Lizard Island, Barrier Reef, Queensland Australia
Lizard Island is Australia’s northern most island beach resort and the ultimate spot for luxurious seclusion, facilities and diving. Located 240km north of Cairns on The Great Barrier Reef.
The island is a protected National Park, with just one exclusive resort, 40 rooms and suites, and 24 pristine sandy beaches. Nearby are three smaller islands - Palfrey, South and Bird, which together with Lizard, form the Lizard Island Group. Their well-developed fringing reef encircles a 10 metre deep Blue Lagoon which invites fantastic snorkeling exploration of this pristine coral.
Lizard Island is also right on the doorstep of the world famous Cod Hole and many other brilliant dive sites of the northern Great Barrier Reef, making it a very attractive destination for the experienced diver. Lizard Island Australia Map
Visitors to Lizard Island choose Lizard Island for many different reasons including remoteness, wilderness, unspoiled beauty, luxury, fishing, amazing reefs, diverse and unique coral assemblages and a safe anchorage.
More than half of Lizard Island is covered in grasslands. Eucalypt and acacia woodlands, heaths, paperbark swamps and mangroves are also found there. The stark, rugged beauty of Lizard Island, rises 359m above sea level, and makes for the bluest of clear blue ocean views from every angle.
Access to the Lizard Island Resort and its facilities are for resort guests only, which can be reached by air from Cairns Airport. This 60 minute flight will take you over spectacular views of the Great Barrier Reef and the coast. Operated by Hinterland Aviation, flights depart daily. Apart from accessing the island for resort guests, visiting the island remains fairly restricted. Lizard Island Flight
There are no day visitors here, apart from the fortunate few. The islands can be reached by private vessel. Sheltered anchorages are available, although anchoring restrictions apply. Non-resort guests are welcome at the Marlin Bar although it is not open every day.
Commercial dive operators commence their dive expedition trips from Lizard Island, to access the famous Cod Hole and Ribbon Reefs and journey beyond to the Coral Sea. Daintree Air offers exclusive day trips to Lizard Island. Apart from that there are no day trippers here.
History of Lizard Island
The Dingaal Aboriginal people—Traditional Owners of Lizard Island, Jiigurru—have lived in this area for tens of thousands of years.
Lizard Island was known as Dyiigurra to the Dingaal Aboriginal people and was regarded as a sacred place. It was used by the people for the initiation of young males and for the harvesting of shellfish, turtles, dugongs and fish. Watsond Bay Lizard Island
The Dingaal believed that the Lizard group of islands had been created in the Dreamtime. They saw it as a stingray with Lizard Island being the body and the other islands in the group forming the tail. The local Dingiil Aboriginal people call the island Jiigurru.
The islands are rich in cultural meaning for the Dingaal Aboriginal people and contain sacred sites including initiation, ceremonial and story sites. Shell middens, which provide evidence of long-ago feasting on clams, oysters, spider shells and trochus shells, are found on the islands.
Lizard Island also has a rich heritage associated with the earliest European exploration of the coast and subsequent settlement. Lost amongst the labyrinth of reefs, Captain James Cook resolved to visit one of the high islands to chart a course out to sea through the maze of reefs which confronted him.
The name Lizard Island was given to it by Captain Cook when he passed it on 12 August 1770. He commented, "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". Cook climbed the island's summit to find a way through the maze of reefs which has since been called ‘Cook's Look’.Memorial for Mary Watson Cooktown
Just over 100 years later the island was inhabited by beache-de-mer fisherman. Watson's Bay on Lizard Island is named after one of these fisherman. The story of the escape of Watson's wife through the Great Barrier Reef from Lizard Island while sitting inside the cut-down boiler from a sunken ship has become one the most prominent tales of folklore from the pioneering era of Australia's history.
Mary Watson (born 17 January 1860 – 1881) migrated to Queensland with her family in 1877. Having accepted a position as a governess with an hotelier's family, at eighteen Mary travelled from Maryborough to the isolated port of Cooktown, where she met and married bêche de mer fisherman Robert F. Watson in May 1880. Watson took her with him to set up a fishing station on Lizard Island, then otherwise uninhabited. In September 1880, Watson left his wife and son behind with two Chinese servants known as Ah Sam and Ah Leung, while he and his partner Percy Fuller made an extended fishing trip in their luggers.Watsons Cottage Lizard Island
A few weeks later a party of mainland Aborigines of the Guugu Yimmidir group made one of their habitual seasonal trips by canoe to the island, where Watson had set up his household in a stone structure close to a small creek, the island's only supply of fresh water.
