Do you prefer the finer things in life, a holiday resort that’s seriously luxurious and includes a five-star restaurant offering six courses every night and some very fine wines?
Are you seeking somewhere chic to take that new romance you’d like to impress? Or a discreet locale for some quality time with your partner who, let’s face it, deserves a reward for all those nights waiting up for you to get home from your so-called day job? Can I suggest Lizard Island?
Lizard Island is a 1,000-hectare national park, 240 kilometres north of Cairns, 27 kilometres off the coast of North Queensland. It is Australia’s northernmost island resort, sitting in the northern section of the Great Barrier Reef. On one side of the island sits a modest marine research centre and on the other lolls the resort which Conde Nast Traveller voted as the best in the Pacific.
As one of the few hunks of granite rising up out of the Barrier Reef’s clear waters, Lizard Island’s year-round climate is comfortably warm -“ without the humidity of so many tropical locations.
Lizard Island boasts one great hill which was climbed by Captain Cook during his historic 1770 voyage. It was from this peak he could at last observe a break in the reef which had kept him trapped at the edge of Australia’s eastern coastline for over 1,000 kilometres.
The resort has always been a fabulous place to visit. It’s even better following the $15 million renovation conducted by its owner, P&O Australian Resorts. Among the most attractive new features is the Pavilion Spa, which offers everything from massage to full body scrubs. There’s the usual pool and tennis courts, and bushwalks and picnic hampers, and catamarans and windsailing of course.
The 40-villa property, composed mostly of private cabins, sits quietly nestled into the north-east corner of the island, a turquoise beach at its doorstep. The only eyes disturbing your privacy are those of a giant sea-eagle perched high on the point. Obviously, it too has superior taste.
The first Europeans to settle on the island, around 1880, did not realise it was still used by mainland Aborigines for sacred ceremonies. Cooktown Museum houses the diary of an early settler, Mary Watson, who one day, while her husband was away, discovered her gardener speared to death. With her baby and Chinese cook, Watson fled in a dinghy-like metal tub. They were found dead months later on a nearby island and her diary contains her record of those last days.
Marlin fishing gave Lizard Island its international reputation. Among memorabilia kept at the resort you might still find a rather glamorous photograph of Lee Marvin in white stubbies standing next to his 1,000lb catch of the day. A highlight on the international game fishing calendar, the Black Marlin Classic, has been held off the waters adjacent to Lizard Island for many years. These days, however, Lizard Island is no longer officially involved.
If you enjoy humbler forms of fishing, or simply viewing, the reef off Lizard Island teams with barracuda, spangled emperor, yellowfin, dogtooth, tuna, sailfish, Spanish mackerel and giant trevally. Full-day and half-day trips can be booked, boat and equipment supplied.
You might prefer a lazy snorkel around the island’s coves where turtles and stingrays loll in the shallows, or perhaps take one of the motorised dinghies around to the Clam Garden where you will find a colony of giant fluorescent-lipped clams, some over 100 years old.
No matter what, on one of your walks you will inevitably bump into a dinosaur-like monitor lizard after which the island is named.
And you will also surely take a trip on the resort’s dive boat, Seranidae, to the outer edge of the reef. Here, an exotic coral empire awaits you. And among teeming fish of every size and colour you will discover speckled potato cod weighing up to 100 kilos, as well as groper and even larger moss-green Maori wrasse.
Only one thing can go wrong at Lizard. Imagine relaxing into such an intimate and luxurious outpost only to find someone who really hates you is also among the current guests. Where do you hide? In my case, it was author Morris West, the only person ever to have successfully sued me for something I wrote. I tried to keep my head down for a few days, but he got wind. His wife eventually brought us together during six o’clock cocktails. Fortunately, the cocktails had worked their magic and he’d forgotten why he was meant to be mad. We chatted idly about the wonders of nature, and instead of arguing made several toasts to Lizard Island.