Lizard Island: Dom Perignon and lobster rolls on this luxurious Australian island

In the mid-afternoon heat, a crystalline resort pool and wooden deck of cabanas and romantic shell loungers sit empty; there's not a single bikini-clad sun worshipper to be seen. Occasionally a guest emerges from the poolside spa, blinking and dazed. It's as if the apocalypse has come to Far North Queensland.

You see, as appealing as a day in one of the resort's hammocks might be – gin martini in hand, bright yellow sunbirds flitting by – there's stiff competition for delightful ways to spend your time on Lizard Island.

The granite behemoth rises at the outer edge of the reef, about 18 nautical miles from Cairns. As such, it's a prime spot for exploring an underwater world that's a hot topic right now, as the global warming debate continues and more of us want to better understand the Great Barrier Reef.

Seen from the sky, from aboard a compact 208B Caravan Cessna, the outlines of the reef seem to resemble vital organs; lungs and hearts are everywhere. Once on the island, it's just a few steps from your room down a sandy path and you can be swimming above the natural wonder.

With only 40 rooms and villas furnished in neutral tones and natural fibres, and the communal areas of the Driftwood bar and Salt Water restaurant, Lizard Island is a remote, unhurried and uncrowded place of luxury.

This morning, most of the guests, aside from the honeymooners clinking their glasses in the open-air restaurant, are out on the water. A couple paddles in clear-bottomed kayaks and, further out, a charter fishing boat is searching for marlin and mahi-mahi. Divers have made their way to the globally renowned Cod Hole where the giant potato cod don't mind the company of humans.

As we head towards the evocative-sounding Mermaid Cove then to Watson's Wall to snorkel, naturalist Ben Carroll explains the complex life of coral to the novices on board the boat. With a double major in marine and conservation biology from the James Cook University, and a lifetime on the oceans from Vanuatu to the Maldives, Carroll has returned to the island where he first did fieldwork.

Carroll guides us around the underwater world, a clear water garden where soft corals sway gently next to giant clams and sponges.

"We talk about coral in terms of shape rather than species," Carroll says before we haul ourselves back onto the boat.

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Could there be anything better than seeing one of the world's greatest natural wonders? For lovers of both the sea and Champagne, a waiter handing you a glass of Dom Perignon 2009 might just do it.

In keeping with its exclusive reputation, Lizard has partnered with the prestige Champagne label with a package in which guests can indulge in the best of both worlds.

Nursing our glasses as we putter over to the very private Sunset Beach for a picnic of lobster rolls, I wonder what the French Benedictine monk whose moniker graces the label would make of the scene.

I also wonder what the monk would think of this granite soil, landscape and climate a world away from 18th-century Hautvillers in the Champagne region of north-eastern France where Perignon lived and died. Beyond the resort, there is a sharp edge to this remote place which makes a stay here all the more interesting.

The island is dry and its dominant grasslands fold up their leaves to protects themselves during the heat of the day. Guests are gently reminded that a walk to the highest point of Cooks Look is best done in the cool of the early morning.

The undulating land is also home to eucalypt and acacia woodlands, mangroves and pandanus swamp; an underground spring is the island's vital water source. Sacred to the Indigenous Dingaal people it was once a place for male initiation and important meetings.

Battered by Cyclone Ita in 2014, by Nathan in 2015 and then rebuilt, the resort's supreme comfort sits well beside the extraordinary natural environment.

Later that evening, I walk barefoot on the beach to a table set with fine linen and glassware, where a dinner prepared by executive chef, Ryan Locke includes local lobster served with Dom Perignon P2 (second plenitude) 2000.

The grape harvest in France – "characterised by challenging contrasts between cold and rainy periods, and warm and stormy weather" – is said to have made the vintage what it was.

Staring up at the starlit sky I reckon this really is a place worthy of breaking out the Champagne.

TRIP NOTES

Jane Reddy stayed as a guest of Lizard Island.

MORE

traveller.com.au/tropical-north-queensland

lizardisland.com.au

FLY

Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin fly direct from Sydney and Melbourne to Cairns.

East Air operate flights from Cairns to Lizard Island see eastair.net.au

STAY

The Dom Pérignon Retreat costs from $1410 a night for two people in a Gardenview Room and includes a reef discovery and private beach picnic, and a dinner under the stars with Dom Perignon P2 2000 Champagne.

A suite upgrade costs from $1990 a room, a night and includes a bottle of Dom Pérignon 2009 on arrival and custom pyjamas, scented candles and beach towels.

Phone 1800 837 204, see lizardisland.com.au

FIVE MORE THINGS TO DO ON LIZARD ISLAND

CHINAMAN'S RIDGE

The short steep track over the granite ridge finishes at Watson's Bay and is home to the clam gardens. Take your snorkel.

COOK'S LOOK

The walk, named for Captain James Cook and his hike to the top to see how to navigate the Endeavour into open waters, provides stunning views and is best done in the early morning to escape the heat of the day.

LIZARD ISLAND RESEARCH STATION

The research facility hosts scientists from around the globe and is an ideal place to learn more about coral.

BIRD WATCHING

Join an early-morning twitching session with a resident naturalist.

MARLIN BAR

Have a beer at the open-air bar which is outside the resort and open to yachties moored in the bay.

See also: Australia's best island holidays: Top 20 island escapes

See also: Aussie island paradise virtually unchanged from when Cook discovered it

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