Lady Elliot Island – Don’t Miss This Great Barrier Reef Island

Lady Elliot Island & Why I Had to Go There

If you’re like me, seeing the Great Barrier Reef has been an actual bucket list item for as long as you can remember. I grew up watching so much Animal Planet that I cannot believe I don’t work directly with animals for my profession. So, when I found cheap tickets to Australia (thanks Next Vacay you da best) I had to figure out how to get to the GBR. Our trip covered Brisbane, Gold Coast, and Sydney (aka not near most popular reef spots) but I was dead set on a way to see the reef in the time we had. It was later in the planning process I discovered Lady Elliot Island, but I’m BEYOND glad I did. This two days in marine life heaven ended up being my favorite part of my trip to Australia.

A Little About Lady Elliot Island

After a bunch of research (I’m not exaggerating, I did so much goddamn research) I discovered Lady Elliot Island; a small, remote island that is at the very southern end of the Great Barrier Reef. I knew I would get my reef fix in, but would I also get my animal fix? Luckily, the island is known as the “Home of the Manta Ray” and is along a popular whale resting ground. It has been featured in countless documentaries so I knew I would see the marine life I craved.

Why I Chose Lady Elliot Island

I chose Lady Elliot Island over other southern Great Barrier Reef islands for the following four reasons:

  • The number one answer here is geography. My trip to Australia covered southeast Australia, and I simply didn’t have the time to fly up to Cairns. And when comparing against other islands, Lady Elliot just won out as far as activities and lodging.
  • It was truly between Lady Musgraves and Lady Elliot Island, but Musgraves only allowed camping. I am not much of a camper, so I chose Lady Elliot Island because it had a hotel.
  • I found an incredible two-day deal out of Gold Coast that included the flight and hotel stay, but you can also do day visits!
  • Sir David Attenborough himself loved his time on the island, so I knew I was going to be in good hands.
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Where You’ll Stay – Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort

There is only one hotel on the island; the Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort. The hotel prides itself on being incredibly sustainable (“eco” is in the name, after all) and has activities galore. To be clear, this is not a luxury hotel; it’s honestly more like a summer camp. However, if you’re into the idea of summer camp on a private island, this place is for you. You stay in huts, go to the shared buildings for any bathroom needs, and enjoy a buffet for your meals. Our hut had two bunk beds since there were three of us visiting, and this worked out well. It’s really about the simple life here; your room is not why you came in the first place.

Two Days on Lady Elliot Island

Day One

We left Gold Coast at about 6:30am on our flight, and arrived about 90 minutes later. So we unpacked and started our day which obviously was going to be getting in that goddamn water and seeing that goddamn reef! I bought a GoPro for this SPECIFICALLY and was absolutely going to take so many pictures and videos of this amazing environment.

There were so many options for snorkeling or scuba diving! We snorkeled for probably four or five hours starting starting on a glass bottom boat tour where we saw A MANTA RAY, sting rays, eagle rays, turtles, and so much fish. I wasn’t able to capture all of them clearly on my GoPro (I was a newbie then, #sadface) but here’s me rocking it with a turtle.

After some lunch back in the dining center, we went back out to one area and snorkeled on our own for another two or three hours. Here, I saw sharks(!), turtles, a puffer fish, and AN OCTOPUS CHANGE COLORS. I am still not over seeing that happen in real life even if I didn’t catch it on camera. It was THAT rad.

After a full day on the water we came back In. We got ready, had dinner, grabbed a drink, and then watched the sunset on one of the beaches. It was incredible, to say the least.

Day Two

Day two we woke up and went out on another boat tour which took us out to deeper water in the hopes of seeing even more animals, and boy did we. We saw another manta ray, sting rays, eagle rays, turtles, and sharks. It was incredible.

Once this tour was over, we came back and grabbed food. From there, it was time to pack and head back to the mainland.

Should You Go?

To put it bluntly, hell yeah. From just the views of the island from the plane we knew it was going to be incredible. So, TLDR; if you’re looking for a Great Barrier Reef experience, Lady Elliot Island is an INCREDIBLE way to check that off your bucket list. It was an absolute highlight of my life and I’m THRILLED to have been lucky enough to explore it.

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