The Ultimate Great Barrier Reef Escape
We’d be surprised if a Great Barrier Reef island escape didn’t feature on your travel bucket list; the world’s largest coral reef system and a UNESCO World Heritage Site is the stuff island dreams are made of. With 900 islands to discover though, deciding where to stay can be tricky - that’s where we love to help.
By WALK INTO LUXURY
Walk into Luxury specialises in luxury journeys to the best of Australia including reef escapes, beachfront lodges and luxury liveaboard cruises, so we are ideally placed to recommend the best accommodation for your Great Barrier Reef adventure. We will always be happy to make a personal recommendation based on your specific wish list and travel group, but our top five Great Barrier Reef islands and luxury accommodation picks are a great start to planning your escape.
Orpheus Island is an exclusive private island resort situated around 30 minutes by helicopter from Townsville or 90 mins from Cairns. It’s a great option for families, with no minimum age for guests visiting with children. It is also perfect for couples, with just 16 rooms on the island ensuring privacy and experiences such as a private dinner on the jetty offering that romantic island dining experience perfect for special occasions.
Orpheus is an all-inclusive stay where guests enjoy daily guided activities such as snorkelling trips to beautiful bays by boat, sunset cruises and fishing as part of their stay. Gourmet dining with Australian wines is also included. The staff here are well-known for their service and ensuring all guests have the holiday of a lifetime. The lodge is open year-round, although it’s recommended to visit between April and October for warm, dry conditions and to avoid stingers.
For the best room when staying here choose the North Beachfront Suite which has a coral sea backdrop; or the North Beachfront Villa offers the same picturesque setting with two bedrooms to cater for a family or group of friends.
A particularly unique opportunity of Orpheus is to visit nearby Hinchinbrook Island to hike Zoe Falls along the Thorsborne Trail. Your reward at the top is a well-deserved and serene dip in the elevated pools above the Falls with breath-taking views across the horizon of the Great Barrier Reef.
Lizard Island is one of the most exclusive islands of the Great Barrier Reef! Accessed via a one-hour flight from Cairns, this private island features only 40 rooms and villas and enough private beaches and coves for guests to enjoy days exploring the reef in or on the water in complete privacy. Complimentary motorised dinghy’s, kayaks, snorkelling gear and SUP boards are included, and a deluxe picnic hamper can be prepared for you to take on your explorations for that Robinson Crusoe feeling. It doesn’t all have to be about the water either – challenge yourself to a hike up to Cook’s Look for sensational elevated views or opt for the Blue Lagoon Walk for a more gentle adventure.
The resort’s ocean-view and beach villas have breath-taking views, some with private plunge pools for the best accommodation option. There is a wonderful onsite spa; and the food and wine experience on the island is second to none, with sunset beachside dining options and an excellent bar and restaurant to choose from. You’ll want for nothing at this all-inclusive luxury lodge.
Catering for adults and families with children over 10 years, we’d recommend staying between April and October to avoid the heat and humidity of the wet season and stingers. Insider tip: occasionally Lizard Island welcomes younger families during the school holidays; please enquire for details.
The only non-island included in our top five is Thala Beach; a beachfront nature reserve overlooking Oaks Beach located just 10 minutes from Port Douglas. This special resort provides the perfect location for a beachfront stay with easy access to the best of the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest. The accommodation is environmentally sensitive with unique timber bungalows perched on stilts above the forest floor, some with stunning Coral Sea views.
Thala Beach is a great family-friendly resort with no minimum guest age. You’ll all love dining amongst the treetops at Osprey's Restaurant and complimentary wildlife walks and star gazing nights are a special part of any Thala Beach stay.
Thala is also our top choice if you’re travelling with limited time and wish to combine the best highlights of Tropical North Queensland into the one trip. Walk into Luxury can design a private journey taking in the best of both the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest with its exclusive experience options and personal relationships. The Superyacht Marina in Port Douglas is only 10 minutes away for sunset sailing trips and you can be collected from Thala Beach by helicopter and whisked to a private island sand cay for a swim and beach picnic or to the top of a waterfall in the Daintree. The best snorkelling sites on the inner and outer reef are accessible on boat trips departing daily from Port Douglas or Walk into Luxury can arrange a private boat charter to the Great Barrier Reef for your family or group.
Best time to stay here is March to November, although to avoid stingers opt to go between June and October.
Qualia is situated on the northernmost tip of Hamilton Island, one of the largest islands of the Whitsundays group of islands on the Great Barrier Reef.
Known for its exceptional service, Qualia is an iconic Australian resort, where the food and wine is second to none serving seasonal local produce at qualia’s fine dining restaurant Pebble Beach - just one of the high quality dining options on offer. Try out Qualia’s signature experience ‘Talk & Taste’ and travel on a unique culinary journey.
The most popular room type is the Windward Pavilion, which features a private sundeck and plunge pool overlooking the Coral Sea – you can even cast your eye out across the water from your bathtub here. The two-bedroom Beach House is a great option for families seeking a luxury island escape; although please note, this is only available to families with older teens from 16 years and over.
A day trip to Whitehaven Beach is a must while staying here, with golf and spa relaxation also popular activities for guests.
- Capella Lodge - Lord Howe Island
Our final selection is Capella Lodge, located on Lord Howe Island on the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef System. Lord Howe Island is accessed by a 2-hour flight from Sydney. The vast distance from our previous ‘top picks’ means Capella Lodge is in the subtropics and a good option year-round. Conditions are milder here so you can expect less humidity and cooler temperatures in the winter months than in Tropical North Queensland.
Capella Lodge offers a stylish lodge escape surrounded by World Heritage Listed wilderness. The luxury villas, many with hot tub or plunge pool, are a perfect base for discovering the island, and guests can expect gourmet food and wine each evening with views to Mount Gower from the dining room.
Lord Howe Island is completely unique and has been described as ‘Like living inside a David Attenborough documentary’. It's hard to believe this small island can possibly be home to so much diversity in landscape and wildlife, from sandy beaches home to vibrant marine life to sheer volcanic peaks and lush rainforests featuring rare endemic bird species like the blue-footed booby. Lord Howe Island is an adventure-lover’s playground, with stunning beaches to snorkel, mountains to climb, and the compact island able to be circumnavigated by bike or in part on foot. Mount Gower, the highest peak on the island, is considered one of the best day walks in Australia and is a must for adventurous guests visiting the island.