That’s how we wanted to spend a few weeks of winter, preferably with the kayaks. The first six months of the year had been a long grind in the office. My hands were a mess of paper cuts – one of the hazards of paper shuffling for a living. Time for some R & R.
But where? Lizard Island sounded pretty laid back. A friend’s offer to organise a group trip decided the matter. And the kayaking should be good.
In planning our trip, we put into practice everything we’d learnt in sea proficiency and trip leader’s training and what we’d picked up on the water. We checked the likely weather (usually windy but warm), looked at the distances and fitness (mostly short trips poking around the shoreline and surrounding islands) and looked at exit points (plenty of calm beaches round most of the coastline). Then we checked the gear and decided it was unsafe to put to sea due to a complete absence of any seaworthy kayaks (any kayaks at all actually).
You see, it was too damn difficult to get them up there. Too far to drive in the time we had off. We could have freighted the kayaks to Cooktown, flown to Cairns, bused to Cooktown, picked up the kayaks and tried to organise transport to Cape Flattery (a remote mining outpost) and paddled from there (only 20 km). Or maybe we could have just hitched a ride on the next big pink flying pig, which was about as likely to come off as that plan. Anyway, my hands were in no shape for a 20 km paddle and we wanted to stay ten days on the Island and take some luxuries. We could have freighted the kayaks to Cooktown and transferred them to the Island by barge, while flying in to Lizard Island. But it was still going to cost a heap and be a hassle to organise.
So we flew to Lizard Island (narrowly escaping being talked into buying a 50% share of a 4-man yellow plastic inflatable dinghy – the sort of dinghy that would have travelled at about 40 knots per hour in the 30 knot wind that we had some days), hauled our 70-odd kilos of food and gear 2 km down the beach to the campsite and spend 10 days leisurely snorkelling, fishing and walking in a snorkeler’s/fisher’s/walker’s/kayaker’s paradise.
What’s There: An exclusive resort where the prices start at $650.00 per person per night for everything except drinks. A more exclusive National Parks campsite limited to 20 people only with an all-inclusive price of $3.50 per person per night (yes, this includes one of 4 separate tent sites that would each struggle to fit 2 small tents, a 2 ring gas stove, pit toilet and a water pump).
Plenty of beaches, plenty of good snorkelling, fishing in very limited (difficult to access) areas, a reef research station, an air strip and a staff bar (which is outside the resort and is open once a week).
Camping is by permit and these are all booked up months beforehand. However, the price of flying to Lizard Island is high (around $400.00 from Cairns) due to the resort being located there, so bookings are often not used once people learn the transport costs. The island is scrubby and does not lend itself to camping. ‘Emergency bivouacking’ on other beaches around the island may be possible, but the resort would stop any free camping pretty quickly.
If you are paddling through, numerous small aviation companies fly to Lizard Island on a daily basis and will (for a price) drop supplies at the airstrip.