Surprising things you didn’t know about Lady Elliot Island
Looking for paradise? We’ve found it, 80km off the coast of Bundaberg, Lady Elliot Island.
This island proves good things come in small 45-hectare packages, combining the best of the Great Barrier Reef with an eco-philosophy that’ll have you taking home new habits along with holiday photographs.
Although this island might be best known for its easy access – seriously, you can visit Lady Elliot Island in a day trip from the Gold Coast, Brisbane, the Fraser Coast or Bundaberg – this coral cay has got so much more than accessibility on its side.
Dive a little deeper and get to know one of Queensland’s most adored islands, with these 10 things you didn’t know about Lady Elliot Island.
1. You can stay overnight in comfort
You can stay the night on the Great Barrier Reef, but you can’t always sleep in a bed to do it. Here you can.
Save the sleeping bag and swag for one of these island camping adventures, and dial up the comfort level in one of Lady Elliot Island’s five different room types, each with a distinct, casual eco-feel.
If you’ve already been to Lady Elliot Island, done the beachfront units and think you’ve seen it all (including the souvenir t-shirt), as of December 2017 there’s a new reason to check in for the night.
Lady Elliot Island added two new glamping tents to its accommodation mix so you can sleep under the canvas without any of the set up or pack-down that usually comes with glamping’s more unrefined cousin, camping.
2. Bird is the word
Lady Elliot might be most famous on Instagram for its turtle and manta ray population, but both species pale in comparison to the birds who nest on the island.
Leave anyone with ornithophobia (a fear of birds) at home. Lady Elliot Island has the second highest diversity of bird species on the Great Barrier Reef.
In fact, there are 105 different species of seabirds, land birds and shorebirds who choose this island 80kms off Bundaberg to nest.
You’ll want to bring your bird book, as some of these feathered faces aren’t usually spotted on Queensland’s shore. Take the Ruddy Turnstone for instance, which comes from Siberia by way of Japan and the Philippines to holiday at Lady Elliot Island too.
You won’t need binoculars to spot your new feathered friends. They’re literally everywhere. A good segue for the next reason you need to visit – birds even had a hand in the island’s construction.
3. The beach is made of coral, not sand
You don’t expect one of the most idyllic islands in the Great Barrier Reef to be made entirely of coral and bird poo, but this island is.
Lady Elliot Island’s foundations are what make it so special, attracting the likes of David Attenborough’s Great Barrier Reef documentary with its surprising formation story.
Six thousand years ago, Lady Elliot Island wasn’t an island at all. It was simply a coral reef growing out of the water towards the sunlight.
The Aves were the original property developers and saw potential first. Depositing their droppings on the coral, over time they created a cement-like effect, and Lady Elliot Island was built from the ground up.
It’s only fitting this eco-resort was built with such natural foundations.
4. The green philosophy includes re-vegetation
This coral cay hasn’t always been so friendly to its foliage. Between 1863-1873, the island was mined for Guano (the bird poop we were talking about above), and there’s now only eight original Pisonia trees from the island remaining.
To counteract the deforestation, for over a decade Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort has had a re-vegetation program in place. The aim is to grow more Pisonia trees and native vegetation to provide an essential habitat for different species on the island.
You can even get in on the action by taking a re-vegetation tour or getting your hands dirty with the nursery staff.
5. Lady Elliot Island is a sustainable success story
Long before single-use plastics were banned by supermarkets and plastic straws were still found in soft drinks across the country, Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort was waging a war on waste.
It was the first island on the reef to ban plastic water bottles, and its initiatives have only gathered momentum from there.
This island doesn’t pay lip service to the words eco and environmentally-friendly. It lives and breathes the green life, earning the resort Advanced Eco Certification and Climate Action Leader by Ecotourism Australia.
In fact, island leaseholder Peter Gash and his partners reinvest a large percentage of profits into the environmental sustainability of the resort and island.
Profits are undoubtedly paying off if their 2020 target is anything to go by. The resort will be 100% sustainable thanks to renewable energy and emissions reductions.
6. The drinking water, like everything else, is energy-efficient
Tap water on Lady Elliot is done a little bit differently here too.
It’s not just any old water you drink from the taps here – the drinking water on the island is produced by a reverse osmosis desalination plant, which in keeping with everything else on the island, is energy efficient.
Each guest can purchase reusable bottles for a small fee to hydrate their holiday, which not only reduces the emissions from extracting, packaging and transporting the water – but saves on the number of bottles sent to landfill.
7. You can swim with creatures great and small
While you’ll share the island with a maximum of 150 overnight guests, under the sea is a different story.
Good news for swimmers: you won’t be sharing the waterways with stingers this far south – they have a habit of not leaving the warm waters of north Queensland.
8. You can see the reef without getting wet
After you grow tired of the 20 dive sites around the island, Lady Elliot Island has plenty more things to see and do that don’t involve bathing suits or breathing apparatus.
For a reef experience without getting your hair wet, throw on a pair of shoes and go walking straight off the beach into the Great Barrier Reef.
From the shallows of low tide, you can see creatures like octopus, sea cucumbers, crabs, moray eels, epaulette sharks, abalones, sea hares and sea slugs just footsteps from the shoreline.
Back on dry land, fill your days by joining Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort staff for a walking tour of the island. You’ll tick off just about every passion point imaginable from historical, island survival, re-vegetation, marine debris, fish-feeding and bird-watching tours.
9. Lady Elliot Island is a poster child for solar power
On this eco-island, the solar panel to person ratio is almost 4:1, with 585 solar panels (and counting) on the island.
Just by harnessing the power of the sun, the island has reduced its diesel fuel three times over to just 150 litres per day.
This never-ending commitment to being green and clean is why Lady Elliot Island is recognised as a role model for best environmental practice within the tourism industry.
10. Lady Elliot Island can be conquered on foot
If you like to leave only footprints from your travels, how does walking around an entire island of the Great Barrier Reef sound?
All you need is a pair of closed-in shoes (remember this is a coral cay, AKA sharp on bare feet) and 45 minutes to circumnavigate the island.
Prefer to take a more structured stroll? Choose between the two self-guided trails: The Eco Walking Trail and The Discovery Walking Trail, which will take you past the lighthouse which operated from 1873-1995.