• Photo: Peter Guttman/Peterguttman.com

Lizard Island

The small, upscale resort on secluded Lizard Island is the farthest north of any Barrier Reef hideaway. At 2,500 acres, virtually all of it protected as a national park, it's larger than and quite different from other islands in the region. Composed mostly of granite, Lizard has a remarkable diversity of vegetation and terrain: grassy hills give way to rocky slabs interspersed with valleys of rain forest.

Ringed by two-dozen white-sand beaches, the island has some of the best fringing coral in the region. Excellent walking trails lead to lookouts with spectacular views of the coast. The island’s highest point, Cook's Look (1,180 feet), is the historic spot from which, in August 1770, Captain Cook finally spotted a safe passage through the reef that had held his vessel captive for a thousand miles. Large monitor lizards, after which the island is named, often bask in this area.

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