Lizard Island, Australia
Australia's Lizard Island is way off the map, located east of North Queensland’s Cape York Peninsula and just west of the main trunk of the Great Barrier Reef. Captain Cook stopped here in 1770 and named the island after its population of yellow-spotted monitors, about the only wildlife he saw in any numbers. Lizard Island is really composed of several islands that, along with surrounding reefs, form a large blue lagoon and mangrove swamps. Accessible by few, it's a beautiful stopover for small ships en route to Indonesia or heading down Australia’s East Coast.
What We Love
Water Sports: Lizard Island's setting encourages glass-bottom boating, diving, and snorkeling. Fringed by coral reef, and just a 50-minute boat ride to the outer Great Barrier Reef, this is the spot to see giant clams, nurse sharks, sand rays, octopus, and dugong (sea cows), and to fish for the giant trevally.
Best Known For
Exclusivity: Aboriginals know about this out-of-the way oasis, as do jet-setters who fly in from Cairns to stay at a luxury resort made up of some 40 villas. The only other visitors here are passengers from small-ship cruises, which makes this island paradise feel like an undiscovered gem.
Cod Hole: Located off the nearby ribbon reefs, this is one of the Great Barrier Reef's top diving sites, known for its population of potato cod. These friendly fish are massive and love to get up close and personal with divers.
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Who It's Best For
Outdoor Enthusiasts: Much of Lizard Island is a national park studded with grasslands, wooded slopes, and coastal dunes that call for guided interpretive walks. Marine animal aficionados and beachgoers will appreciate the stretches of white-sand and exotic underwater creatures such as feather stars, sea pens, and free-living coral.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
The Sun Can Be Intense: Sunscreen isn't enough here. Be sure to bring a hat, and wear a rash guard if you are going to be out on the water.
Theodore W. Scull is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has written several books on crossings.