Sailing to Stunning Lizard Island, Australia

Sailing north to Australia’s remote and stunning Lizard Island off far north Queensland’s picturesque coastline…

As with several of the previous posts in this sailing series, I must apologise in advance for the quality of the photos. The 35mm negatives lived on the boat for years in humid conditions and a harsh environment, causing many negatives to stick together. The negs then moved on land in storage and endured heat – not great and many are ruined.

Lizard Island

A few reef-stops from Townsville later and Naiad – home-built boat – arrives at the turquoise waters and strikingly rugged beauty of the World Heritage-listed Lizard Island.

Lizard Island, Queensland, Australia, OceaniaAnchoring in Watson’s Bay, this is the first of 3 anchorages during the stay at Lizard whilst trying to escape the fierce shifting wind that’s blowing from the south.

A resort (playground for the rich only), small airstrip for light planes (again, for the rich), the Australian Museum Lizard Island Research Centre (an excellent educational experience), and numerous fabulous walking trails across the island, keep you busy on blustering days.

sailing to Lizard Island, Queensland, Australia, Oceania

A little history

Take a climb to some 358-metres above sea level arriving at the peak of the island, which is named Cook’s Lookout. Imagine Captain Cook standing somewhere in this area, charting his and crew’s escape out of the Great Barrier Reef’s maze of treacherous reef and shallows.

Cook's Lookout, Lizard Island, Queensland, Australia, Oceania

Cook aptly named the island “Lizard” after witnessing many lizards on the island. Perhaps he was running out of names this far north by the time it came to leave Australia.

Important as a sacred place to the Aboriginal people that knew the island as Dyiigurra, the island’s next historical and tragic chapter began with the harvesting of the sea cucumber.

During the late 1800s, sea cucumber fisherman Captain Watson, his wife (‘famed for her courage and endurance’), baby, and two Chinese servants lived on the island.

Following an attack from some mainland Aboriginals killing one servant whilst Captain Watson was at sea, Mrs Watson with her baby and servant climbed into a steel boiling tank and headed out to sea. Attempting to reach the mainland but instead drifting for days, all three perished from thirst. The tank, bodies, and Mrs Watson’s two diaries were found inside the tank, which washed up on one of the islands.

Black Marlin Fishing

World-famous for Black Marlin fishing competitions – mostly for the rich – this is not the reason for sailing this far north to the island. The reason is to dive the famous Cod Hole.

Apparently these days, it’s tag and release unless the Black Marlin caught is of a huge weight and length. I don’t understand this logic at all. Why kill such a massive and majestic old fish?

What to expect of Lizard Island

Striking Lizard Island offers powdery-white beaches, spectacular snorkelling and diving, and wonderful walking trails and hikes.

The winds blow hard and long in this northern point of Australia. Some days we’re confined on Naiad, baking cakes, and reading. The risk of capsizing the inflatable and drowning the outboard increases during 30-knot winds with bullets of strong wind shooting down the hills at 40-knots.

Naiad is the blue boat in the centre of this photo…

Cook's Lookout, Lizard Island, Queensland, Australia, Oceania

If you’re heading this way, you need to be fully self-sufficient with fuel, food, and water. Although some water is available on the island if you’re desperate, your closest town for provisioning is back in Cooktown.

You must take all rubbish with you and can’t bury rubbish on the island or throw rubbish in the sea. Designated camping is allowed with a permit. Again, you need all your gear and provisions.

Blue Lagoon

A fringing treacherous reef protects the Blue Lagoon on Lizard’s southern side, which is simply gorgeous. Much of the reef is exposed at low tide, creating a calm lagoon. Boats are allowed to anchor in this pristine lagoon.

Blue Lagoon, Lizard Island, Queensland, Australia, Oceania

Although well-protected from the northerly winds and also providing only some protection from south-easterly winds, the lagoon’s entrance is also dotted with reef. As the entrance is a little tricky, only attempt this in calm weather.

Sadly, the wind isn’t subsiding at all so not keen to attempt the risky entrance – have to be content with seeing the lagoon from the island’s hill.

The Cod Hole

Renown as one of the best dive sites in the world, the famous Cod Hole in Cormorant Passage is home to the largest Potato Cod (fish) in Australia and many other types of exotic fish. And, only around 10NM (under 19-kilometres) from Lizard Island, so not far at all.

Located on Ribbon Number 10 Reef – part of the Great Barrier Reef’s outer reef, we wait for the wind to subside.

The further north you travel along Australia’s east coast, the stronger the winds become and seem to blow harder for longer spells. Starting out sailing from Townsville to Lizard Island a little late in the cruising season, we’re now running out of time to dive the Cod Hole.

This video by perceptor28 – Lizard Island Dive Trip to Cod Hole – Part 1 – taken in 2010 shows you what we missed.


