I thought I had touched down on a little patch of heaven. Coral gardens, azure water and ivory white beaches ring Lizard Island, smack dab on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Sipping my coconut welcome drink, with no barrier between me and nature’s wild beauty, I could feel my mind and body begin to relax. Recently re-opened and all glammed up after a $45 million renovation, this secluded resort an hour’s flight from Cairns in north Queensland, delivers barefoot luxury at its best.
The stupendous setting is magical. Access to the ravishing reef directly from your luxury beachfront accommodation makes it a diver’s and snorkeler’s dream. I marveled at vivid coral, giant turtles, yellow butterfly fish, blue starfish, orange clownfish, sapphire damselfish, flame hawkfish and green parrot fish. The underwater kingdom was so dazzling it induced a giddy state of bliss. If I were a mermaid, I would live here.
A thrill seeker at heart, I hopped the swanky resort boat to the inner and outer reef, including famed Cod Hole, for even more sensational views. Happily, those did not disappoint. If you have never snorkeled before, the professionals at the island’s Beach Club give lessons that turn you into an instant aqua-lover. Bring an underwater camera and have the time of your life.
There is no shortage of aquatic options such as paddleboarding, boating, kayaking and fishing, especially for marlin. You can play tennis, hike trails, stroll along the sand, take a dip in the pool, soak up the rays, stargaze beneath the Southern Cross or loll however you like in this castaway paradise. After a day of exciting activity, I savored my pampering treatment and massage with personalized Australian bush flower oil at the newly enlarged Essentia Spa.
An outing to one of 24 powdery beaches promises relaxation in idyllic isolation. Think of your own private island with only the sound of surf and seabirds. A boat dropped me off with umbrella, towels, a sumptuous picnic basket (don’t forget to request a bottle of bubbly), snorkel gear and a phone to call for pick up anytime. You can also take one of the resort’s motorized dinghies and explore the splendor on your own . Be forewarned: You may never want to return to civilization.
The oceanfront suite I stayed in felt like a luxurious bungalow. My cozy cocoon was stylishly chic, done in soothing hues of cream, white and grey. Awakening in my cushy bed with a view of the sun casting its rays on the cerulean sea was sublime. My scenic veranda provided the perfect spot to meditate, lounge and bask in the beautiful surroundings. A path led directly to the beach just steps away.
Dining al fresco under the stars at Salt Water, the resort’s atmospheric restaurant, was a special treat. Chef Mark Jensen uses fresh local produce in his creative Australian, Mediterranean and Asian dishes. Standouts were the juiciest lamb, duck with penang sauce and char grilled swordfish with burnt orange dressing, all paired with fine Australian wine. If you are feeling romantic, the staff will set up a candle lit dinner on the beach.
My last night, as I took in a spectacular sunset, I noticed how much calmer and more serene I had become. My journey to Lizard Island was healing. When I get away from the fast paced New York City life and surround myself with nature – something happens.