A REMOTE ECO RESORT IN THE GREAT BARRIER REEF, PERFECT FOR COUPLES OR FAMILIES AND WON’T COST THE EARTH (PUN INTENDED).
This tropical, eyegasm guide comes from our October long weekend last year at Lady Elliot Island, the southernmost island at the foot of the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland. Not many people know about this gorgeous place (and we have to admit, before Andrew’s parents invited us to come along, neither had we), but it is the perfect weekend getaway. Particularly if you like inexpensive, protected eco resorts where there’s nothing else to do but snorkel the reef and relax!
The journey for us in getting to Lady E starts with Hervey Bay. Hervey Bay itself is a quiet little town well worth a visit, it’s best known for whale watching during Winter or early Spring (also see our Hervey Bay guide here). If you’ve got a few days extra in HB, we also recommend hiring bikes and riding up the beach boardwalk and stopping in at the Coast Restaurant on your way through. You can do day trips to Fraser Island and Lady Elliot by boat, or it’s about a 30 minute scenic flight. Andrew flew up a couple of days earlier to meet his parents and go whale watching, before I headed up on the Friday morning. Believe me, 4 hours and 3 flights from Sydney, were oh so worth it for this tropical paradise!
- Getting there Fly direct to Hervey Bay from Sydney with Qantas or Virgin (or via Brisbane for other capital cities). Then see 'where to stay' for resort details for flight/stay packs. Day trips are also available.
- Where to stay Prices starting from $625pp for 2 nights including scenic flights ex Hervey Bay or Bundaberg, eco cabin and all food, activities, equipment. Cheaper camping options also available.
- What to do Snorkel, snorkel, snorkel. Diving options are also available just let them know in advance. Nature walks, full buffet breakfast and dinner. Swim with turtles, manta rays, billions of fish, coral reefs etc.
- How much See the resort page on our 'Where to stay' section for all the deals and packages. All up the 2/3 day weekend might cost around $1500 per couple. More for longer stays obviously.
So that little lady over there is Lady Elliot and this is the view from the 30min plane ride from Hervey Bay. The eco resort is the only accommodation on the island and they keep their numbers limited, so you can pretty much have the place to yourself. Now I’m not saying the resort is up there with Qualia, or any of the fancy resorts in the farther north islands of the GBR, but neither is the price tag. Prices start from $545pp for 2 nights, which includes return airfares from Hervey Bay, breakfast and dinner for both days, beach cabin, a glass bottom boat ride, island tours and activities, plus all the snorkelling one can handle. And best of all, you’re protecting the environment as she lies within a Marine National Park ‘Green Zone’ (and forms part of Australia’s World Heritage Listed Area), which is what keeps her looking so good.
I think by this stage I was starting to giggle with excitement as firstly, Andrew and his parents were already there (I was only meeting them for the second time ever btw) and two, well two’s pretty obvious – just look at it! Of course Fiji and Thailand have some beautiful spots to dive and snorkel, but this place is cheap and easy enough to get to for the weekend. Oh – and right in our very own backyard!
Lady Elliot Island is regarded as one of the best snorkelling and diving destinations on the Great Barrier Reef. The island is situated within the highest protection zone of the Great Barrier Reef and is a haven for marine life including manta rays, turtles, whales, dolphins, sharks and the entire cast of Finding Nemo. Over 1,200 different species of marine life can be found around the Island. From beginners to advanced snorkellers (and divers), you will experience the true wonder of the Great Barrier Reef without the need for a long boat trip. Basically because it’s all right here!
The cabins at the resort are about 5 metres from where you snorkel, some closer and with a view. There’s tents too if you’re on a budget, plus you don’t tend to spend a lot of time in your room anyway, so most of the amenities are pretty basic (but seriously who cares? Kate Middleton… maybe). The breakfast and dinner are served as a buffet at certain times, the food was good, but you’re not really here for the fine dining either. You’re here to be close to a beautifully protected part of nature. You can snorkel, dive or get in the glass bottom boat ride, kayak, go on a guided walking tour of the island – there’s plenty to do plus it’s particularly a great spot for kids! After dinner the hosts of the island put on activities like trivia, or you can play pool, go star gazing, it’s pretty laid back and that’s kind of its charm. You’d also be surprised how worn out you can get from snorkelling for 8 hours, so you don’t really need all the bells and whistles of a fancy resort. It’s just good ole fashion family fun.
There are two options for snorkelling on Lady Elliot. One side has deep diving, wide-open ocean, teeming with huge gropers and manta rays. But we preferred the shallow reef, only swimmable during high tide. Here you can float just above the coral with schools of small fish, vibrant starfish, and the occasional small turtles who happily nibble on seaweed while you scratch their shells. Which ever one you choose just remember to take the GoPro!
Or if by some chance you all these activities are making you exhausted, you can also just plop yourself up on the beach with a book and take in the views.
If you’re thinking about heading to Lady Elliot Island please check out all the flight and accommodation packages ‘where to go’ section. Coming very soon to the site you’ll be able to download a more packaged version of this guide that you can take with you, as well as some him/her/blank printed guides for that special gift in our soon to be shop.
Of course we’re only two people and can’t get to see everything that this beautiful island has to offer so if you have any other tips feel free to leave them in the comments below as we’d love to hear from you. And if you can’t get enough of the area we’ll shortly be bringing you our whale watching adventures from Hervey Bay during Winter last year. Happy holidaying everybody!