The Ultimate Guide to Lady Elliot Island

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Originally Published on Aqua & Ink by Katrina Luder

As with any birthday, my weekend at Lady Elliot Island has been added to a bank of long-lasting memories. A cluster of days I truly never want to forget. What was intended as a surprise birthday trip came to my knowledge shortly after my boyfriend decided he could no longer contain his excitement… We’ve all been there! Yet even with all of this anticipation bubbling between us, I had absolutely NO idea what to expect from this island in the middle of the sea.

I often think in life that little to no expectations always pays in your favour. Every element of this trip felt like a surprise and each part of my Lady Elliot Island weekend was filled with adventure.

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Scenic Flight
The only way to arrive onto Lady Elliot Island is by scenic flight. For the not-so-confident flyers like myself, this was already the first hurdle to overcome. But let me tell you, there’s something way more soothing being on a plane that’s flying over the ocean allowing you to spot Humpback Whales breaching out of the water beneath you than those jumbo jets! As the birthday girl, I was given the privilege of sitting in the front seat in the Captain’s box. This only added to the experience and I genuinely had ZERO time to be scared.

Overcome my fear of flying, CHECK!

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Where can you fly from?
Lady Elliot Island has made their island super accessible. You can catch a scenic flight from Brisbane, Gold Coast, Surfers Paradise and Hervey Bay. I boarded from the latter, and the flight time was just 40 minutes! Just enough time to spot Whales, but not enough time to get bored!

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How big is the island?
The island is pretty tiny! You can walk around the circumference of the island in just 40 minutes and across it from East to West in just 10 minutes! Google tells me it’s 45 hectares, but I’m not too good at judging sizes in hectares. The island is small enough that you can explore the whole island and indulge in every single one of the amazing activities on offer without compromise. Want to snorkel on the West Side (The lighthouse), spot Whales on the North side, swim with turtles in the East Side (lagoon) and then feel the sand between your toes South-side… But only have one day? No worries! It’s totally achievable.

However, I would highly recommend a couple of nights to fully experience what the island has to offer.

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The Accommodation
Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort is the ONLY resort on the island. Lady Elliot has gone for quality over quantity and it definitely pays off. The resort is not five stars, it is simple but well thought out. If you’re after The Four Seasons, then this place is not for you… But if you want comfortable accommodation, good service, great food in a place where you can pretty much see Whales from your bedroom, then I think you’d get on with Lady Elliot just nicely.

The accommodation is divided into four levels of luxury. I stayed in the basic eco cabins, which are perfectly comfortable, with a lush bed and everything you need. This is where I stayed and it definitely beats backpacker accommodation by a mile! Other options include the two bedroom island suites, the reef units and the garden units, which all vary in luxury levels and can suit families or group needs as well as being sturdier structures than our tented walls.

As a frugal traveller, I felt the eco cabins were perfect. You really don’t spend too much time in your bedroom so as long as its comfy enough to sleep in and clean enough to get ready for the day, then I’m sold! If you’re used to backpacker dorm rooms and skanky mattresses, the eco huts will feel like a palace!

Unfortunately I forgot to take pics of our eco cabin (oops!). Check out their website for more pics here. 

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What makes the island so special?
This island is all about nature and that’s honestly what makes for such a magical holiday. The island marine biologists (who also double up as the activity staff) can answer all your questions about what’s moving in front of your snorkel mask!

David Attenborough recently made a killer documentary (all hail Attenborough and the soothing sound of his voice) about ‘The Great Barrier Reef’ where he featured Lady Elliot Island. No, not because he really enjoyed sinking a cold one in the bar (a must do on the island), but because Lady Elliot Island has one of the largest colonies of Manta Rays in the world. During the months between May and August, the Manta Rays especially like the reef around the island as it contains cleaning stations for the Rays.

However this doesn’t mean that these beautiful kites of the sea won’t be there in other months too! No matter what season you go in, there is always fascinating marine life to see. You wont be able to move for wildlife, whether it’s the birds singing in the trees above you, or the marine life that is tickling the coral beneath you.

Can you tell I like the sea? 😉

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What’s in the package?
There are various packages depending on time of the year and special deals they promote. We went for a 3 night package including return scenic flights, breakfast and dinner buffet. This was honestly the perfect amount of time, although I definitely could have stayed longer. We did everything we wanted to on the island, still had time to chill and read a book, witnessed 3 epic sunrises and sampled everything from the epic buffet.

Also included in the package is a glass bottom boat trip which is a great way to understand the marine life around you with the water-sports team.

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Food
As you guys know, there’s two things I love most in life… being honest and food. With that in mind, the food was pretty good… But it wasn’t groundbreaking. Breakfast and dinner on the island is served in buffet form and is already included in your package if you’re staying overnight on the Island. There is so much on offer and the quality of the food is pretty good considering it’s a buffet.

However, I wouldn’t say you’re going to be sampling a luxurious standard of food… but I do think that buffets are a hard thing to make Michelen-star standard. They do extremely well considering the amount of people that pass through the dinner hall each day, but of course food can be a bit cold sometimes and your dinner plate can end up looking like a bomb site when you try to pile everything on.

Our package meant we had to pay for lunch ourselves, so we side stepped the buffet and indulged in the bar menu burgers, catch of the day, calamari and sweet potato wedges. I didn’t have the healthiest few days, but hey ho it’s a holiday! Just for the record, the bar food was wonderful, fresh and well presented. For all you vegetarian/Gluten Free warriors, I did see plenty of options on the menu that catered for you guys.

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Snorkel Safari
In another post here, I have spoken about whether to snorkel or dive on Lady Elliot Island, so go check that out if you haven’t already! But here I’ll give you a little taste of what I would recommend on the island… the amazing snorkel safari!

It comes at an extra fee of $30 per person, whereas the glass bottom boat is free… however it’s a pretty exhilarating $30 to spend so I’d definitely recommend it. The watersports team takes you out on the boat where you go spotting for life in the water. You stand on the side of the boat ready to jump in and encounter the marine life. We saw so many whales and we were trying to snorkel alongside them, but unfortunately the whales wanted some time alone so we just couldn’t catch up to them! We did however swim with 3m long nurse sharks, spotted eagle rays, manta rays, turtles, a huge school of Trivially and awesome tropical fish! So… It was worth it.

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Let me know if you go!
If any of you guys want any more advice, drop me a message through my contact form or contact me on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. I would love to see if you guys go to this amazing Island and see your photos… The island is pretty Instagram-worthy!

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