Mary had probably also inadvertently trespassed on an indigenous ceremonial ground normally taboo to women and children. The Aborigines attacked Ah Sam, who suffered seven spear wounds, and Ah Leung was killed in a vegetable garden he was tending.
Mary Watson frightened off the group by firing a gun and then, with a small supply of food and water, put to sea in a cut-down ship's water tank, used for boiling sea slugs. She, with her four-month-old baby, Ferrier, and Ah Sam, drifted for eight days and some forty miles, hoping to be picked up by a passing vessel. Mary's final diary entry ended 'No water. Near dead with thirst. Her diary describing their last days was found with their remains in 1882 among the mangroves on No. 5 Island in the Howick Group off Cape Flattery, still in the iron tank. Ah Sam had died on the beach nearby. A concealed spring existed on the islet, but they had not found it. When the bodies were returned to Cooktown a procession of 650 escorted them to their burial at Two Mile Cemetery, on the road to the Palmer River goldfields. Mrs Watson became an emblem of pioneer heroism for many Queenslanders.
Lizard Islands beauty and wilderness are distinctive, and Lizard Island was declared a National Park in 1937. The waters surrounding the island were declared a Marine Park in 1974. Today the islands are a popular tourism destination and the base for world-renowned tropical marine research.
The islands of the Lizard Island group are continental—part of the Australian mainland—and became islands only 9000 years ago with the last sea level rise. The pink-grey granite rocks are much older, having formed deep below the earth's surface about 300 million years ago. Lizard IslandThe sand on the islands’ beaches is made of decomposed granite with the addition of coral and shell fragments. Granite decomposes to an infertile, sandy soil which drains rapidly.
More than half of Lizard Island is covered in grasslands, eucalypt and acacia woodlands; heaths, paperbark swamps and mangroves can also be found there. The combination of the island group’s geology and high seasonal rainfall reflects the type of vegetation.
As a dry island, almost 60 per cent of Lizard Island is covered in grasslands. Grasses can survive the heat by folding up their leaves during the hottest part of the day to conserve water.
Eucalypt and acacia woodlands grow on the sheltered north-west side of Lizard Island. Woodlands comprising acacias and a small well-branched tree, Thryptomene oligandra, grow on silica-rich sands on the western and southern side of the island. Mangroves thrive in the salty tidal area around Watsons Bay, Crystal Beach and in Blue Lagoon at Mangrove Beach.
Paperbark and pandanus swamps are found in the valley behind Watsons Bay, nourished by rainwater that accumulates underground in the porous soils of the valley. These swamps in turn provide food and shelter for many birds, bats and reptiles of the island. The coast and other sandy areas support dune grasslands and low scrub which reduce wind erosion on the dunes exposed to the strong south-easterly winds.
Lizard Island Nature Calendar
The island's best-known animal is a lizard—the yellow-spotted monitor Varanus panoptes. Most easily seen around the resort area on Lizard Island, it ranges all over the islands and preys on large insects as well as smaller lizards and frogs. More than 40 species of birds inhabit the island group which are important seabird nesting sites. MantarayMany species roost and nest on beaches and in the islands’ low vegetation. Commonly-seen seabirds include the magnificent white-bellied sea-eagle Haliaeetus leucogaster, osprey Pandion cristatus and many species of terns.
Black flying-foxes Pteropus alecto and several smaller insectivorous bats are found on the islands. By day, thousands of black flying-foxes congregate in noisy camps amongst the mangroves. Feeding after dusk on the nectar of melaleuca and eucalypt blossoms, the flying-foxes often shift camp around the island and may leave altogether for the mainland in times of poor flowering.
The Amphibious month.
Green Tree Frogs dominate the nocturnal sound show as they come out to breed.
The Black Flying Fox camp sizes are at their largest, providing spectacular flight scenes at dusk around.
Monitor Lizard activity is also high with tunnels being dug for nesting chambers around the island.
Black-Naped Terns begin nesting.
The Melaleuca Forests are flooded and mangrove swamps are rich with juvenile fish life.
Terns swarming around Osprey Island preying on the summer fish stocks.
Constellation of Orion dominates the early night sky.Monitor Lizard
Crested Terns begin nesting.
Pheasant Coucal birds changing to their darker plumage.
Sacred Kingfishers often sighted around the island.
Migratory birds such as the Lesser Golden Plover begin to show their breeding plumage before the migration to the northern latitudes.
