Covering 1,013 hectares with 24 sandy beaches and a lagoon, Lizard
Island is truly secluded from the rest of the world. It is the only
continental island group close to the outer barrier reef, its stark,
rugged beauty contrasts sharply with the sparkling blue waters and
luxuriant fringing reefs which surround the island group.
Lizard Island is one of six islands within Lizard Island National Park.
These six islands are surrounded by luxuriant coral reefs and warm,
sparkling blue waters, fringed by mangroves and sandy beaches and
cloaked in grasslands, woodlands and wind-sheared heaths. More than
half of Lizard Island is covered in grasslands. Eucalypt and acacia
woodlands, heaths, paperbark swamps and mangroves are also found on the
The island group is rich in cultural meaning for the Dingaal Aboriginal
people. The islands contain sacred sites including initiation,
ceremonial and story sites as well as middens. Lizard Island is also
rich in European heritage associated with the earliest European
exploration of the coast and subsequent settlement. Today the islands
are a popular tourism destination and the base for world-renowned
tropical marine research.
Bush camping is possible at Watsons Bay on Lizard Island. Campers
must carry all their gear 1.2km from the airstrip and be
self-sufficient in food, shelter and first aid. No supplies are
available on the island but campers are welcome at the Marlin Bar, a
resort bar and restaurant for non-residents.
Toilets, picnic tables and gas barbecues (burners only, no hot plates)
are provided. Open fires are prohibited. Water containers and
water-treating equipment are also required — untreated water can
be obtained from a hand-pump located 250m from the campground. Boil the
water for five minutes or treat it before drinking.
On Lizard Island, a network of walking tracks, ranging from easy to difficult, provides access to the national park.
(1) Chinamans Ridge — 340m one way (20 minutes) Grade: Medium
A short, steep track with rocky steps leads over a steep granite ridge
between the resort and the Pandanus track. A lookout at the top of
Chinamans Ridge provides views over Watsons Bay.
(2) Watsons Cottage and Pandanus track — 685m one way (30 minutes) Grade: Easy
From Watsons Bay beach, a short, sandy track leads to the ruins of
Watsons Cottage. The walk continues along a boardwalk through mangroves
and then joins a rough track skirting a paperbark and pandanus swamp
before arriving at the airstrip. Information about Aboriginal uses of
plants and animals is presented along the way.
(3) Watsons Walk — 520m one way (30 minutes) Grade: Easy
From the day-use area in Watsons Bay, a sandy track leads to the water
pump, passes through a paperbark swamp and continues to Watsons Cottage
where it joins the Pandanus track.
(4) Cooks Look — 2.25km return (2 hours, 30 minutes) Grade: Very difficult
From Watsons Bay beach, near the campground, a very steep, unformed
track leads to the 359m summit, which affords spectacular views over
the surrounding reefs and island group. The track surface varies from
decomposed granite gravel to sloping granite slabs, with rough-hewn
steps in some places. This walk is suitable only for very fit and
healthy walkers, due to the rough terrain, loose track surface, hot
climate, steep slope and difficult access at the start of the track.
Extreme care must be taken.
(5) Blue Lagoon — 455m return (40 minutes) Grade: Easy
From the end of the airstrip (800m past the junction with the Pandanus
track) a short, sandy track descends gently to the secluded Mangrove
and Coconut beaches on the edge of Blue Lagoon. The walk provides
picturesque views over Blue Lagoon towards Palfrey and South islands
and Cape Flattery on the mainland.
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The islands offer excellent opportunities for viewing wildlife. Many
kinds of lizards are found here, most notably the Gould's sand monitor,
for which the island is named. Pythons and tree snakes are also
Birdwatching is rewarding. Around the beaches, look for large ocean
birds such as white-bellied sea-eagles and ospreys soaring high above
the ocean's surface. The island group, in particular Osprey, Seabird,
South and Palfrey islands, are important seabird nesting sites. Look
for seabirds such as terns around the islands' beaches. Along the
walking tracks, land birds such as pheasant coucals, yellow-bellied
sunbirds and, in summer, pied imperial-pigeons, can be seen.
Black flying-foxes and several small insectivorous bats are the
islands' only mammals. Along the beaches, green and loggerhead marine
turtles nest during spring and can often be seen in shallow water close
The most popular location for snorkelling is the Clam Gardens in
Watsons Bay. Giant clams (Tridacna gigas), up to 2m in length, live
amongst a picturesque array of hard and soft corals. The best time to
snorkel is during high tide, accessing the reef from the shore at the
southern end of the beach in front of the track leading to Watsons
Cottage. The clear waters of Blue Lagoon also invite exploration.
Corals in these shallow, sheltered waters form a layered mosaic with
many delicate branching and leaf-like colonies in patches interspersed
with areas of clean sand.
Snorkel safely at all times. Be aware of wind and currents at your
chosen location and, if in doubt of safety, ask at the Resort
Watersports Centre for safe locations on the day. Avoid snorkelling at
low tide as corals are exposed, making snorkelling difficult. Avoid
kicking, standing on or touching corals as they are easily damaged and
try to avoid stirring up sand with your fins as it can smother corals
and other reef animals. Always cover up to avoid sunburn as you float
above the coral reefs and avoid touching any animals as some can be