I love the Great Barrier Reef, every time you see it from the air you have to marvel at its size and beauty. There is a special feeling when you land in the tropics of northern Queensland and see the mango trees, sugar cane, palm trees and thick tropical rainforest, with some of the most exuberant luxury lodges in Australia harbouring on its pristine shores.  When you jump aboard a charter or scheduled flight and are heading out to the reef there is always a heightened sense of anticipation.

There is definitely something unique about spending time on a Great Barrier Reef Island. Maybe it’s the thought of relaxing for a few days and just soaking up the sun but I rather feel it’s because you know that you are spending time in one of the world’s most remarkable natural gifts, the largest coral reef in the world.

If you are going to visit the reef, which should be a must do on everybody’s bucket list then here are my favourite Australian luxury lodges in no particular order.

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1. Lizard Island

situated near the legendary Outer Reef, Lizard Island is renowned for its marine diversity and water clarity making it a diver’s paradise. On my last visit to Lizard a quick snorkel in front of the lodge before evening drinks revealed 3 sea turtles within arm’s reach and a seabed littered with giant clams. Lizard Island became iconic in the late 70’s and early 80’s as the base for fishing the fabled giant black marlin. Names such as Lee Marvin, Jimmy Carter, Ernest Borgnine and Jack Nicklaus were regulars in these waters and contributed greatly to putting the region on the map. Today the island has lost none of its lustre and is a must for anybody wanting to dive on the Great Barrier Reef.

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2. Qualia

no expense has been spared at Qualia and it shows with every little detail thought of. From the moment you walk through the entrance of the luxury property and see the awesome view you feel relaxation spread through your body. On my last visit I was fortunate enough to take the lodges private boat Atomic to the beautiful Whitehaven beach and cruise the islands of the Whitsundays. This is a day to truly remember from the great skipper, to snorkelling the pristine waters, a beautiful gourmet picnic on the beach and exploring the myriad of islands that dot the region. It seems one view outdoes the next – no wonder Oprah stayed on her recent visit. A day trip by helicopter to the reef is something to savour as you cruise above this natural spectacle until you land on the pontoon and see it up close. Qualia Island has many great features, including direct access by from most major cities in Australia. There is something special about the Whitsundays that makes it a place you vow to return to. With a list of activities as long as your arm including world class golf, diving, fishing charters and a superb spa this is place for those wanting some true R&R in a setting to die for.

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3. Bedarra Island

Bedarra is what you dream about in a tropical island. A gorgeous beach, stunning villas combined with impeccable service. Bedarra is designed for chilling out in style! With only 16 rooms it is intimate and offers a feeling of truly getting away. On my last visit I will never forget the postcard beach we arrived at followed by a short walk to the impressive lodge and handed an ice cold towel and a tropical cocktail to sip – what an entrance! Bedarra offers great activities and you can dive the reef from here however it is designed as a haven for those looking to relax and unwind. This is the perfect spot for those looking to take a step back and enjoy wonderful service in an idyllic tropical setting.

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4. Haggerstone Island

If you are seeking 5 star service, hot showers, chocolates on the pillows and fancy spas don’t go! But if you are looking for adventure on a true island paradise then this place is like a dream come true. It has been called beach chic, rustic, Robinson Crusoe and more but it is just plain good fun. Owner Roy Turner is a real live Crocodile Dundee and adventure is his lifeblood, whether it being exploring world war 2 wrecks, diving with turtles, snorkelling the pristine reef, beachcombing, spotting crocs or fishing for Barramundi – Roy will have you on the go from the moment you arrive. I must admit this is one of my favourite spots in Australia and there are long list of A-listers that think so too. In the evening Roy cooks up some of the most memorable feasts you will ever see and the theatre of him cooking the freshest seafood combined with herbs and tropical vegetables all from the island is a site not forgotten. On my last trip to Haggerstone Island we flew by chopper to a secluded tidal river caught fresh barramundi and made beer battered Barra and washed it down with chilled French wine. This is something that you will remember for a lifetime. Likewise Roy pulled up the boat when we were on the reef and said just be a minute dived down and re-emerged with a huge painted cray (lobster) and preceded to cook it for us there and then on the boat. Its moments like these that make this place truly unique and for lovers of adventure this is a must. The location is indescribably beautiful, the reef incredible and with only 4 rooms why not rent your own island paradise! If you do you will never forget it and I guarantee you will return.

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5. Wilson Island

My smoky is Wilson Island. As the marketing says “Island for Rent” with capacity only for 12 guests this is certainly the place to be shipwrecked in style. With no mobile service guests need surrender to nature on this stunning coral cay. If you have always dreamed of renting your own island this is certainly the place to do it. Surrounded by tropical underwater marine gardens, seabirds and turtles this place will have you chilled out in no time. Great for groups wanting to experience tropical isolation in a setting straight from a national geographic documentary. You will sleep in designer inspired tents and superb staff will anticipate your every need – so why not take up the offer and rent the island!

*May 2017 – Since writing this post, Wilson Island is no longer included in our catalogue. We would like to thank Wilson Island team for looking after our guests during such a long time and wish them all the best in their future projects.

Bio pic of Drew Kluska

About Drew Kluska

Managing Director – Drew was raised on a property in rural South Australia before attending boarding school and university in Adelaide majoring in Agricultural Science. Drew travelled to Kenya in 1996 and found himself hosting guests at one of the flagships of East African tourism, Lewa Downs Wildlife Conservancy. It was this experience that prompted him to found The Tailor in 1998, showcasing the best of Australia through the eyes of those who know it best ‘The Locals’, whilst always maintaining an exceptional standard of quality in all areas. Drew’s passion has led to The Tailor growing to be one of the largest luxury travel companies in Australia and rated as one of the “Best Adventure Travel Companies On Earth” and “Number ONE in Australia” by National Geographic Adventure USA .
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