Australia – Lizard Island, Bedarra and Hayman Island

Australia - Lizard Island, Bedarra and Hayman Island

Australia’s coast is rich in private-island hotels, notably Lizard Island (pictured). The northernmost and most isolated of Queensland’s island resorts, 17 miles offshore, this is the only one with direct access to the Great Barrier Reef and from which you can snorkel right off its 24 beaches. There are all sorts of boat excursions on offer: diving (not least to the fabled Cod Hole), snorkelling, and big-game fishing.

At first glance the hotel is slightly unprepossessing, with accommodation for 80 in white-painted wooden hut-like structures with white corrugated-iron pitched roofs (opt for a villa if you crave seclusion), and not-very-private verandahs, which you may find yourself sharing with one of the prehistoric monitor lizards after which the island is named. But the interiors are stylish and comfortable in a contemporary, understated way, the desert-island setting is sensational and the sunsets are spectacular, especially if you’re allocated one of the rooms on Sunset Ridge. Be sure to do the four-hour return hike to the island’s high point, Cook’s Look, named after Captain Cook who discovered it.

Lizard Island has an area of almost 10 sq km, compared with which Bedarra is a mere speck of a place. Four kilometres off the coast of Queensland, it is cloaked in a luxuriant jungle of banyans, tree ferns, lianas and vines, and girded with white-sand beaches. With just 16 villas (the treetop pavilions, where the private plunge pools appear to be suspended from the decks, are the most alluring), there are never more than 32 guests here at once, so you have a pretty good chance of finding one to yourself. The ethos is more about luxury and indulgence than getting close to nature – perhaps because there’s no neighbouring reef, and you’re a 90-minute boat ride from a dive site.

The most northerly of the Whitsundays, the newly renovated Hayman Island is an altogether bigger and glitzier proposition, with acres of marble, and 244 rooms, suites and penthouses where the decor is influenced by Louis XVI, Venetian, Moroccan and Mediterranean styles. The French Penthouse, for example, incorporates not just a grand piano but a fireplace, lest it suddenly turn chilly in the tropics. So, while it may be a private island (it used to belong to the aviation entrepreneur Reg Ansett) it feels like quite a populated one, inhabited as it is by a staff of 500, for whose children there is even an island school.