This review of Lizard Island in Great Barrier Reef is taken from our guidebook Mr & Mrs Smith Hotel Collection Australia/New Zealand.
Pigs can fly. And when they jet to Lizard Island they can swim, snorkel, sail and scuba dive, too. They can even charter private dinghies to secluded beaches and frolic on the sand. For this little piggy, Lizard Island promised one long trough (for two) – a rare opportunity to swine and dine and snuffle out truffles in paradise. ‘Take my trotter,’ I told my love. ‘We’ll live high on the hog 24/7 until they drag us squealing wee-wee-wee all the way home.’
Mrs Smith and I fly to Lizard Island from Cairns at the northern tip of Queensland. It’s a 240-kilometre, hour-long flight and our four-seat plane is soon dwarfed by the duelling big blues of ocean and sky. Below is the only patch of the planet where two World Heritage-listed locations – the Great Barrier Reef and ancient Daintree Rainforest – kiss. It’s here Lizard Island looms into view. From a distance, its thousand-hectare sprawl is as Captain Cook discovered it in 1770, but closer inspection reveals the jewels that make it so exotic and exclusive a getaway.
Lizard Island resort sounds like a love shack built by God and Godzilla, yet a short bus trip from the airstrip reminds us of its Marine National Park status. There are no manicured gardens or sprinkler-strewn golf courses here. Instead wild scrub and rocky mountain ranges dominate an interior hemmed from a turquoise sea by powdery white sand and a nexus of 40 private villas, rooms and suites overlooking Sunset Beach and Anchor Bay. Our TV-free timber Anchor Bay Room is nestled amid a forest of trees with a day-bed and balcony bang on Watsons Beach. One quirk: it’s a share suite. Tiny cute geckos dot the walls and, in the days to come, we strike a deal: they keep the insects down; we let them share our digs and drink our wine.
The resort’s nucleus is the Lodge, home to a grand bar and restaurant whose decadent contents are totally free for the duration of our stay. And what marvellous liberties it affords us. Crude reminders of the real world – wallets, cash, credit cards, watches and mobiles – are stowed. Hell, there aren’t even keys to the suites or price lists for the minibar. On Lizard, you come, go and do exactly as you please. And what pleases us immediately after arrival is toasting our new home from the Osprey’s Restaurant by swilling several mojitos, pigging out on cuttlefish salad and rabbit ragu, and soaking up a panoramic view of the wide blue yonder that, like the food and booze, is absolutely priceless.
Alas, while gluttony is encouraged on Lizard, our plans to render inactivity an art form are diverted by the Beach Club. Here we’re kitted out with snorkelling gear and given our own motorised dinghy and a picnic basket laden with delicious treasures of the sea and soil. Soon we’re puttering across the Blue Lagoon to deserted Mermaid Beach. Donning masks and flippers, we gorge on the glories of the Great Barrier Reef: swarms of neon-bright fish grazing hectares of spectacular coral gardens and underwater canyons filled to the gills with enchantments like starfish, stingrays, squid, sea cucumbers and giant clams older than us and lit from within by flickers of electricity and mystery. It ignites our own passions and we clamber back to land and roll blissfully in the sand. Afterglow accompaniment? Fat prawns, fresh fruit and chilled champagne. Happy daze.
In the days that follow we’re tempted to explore Lizard Island’s other delights – the various walks, dives, fishing trips and yachting available to guests, the tour of the research station on the island’s south side and the ruins of a stone cottage of an ill-fated early settler – but the truth is we simply can’t be bothered, and here that’s respected. Instead, we while away mornings in a haze of lobster omelettes, breakfast beers and reef snorkelling. Afternoons are spent beachside with books, cocktails and covert dips between rocks and hard places. When tropical night falls, we wander to Osprey’s and mercilessly assail the bar while running riot through chef Mark Jensen’s ever-changing menu of gastronomic triumphs. Finally, with cheese platter and posh bottle of plonk in tow, we weave back to base and wink out on the day-bed, our soundtrack the trill of the birds and bugs in the trees and the lapping ocean beyond, and our cinema the reef of stars above.
Our final morn dawns with my finding a gecko in a glass of grenache. He’s dyed pink and pissed as, er, a newt. It’s a sign: the party is over. As he staggers into the bush, front desk rings to grant our request for a late check-out. (‘How late?’ they ask. ‘Christmas?’ Mrs Smith replies.) We can’t complain. Aside from an elbow-heavy masseuse and a siesta chainsawed by a ride-on mower, they’ve met our every whim and wish. Now, sipping one last cocktail, we try to tattoo on our mind’s eye the magic of a sacred place the Dingaal Aborigines know as Jiigurru. To them, this land mass is a stingray with Lizard Island as the body and adjoining rocky outcrops as the tail. Here, at the bar, it’s easy to believe it. To them and to us, Lizard Island will always be Dreamtime.