Loving the Champagne life
There’s a lot of competition for how to spend your time on Australia’s Lizard Island, writes Jane Reddy.
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 33 kilometres from Cairns. As such, it’s a prime spot for exploring an underwater world that’s a hot topic, as the global-warming debate continues and more of us want to better understand the Great Barrier Reef.
Seen from the sky, 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 to swim 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 clearbottomed 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 evocativesounding 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 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. He guides us around the underwater world, a 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 on to the boat.
Could there be anything better than seeing one of the world’s greatest natural wonders? For lovers of 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 Champagne producer to offer 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 all the more interesting.
Nursing our glasses as we putter over to the very private Sunset Beach for a picnic of lobster rolls.
The island is dry and its dominant grasslands fold up their leaves to protect 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 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 Staring up at the starlit sky I reckon this really is a place worthy of breaking out the Champagne.
Jane Reddy stayed as a guest of Lizard Island.
Stand-up paddleboarding is just one of many ways to pass the time on Lizard Island.