Australia’s east-coast southerly (Trade) winds predominantly blow during the winter months and turn northerly during the summer. Although great to sail south in, the warm winds also signify the start of the cyclone season. Of course, with cyclones being unpredictable, we don’t want to take any chances and decide to forego the Cod Hole.

After waiting three weeks for winds to subside and a good window to dive the Cod Hole – neither materialise. Disappointed, we set sail bound for Townsville.

Sailing south to Townsville

As we’re heading south and this is the direction from which the wind is blowing, unlike the smooth sail north from Cooktown, it’s an uncomfortable sail with winds mostly on the nose.

At least it’s only a short sail until we reach our comfortable and protected anchorage once more in the lee of Cape Flattery. So, wait here for a couple of days until the southerly wind calms down to continue south.

Cape Flattery

The beach here holds much silica so this envelopes the cape with dazzling-white sand. This is home to the biggest silica mine in the world – Cape Flattery Silica Mines – and dates back to 1967.

Cape Flattery, Queensland, Australia, Oceania
Not a great photo of the beach!

Another short sail and we anchor in beautiful and protected Cape Bedford. Untouched and secluded, I love this private part of Australia’s coastline as you can easily get away from people. Though, it’s such a shame that the cruising season is almost finished and we’re flying through this area – would love to stay a while longer.

Cape Bedford, Queensland, Australia, Oceania

A quick stopover to provision the boat in sleepy Cooktown again but also to wait for the southerly wind to subside, then it’s bound for bustling Cairns. At least I’m not flat on my back on this visit.

Leaving Cairns, this time Naiad sails on the outside of Hinchinbrook Island as the channel takes a little longer to navigate through whilst working the tides.

Finally arriving in the safety of Ross Creek in Townsville, we pick up our birth between the two piles as before.

Visit Nilla’s Photography for more global images. More posts at Image Earth Travel.

sailing, Queensland, Australia, Oceania

53 responses to “Sailing to Stunning Lizard Island, Australia”

  1. Reverr Avatar

    Nilla, I loved your site. Certainly you’ve done a lot research and I love how you your topics ❤️

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you for your kind feedback – much appreciated! 🙂

  2. Krishna Chaitanya Avatar

    Nilla this place looks marvelous. Pls do check out my blog. Stay safe!!!

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you Krishna for your comment and yes, this is a marvellous destination!
      Popped over to your blog and enjoyed reading your posts. Hope all is well with you. 🙂

  3. gillmorris Avatar

    Wow Nilla! Lizard Island looks so beautiful, I love the colour of the sea and sand. In fact, all the places you visited here look amazing. I have dived in Thailand and while I get nervous beforehand (I suffer from blocked nose/ears) once I am down there, it is just out of this world. The Potato Cod is huge! Would love to see one up close! Hope you are well xx

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thanks Gill and yes, far-north QLD is amazing with gorgeous clear water – not too many people around and probably the reason for this… 😉
      I haven’t been diving for a decade now and should get back into it as it’s wonderful – would also love to see a cod up close.
      All is good here and hope the UK is OK for you, take care. x

  4. equinoxio21 Avatar

    I’ve always been partial to islands. I still have the sea map of the magic island of my childhood over my bed… 🙂
    Don’t worry about the quality. It’s fine. Consider it an archeological find…
    Be safe

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Me too, especially when you sail to them on your own boat and have the island to yourself – selfish I know. 😉
      Ha, ha, that’s a great way of looking at these ‘archeological gems’ and will keep it in mind!

      1. equinoxio21 Avatar

        We all want a desert island, remember? 🙂
        Those photos of yours are already a testimony to a disappearing world…
        Be good NIlla

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Absolutely! Need to start looking though…
        Agree. Look back through these old photos and wonder what it’s like up there these days, probably not as pristine as when I sailed through…
        Always Brian 😉

      3. equinoxio21 Avatar

        I have a post in the pipeline on our last stay on the beach in Yucatán. The amount of bl..dy plastic on the beach! Made me very cross. Will show some examples…
        Always too. 😎

      4. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Can’t wait to read your post and learn more of Mexico through your eyes and mind.
        Saw a lot of plastics in the sea whilst sailing – tragic. 🙁

      5. equinoxio21 Avatar

        It is possibly the most tragic pollution these days. And gets very little funding for research… Stay tuned…

      6. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Indeed and it begs the question, at what point did humanity get so addicted to plastics or conditioned to using it for everything…

      7. equinoxio21 Avatar

        I can answer that. In Africa in the 60’s I remember my father bringing back from a trip the first “Tupperware” container. I also remember the US Ambassador handing out cokes to the kids. I didn’t like it. 🙂
        Then in the 90’s here in Mexico, Coca-Cola was a major client. I saw how they switched their production form mainly glass re-usable bottles to plastis PET bottles. Changed all the machines in their plants. So that started about 30 years ago. And now the ocean is gagging.

