Lizard Island National Park Tropical North Queensland

Photo credit: © Tourism and Events Qld

Things to do

    Watsons Bay, Lizard Island, Queensland. Photo: Tourism Queensland.

    Watsons Bay, Lizard Island, Queensland. Photo: Tourism Queensland.

    View from Cooks Look. Photo: Julie Swartz, Queensland Government

    View from Cooks Look. Photo: Julie Swartz, Queensland Government

    Anchor Bay, looking towards Watsons Bay. Photo: Kym Edgerton.

    Anchor Bay, looking towards Watsons Bay. Photo: Kym Edgerton.

    Lizard Island is surrounded by fringing reefs such as Loomis Reef. Photo: Kym Edgerton.

    Lizard Island is surrounded by fringing reefs such as Loomis Reef. Photo: Kym Edgerton.

    Camping and accommodation

    Camping

    Camp at Watsons Bay camping area. Visitors arriving by plane must carry all their gear 1.2km from the airstrip to the camping area. No supplies are available on the island. Campers are welcome at the Marlin Bar, a resort bar located at the eastern end of Anchor Bay, although the bar is not open every day.

    Toilets, picnic tables and gas barbecues (burners only, no hot plates) are provided. Open fires are not allowed. Bore water can be obtained from the hand-pump located 250m from the camping area. This hand pump may be unreliable at times. If it fails, water can be collected from a tap outside the Marlin Bar (approximately 40 minutes walk from the camping area). Bring water containers suitable for carrying water this distance and treat all water before drinking.

    Never feed the wildlife. Secure all food and rubbish scraps. Bins are not provided so take your rubbish away with you.

    Camping permits are required and fees apply.

    Other accommodation

    Luxury accommodation is available at the Lizard Island Resort. A range of accommodation can be found in Cooktown, 93km south-west of Lizard Island. For more information see the tourism information links.

    Walking

    A network of walking tracks, ranging from easy to very difficult, allows visitors to explore Lizard Island. Many of these tracks are linked and can be undertaken as longer walks—see inset on Lizard Island National Park map. Avoid spreading weeds by checking for and removing seeds from clothing, footwear and other items. Place seeds in bins, where provided at the start of walking tracks, or in rubbish bags for later disposal off the island.

    Chinamans Ridge—340m one way (20min) Grade: moderate

    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.

    Watsons Walk—520m one way (30min) 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.

    Pandanus track—685m one way (30min) Grade: easy

    From Watsons Bay beach, follow Watsons Walk to the ruins of Watsons Cottage. The Pandanus track 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.

    Blue Lagoon—455m return (40min) Grade: easy

    From the end of the Pandanus track (where it joins the airstrip), walk 800m to the end of the airstrip where a short, sandy track descends gently to the secluded Mangrove beach 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.

    Research Road—4.4km return (1hr) Grade: easy

    A sandy road from the western end of the airstrip passes through woodland and leads to the Lizard Island Research Station, where guided tours are available at certain times. Vehicles use the road so visitors must take care.

    Cooks Look—2.25km return (2.5hr) Grade: very difficult

    From Watsons Bay beach, near the camping area a very steep, unformed track leads to the summit (359m) at Cooks Look. This lookout offers wide-ranging views over the surrounding reefs and island group. The track surface varies from decomposed granite to sloping granite slabs, with rough hewn steps in some places. This walk is suitable for very fit and experienced walkers only, 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.

    Picnic and day-use areas

    A day-use area is located adjacent to the camping area in Watsons Bay on Lizard Island. Visitors have access to picnic tables and toilets. An additional small day-use area with picnic tables, is provided about 300m south along Watsons Bay beach.

    Boating and anchoring

    There are public moorings in the waters around Lizard Island National Park. Moorings reduce coral damage from anchors and provide safe and sustainable access to popular reefs and islands. They suit a variety of vessel sizes and are accessed on a first-come-first-served basis. Time limits may apply during the day, but all mooring are available overnight between 3pm and 9am. Learn more about moorings and responsible anchoring and see maps and mooring locations.

    Motorised watersports, including waterskiing and the use of personal watercraft (such as jet skis), are not permitted around Lizard Island. For more information refer to the Cairns Area Plan of Management.

    There are strict regulations regarding the discharge of waste in the marine park. For current regulations see GBRMPA.

    Fishing and collecting

    The waters surrounding Lizard Island National Park are internationally significant and are protected in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. Zones in the two marine parks—the Great Barrier Reef Coast and Great Barrier Reef—provide a balanced approach to protecting the marine and intertidal environments while allowing recreational and commercial use. Check zoning maps and information and the Cairns Plan of Management before entering or conducting any activities, including fishing, in the marine parks.

    Fisheries regulations apply—information on bag and size limits, restricted species and seasonal closures is available from Fisheries Queensland.

    Be aware that crocodiles can turn up anywhere in croc country, including tidal reaches of rivers, along beaches, on offshore islands and cays in the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait, and in freshwater lagoons, rivers, and swamps. Crocodiles are dangerous and attacks can be fatal.

    Viewing wildlife

    The islands offer excellent opportunities for viewing wildlife. Many kinds of lizards make the islands their home, most notably the yellow-spotted monitor, for which Lizard Island is named. Pythons and tree snakes are also commonly seen.

    Black flying-foxes and several species of the smaller insectivorous bats are found on the islands. Along the beaches, green and loggerhead marine turtles nest during summer and can often be seen in shallow water close to shore.

    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. Along the walking tracks on Lizard Island land birds such as pheasant coucals, yellow-bellied sunbirds and, in summer, pied imperial-pigeons, can be seen.

    The islands are important seabird nesting sites—many species roost and nest on beaches and in the islands’ low vegetation. Stay well away from seabirds as they are easily alarmed. Once disturbed, adult birds can abandon their nests leaving eggs and chicks vulnerable to heat, cold and predators such as silver gulls. In summer months avoid Seabird Islets where nesting occurs close to the beach.

    See the description of the park's natural environment for more details about the islands' diverse wildlife.

    Other things to do

    Snorkelling

    The most popular location for snorkelling is the Clam Gardens in Watsons Bay on Lizard Island. Giant clams Tridacna gigas, up to 2m in length, live among 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 on Lizard Island also invite exploration. Corals in these shallow, sheltered waters form a layered mosaic with many delicate branching and leaf-like colonies in patches interspersed between areas of clean sand.

    Snorkel safely at all times. Be aware of wind and currents at your chosen location and, if in doubt, ask at the watersports centre at the resort for safe locations on the day.

    See staying safe for more information.

    Lizard Island Research Station tours

    Established by the Australian Museum in 1973, the Lizard Island Research Station is dedicated to supporting research into all aspects of the Great Barrier Reef. Tours of the research station, located on the south-west side of the island, are available at certain times.

    Find out more about the Lizard Island Research Station.

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