet food and drink and offering a vast array of nature based activities–all within a 30 minute run to the best giant black marlin fishing grounds in the world.

It is the thrill of the chance of the battle combined with the pleasure of this pristine and spectacular destination that makes Lizard Island a must visit for a big game fishing enthusiast. And it is a particularly good option for anglers traveling with non-fishing partners or family who wish to relax and enjoy the island lifestyle.

Sounds great, so is there a catch? Yes, relocation impossible!

While the resort’s proximity as land based accommodation to the fishing grounds is unrivalled, when you are day tripping in and out of the island you are limited to the fishing grounds of Number 10 Ribbon Reef and the reefs to the north including Day and Yonge Reefs. If the bite has gone south, you may miss out on the best fishing due to inability to relocate. Something to keep in mind and why I would recommend a stay at the Island in October rather than November when the bite will often stray further south.

Proximity to great fishing

For the keen fisherman, Lizard’s proximity to the giant black marlin grounds at the top of the Ribbon Reefs is unrivaled. Number 10 Ribbon Reef is just 12 nautical miles from Lizard. It is the largest of all of the Ribbon Reefs and some will say the most consistent for the giant marlin.

With close to 18 miles of hard edge to the reef, it does not suffer from fluctuations in water quality due to the tidal influence between the breaks in the shorter reefs. In foul weather, island guests also have the option of fishing at Day Reef to the north. Day Reef, being north-west facing, forms an almost natural weather break from the relentless south-easters.

Best of two worlds

Fisherman looking to combine their two great loves, can surely find no better alternative than a stay at the resort where you can have a full day fishing along the reef, and after a quick run home at the end of the day enjoy a candlelit dinner on the verandah of Ospreys Restaurant with your loved one. After a restful night’s sleep and gourmet breakfast, and you’ll be ready to do it all again.

The view of Watson's Bay and the main Lizard Resort beach from the top.
Yes there really are Lizards which are behind the name.
The Lizard Island walking track to Cooks look offers spectacular views
The gorgeous white sand of the resort beach at sunset.

The Lizard Island Experience

The Lizard Island experience begins the moment your flight from Cairns to the Island takes off (Lizard Island is located 240km north of Cairns and 27km from the coast of tropical North Queensland). The view from the plane throughout the 60 minutes journey flying over the Great Barrier Reef is nothing less than spectacular.

As the planes circles around the island to land, visitors get a prime view of most of the 24 beaches and coral gardens, as well as the resort set in the lush tropical surrounds along Anchor Bay on the north western edge of the island.

Aside from fishing, there is plenty to see and do here. For the energetic, there are a number of historic hikes that give you a wonderful vantage over the island. One of the longer paths is a 3-4 hour trek, 258 metres above sea level to ‘Cook’s Look’. This is the same spot that members of Captain Cook’s Endeavour climbed in 1770 to assist in navigating safe passage through the reef and gives you fabulous views over the entire island and right down to the Ribbon Reefs to the south. (The name Lizard Island was given to it by Captain Cook on 12 August 1770. He wrote, “The only land animals we saw here were Lizards, and these seem’d to be pretty plenty, which occasioned my naming the Island Lizard Island”.)

The resort is situated on 1013 hectares of National Park, is a marine reserve (protected environment) and completely surrounded by fringing reefs. There are plenty of ways to explore the island and the reefs and bays that are included in your room charge including exclusive use of a powered dinghy for a secluded picnic lunch at Mermaid Cove and snorkelling along the coral gardens that are alive with many colourful species of fish and coral in complete solitude.

The resort also offers beach ‘drop offs’ for those less confident in charge of their own vessel, once again complete with a individually catered picnic lunch, umbrella and snorkelling equipment. You can also choose explore the island via paddle skis or catamaran, or stand-up paddle boards.

One of the best snorkelling spots on the entire island is right there in front of the resort, the hundred-year-old clam gardens. If you are not a competent snorkeller, lessons are also offered or you can enjoy the view from the island’s glass bottom boat.

The resort also offers extensive pampering at the resort’s day spa Azure and has tennis courts and a full-feature gym. Internet access is available in the departure lounge (there is very limited mobile phone coverage on the island which lends well to the experience of getting away from it all.) If you prefer the accompanied option, you can choose from a range of tours including paddle ski tours, tours of the marine research station located on other side of the island, nature presentations as well as Champagne excursion cruises at sunset.

Lizard Island airstrip

History of fishing at Lizard Island

The Lizard Island Resort began as a fisherman’s retreat as the island was home from September to December each year to the professional charter fleet who worked day trips out of the island–and enjoyed all their meals prepared by the resort.

In those days, the boats were not equipped to operate overnight—no watermakers, guest accommodation and storage for supplies. The resort was often closed throughout the wet season and the traveling fisherman occupied its rooms for the rest of the year.

In its heyday, hundreds of grander black marlin were weighed on the island’s gantry, with the last being in 2004 (it weighed in at 1068lbs) and in 2006, the gantry was demolished, a sign of the times and demonstrating the fleet’s commitment to release fishing for the sustainability of the region for future generations.

Watson’s Bay a secure boat anchorage

Regular flights to Lizard Island are available from all Australian Capital Cities via Cairns.