      8. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        These huge corps have a lot to answer for and not just for plastic but why are they not ever held accountable!

      9. equinoxio21 Avatar

        Accountability is a very powerful concept that we, as democracies have not developed enough. Or at all. I find it an avenue of thought for “after.”

      10. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        You’d think though as a democracy that accountability goes hand-in-hand. I think it’s got worse over the past few decades – showing my age now. 😉

      11. equinoxio21 Avatar

        Haha. Not really. I think U and I have always been conscoius of that. Fact is: trump or johnson would have been unthinkable 10 years ago.

      12. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Absolutely and how times have changed in just one decade – scary stuff!

      13. equinoxio21 Avatar

        It is. Scary. And mind my words, this is only the beginning of something much bigger. Hopefully, it will be the opportunity to fix a lot of stuff. Let’s keep hope. ✌️😷

      14. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Always stay positive and keep hoping. I’m the perpetual optimist! 😉

      15. equinoxio21 Avatar

        Thank you for this reminder… There are days when I forget… 🙂

      16. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Same here but for me it’s not days, it’s hours – gotta keep looking ahead – as long as we have our health during these times then we can’t complain.
        Take care of yourself 😉

      17. equinoxio21 Avatar

        And accountability is not institutionalized. Work to do.

      18. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Indeed. Same here, have work to do but also writing to start! 😉

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you for your comment – much appreciated!

  5. the eternal traveller Avatar

    The scenery is so beautiful up there and the colour of the water is always glorious. It’s such a lovely part of Australia to visit.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      It certainly is Carol and not inundated with people so even better! 😉
      Have you been up that way on your travels through Australia?
      Many thanks for your comment – much appreciated.

      1. the eternal traveller Avatar

        We’ve been as far north as Cape Tribulation. It was beautiful.

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Cape Tribulation is gorgeous!

  6. Lisa Dorenfest ~ One Ocean At A Time Avatar

    I loved revisiting this route through your lens aboard your Naiad. Great to see this series. Hope you are well. Ahoy from La Paz, Mexico.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Hey Lisa, thank you for the great feedback and happy that it’s brought back memories for you, albeit through scratchy photos!
      All OK here in Brisbane and glad that you guys are OK. x

      1. Lisa Dorenfest ~ One Ocean At A Time Avatar

        😃Glad to know you are in safely back in Brisbane. We are isolating comfortably aboard Amandla in La Paz, Mexico.

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Sounds great! I know that Tehani-Li are self-isolating in Curaçao but not sure for how long. 😉

      3. Lisa Dorenfest ~ One Ocean At A Time Avatar

        They don’t have many options at the moment. Canal closed to boats under 65 ft, Colombia closed, the Caribbean is closed. The good news is that they are there with a buddy boat and have access to food and medicines. We have friends anchored off Grenada that are prohibited from going to shore

      4. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        At least they’re OK but how do boats provision if they’re not allowed to go to shore?

      5. Lisa Dorenfest ~ One Ocean At A Time Avatar

        Sadly, they are unable to provision in Grenada

      6. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        What a pain as it’s probably cheaper in Grenada? Not sure what their plans are next…

      7. Lisa Dorenfest ~ One Ocean At A Time Avatar

        …I’ve since found out that the boats in Grenada are getting delvieries at anchor from the marinas.

      8. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Ah right, but not sure if they’re doing this in Curaçao, will message Karel.

      9. Lisa Dorenfest ~ One Ocean At A Time Avatar

        They are OK in Curaçao but limited to landing for groceries. No more exercise for exercise sake.

      10. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        At least they can go on shore for supplies but not allowing to exercise is a pain. How are you guys going?

      11. Lisa Dorenfest ~ One Ocean At A Time Avatar

        We are good. On the fence about keeping put in the marina (comfortable but boring and exposed to hurricanes) or hiring a mooring ball at Puerto Escondido for the hurricane season, but exploring the Sea when weather permits. You’d think I was making the decision of whether or not to set sail for the first time in my life. Craziness. How are you holding up

      12. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Sounds like a good dilemma to be in right now… 😉
        Remember the hurricane season officially starts from the 1st June(?).
        Things aren’t as strict as in other countries…yet, but think it’s a matter of time. Although, our powers that be seem to praise the numbers in Oz, which tends to make people complacent…

  7. Blogging_with_Bojana Avatar

    I’d gladly take that dive. Just stunning.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Yeah, wish it happened but not to be and will have to return one day. Although, it’s expensive to visit the island unless you’re in your own boat.
      Many thanks for your feedback!

      1. Blogging_with_Bojana Avatar

        You’re so welcome.

  8. Mohamad Toutounji Avatar

    This one was quite interesting Nilla
    Keep going

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you Mohamad!

      1. Mohamad Toutounji Avatar

        You are most welcome Nilla

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