Lizard Island standing paddle boarding | weekend away Lizard Island

Why you need to add 48 hours on Lizard Island to your holiday radar

Located on the northern end of the Great Barrier Reef, Lizard Island is about as close to paradise as you can get. Boasting 24 private beaches, a host of unique cultural experiences, and accessible only by a scenic 60-minute private charter ride from Cairns Airport, it’s well worth seeking out.

Declared a national park in 1937 and a marine park in 1974, Lizard Island is renowned as much for its wide array of cultural activities as it is for its glorious blue waters and pristine stretches of white sand. Add a private lagoon and close proximity to one of the best diving sites on the Great Barrier Reef, and you can understand the appeal.

Here’s how to explore Lizard Island in 48 hours. 

Day 1

2pm: Fly high

flying over lizard island | Lizard Island

Hop onboard the private charter to Lizard Island, which will get you to your magical destination in just one hour. There’ll be no time for reading on the flight—you won’t want to miss the stunning views as you cruise above the Great Barrier Reef.

Home to over 1,500 species of fish, abundant marine life and over 200 types of birds, and recognised as a World Heritage Area since 1981, the reef is highly protected and one of the best-managed marine areas on Earth.

The Lizard Island charter flies over 200 kilometres of the magnificent coral reef, so don’t miss a second. 

3pm: Check-in to Lizard Island Resort

Once you’re on solid ground, head over to Lizard Island’s one and only resort to check-in. With only 40 rooms and villas, and your choice of private beaches, Lizard Island Resort is the epitome of luxury and seclusion.

The resort offers so many inclusions that you won’t want for anything. Enjoy the beautiful selection of gourmet meals made from fresh, local produce at the on-site restaurant, Saltwater, which enjoys views over Anchor Bay. And, when it’s time to relax, enjoy the selection of wine, beer, and basic spirits, all covered in your room fee.

Don’t spend all your time on resort grounds though. There’s so much to do!

Note: Transfers to and from Lizard Island will be booked for you by the resort.

4 pm: Take a tour of the Research Station

snorkelling lizard island

Lizard Island is home to the Australian Museum Research Station, which conducts important studies on managing both the Great Barrier Reef and other reefs around the world. Approximately 100 research projects are conducted here each year.

Lizard Island Resort offers guests a tour of the internationally recognised station, giving you the chance to hear from dedicated marine staff on the day-to-day health of the marine environment and advances in reef conservation and research. You’ll even get the chance to ask the marine staff, who live and work on the island, everything you want to know about the research they conduct. Understanding the reef and appreciating its complexity and fragility is an important part of enjoying it, so make this a must do when you visit.

Tours are available twice a week. Enquire upon booking.

6 pm: Picnic the night away

Order a deluxe picnic hamper from Lizard Island Resort and spend the evening on the beach watching the sun go down. The resort team will help you create your own picnic basket and then a private dinghy will transport you to your beach of choice, which will you’ll have all to yourselves.

Pastel skies over a tranquil ocean is the perfect way to end your first day in paradise.

Note: private picnics are included in your stay! 

Day 2

8 am: Take a hike

hiking lizard island | lizard island weekend

Once you’ve fuelled up for the day ahead, change into some comfy exercise gear and lace up your runners, ready to get exploring. It’s time to take a hike in nature to the highest point of the island—Cook’s Look.

This hike covers four kilometres of gorgeous greenery and can be professionally guided or self-guided. Whichever option you choose, the sweat will be worth it when you experience the panoramic views that only this vantage point can offer.

Note: if you choose to hike self-guided, let reception know before you head off and when you come back, so they know you’re safe. And don’t forget water—you’ll need it.

12 pm: Island dining

After you’ve freshened up from your wander in the wilderness, it’s time to enjoy some delicious food with ocean views. The resort’s Salt Water Restaurant won’t disappoint, with a menu driven by the freshest local produce straight from the island’s waters and the mainland’s hinterland, flown in daily.

Cairns-local, Executive Chef Mark Jensen, makes seafood the star of the show through the flavours of modern Australian, Asian and European cuisine. A not-to-be-missed Lizard Island dining experience.

2 pm: Sail the seas

sailing lizard island

Photo by @lizardisland

The best way to experience Lizard Island is to get out on the water.

Hop on one of the resort’s motorised dinghies and go exploring. Sail from one secluded beach to the next on your quest to circle as much of the 1013 hectare island as possible, taking in all the natural flora and fauna inherent to the region.

7 pm: Say cheers

Have a drink at the Driftwood Bar to celebrate the wonderful corner of the world that is Lizard Island. Located in the main lodge of Lizard Island Resort, this private cellar will have you sipping on special, hard-to-find wines from Australia and beyond.

The long bar is a perfect spot to mingle with those you’ve met during your stay, and connect with new faces. If you want to enjoy a private drink, however, the lounge seating and outside lawns are an excellent choice. 

Day 3

9 am: Swim with the marine life

snorkelling lizard island | Lizard Island

Kick off your last day on Lizard Island with a snorkel in the breathtaking Great Barrier Reef. Marvel at the underwater world—watching the colourful sea life swim around their playground of coral and plants. Hot spots for snorkelling are Clam Garden and the Blue Lagoon.

Lizard Island Resort offers complimentary equipment and lessons, and you can head out anytime you like. If you want to go snorkelling with a professional, there are plenty of great options available—including a guided beach snorkel and local snorkel tours. 

11 am: Check out and go swimming

Say your last goodbye to Lizard Island Resort before heading off to the beach to keep cool before your flight back to Cairns.

Soak up every last bit of the incredible view on your flight home: this is one adventure you’ll remember forever.

Ready for more? Here are a few other Queensland islands you can visit in a weekend.