Bar Shouldered Doves nesting.
Southern Cross constellation rising early in the night sky.
Green Sea Turtles spotted feeding along the beaches at low tide.
Clear skies and early twilights bring red sunsets over the Pacific.
Kapok Bush begins to flower.
Swallowtail Butterflies sighted around the resort.
Humpback Whales begin their northern migration. Curious Minke Whales often approach tour vessel for a closer look.
Playful Spinner Dolphins may surf the bow wave on the outer reef trips.
Clear views from the top of Cooks Lookout.
Centaurus shines over the meridian at night.
Sightings of Humpback Whales during their migration to warmer waters for calving.
Goannas often sighted along tracks warming their bodies in the midday sun.
Osprey often sighted around their large, high nests.
The very sociable White-breasted Wood swallows begin breeding.
Umbrella trees showing off their brilliant red flowers.Hawksbill Turtle
Constellation of Scorpio dominates the spring night sky as it chases Orion over the western horizon.
The Marlin season begins with Giant Black Marlin cruising the outer reef during their breeding season.
Minke and Humpback Whale sightings.
Black Flying Foxes feed on the mango fruits around the resort at night.
As the water temperatures warm towards 27°C, you’ll see an increase in wildlife activity.
The prominent bright yellow flowers of the Kapok Bush in full bloom.
The 'Teapot' in Sagittarius shines above at night.
Lesser Golden Plovers arrive on the island from Siberia & Alaskan territories.
Torres Strait Imperial Pigeon migrates down from Papua New Guinea to form breeding colonies on the island.
Beach Stone Curlew patrol the beaches acting as decoys for their nests.
Black Marlin begin their spawning season on the outer reef.
Coral reef annual spawning towards the end of the month turns the blue waters orange.
Kapok Trees fruiting.
Green, Loggerhead and Hawksbill Turtles seen grazing on sea grasses along the beaches.
Pelagic fish species active around spawning season.
Monitor Lizards active whilst constructing nesting chambers.
Occasional sightings of Manta Rays around the island.
Water temperature a warm 29°C
The Reef System around Lizard Island
NautilusThe island is surrounded by fringing reef, with over 350 species of hard corals that form the framework to the intricate and complex reef communities that surround the islands.
Narrow fringing reefs rise steeply from depths of 20m along the steep eastern and north-eastern coastline of Lizard Island. In Watsons Bay, close to the beach, is the well-known Clam Gardens, a popular snorkelling location featuring large giant clams Tridacna gigas as well as many soft and hard corals. The sandy sea floor in outer Watsons Bay, at depths below 15 m, is home to a diverse array of specialised marine life such as feather stars, sea pens and sponges as well as a unique assemblage of eight species of free-living (or solitary) corals.
Only a 50-minute boat trip will bring you to the legendary Outer Great Barrier Reef and the string of Ribbon Reefs. The Ribbon Reefs form a 55 mile chain from Lizard Island to Cooktown, and are the most prized dive region of Australia ’s Great Barrier Reef.
The almost unbroken barrier formed by the Ribbon Reefs is made up of ten distinct reefs, identified simply as Ribbon Reef #1 through to Ribbon Reef #10, from south to north. The Ribbon Reefs offer a huge range of spectacular dive sites that are visited by fewer commercial operators than locations on the Outer Barrier Reef closer to Cairns and POrt Douglas, and as such are in pristine condition. Nautilus great barrier reef
One of the most famous sites on the reef is the Cod Hole, located on ribbon reef number 10, renowned for its huge, but friendly, Potato Cod. The edge of the continental shelf lies only 20 km to the east of Lizard Island. Here ocean depths plunge between 2000–3000 m into the crystal clear waters of the Coral Sea.
The region covers over 1 million square kilometres - three times the size of the neighbouring Great Barrier Reef - and is scattered with spectacular coral reefs, in an undersea world of ancient mountains, rising thousands of metres from the ocean floor.
In this oceanic wilderness, where man's influence is relatively insignificant, pelagic fish populations abound including grey whalers and white tip reef sharks, hammerheads, tuna, barracuda, big eye trevally, mackerel and manta rays.
Rare sea creatures such as the Nautilus and Lacey Scorpionfish inhabit these waters, alongside an incredibly diverse range of corals, including massive soft corals and gorgonian fans far from land, with the sea floor far below, the Coral Sea is also known for its blue clear waters and underwater visibility, which ranges between 30 and 100 metres.