Visiting Gold Coast in Queensland? Don’t miss a day trip to Lady Elliot Island — the most picturesque highlight!
As I carefully trod on a million broken shells, I experienced a soft touch of the residual waves caressing my feet and playfully slipping the sand from underneath my sole.
I looked at the chirpy turquoise blue waters around me and suddenly realised why Lady Elliot Island is considered as a mecca for snorkels and divers. I was not even 10 steps away from the beach and the beautiful coral life had already started. It stretched for as far as I could see. A few dozen colourful, tiny fishes had moreover approached me before suddenly disappearing into nothingness!
I remember when an invitation from Queensland Tourism landed in my inbox, asking me if I would be interested in exploring the Gold Coast region during a few days of an action-packed journey, the first thing that came to my mind, before even checking out the itinerary, was snorkelling in the Great Barrier Reef.
For any scuba diver, exploring the Great Barrier Reef is the holy grail, and I was no different. Then a quick read of the itinerary and my anticipation turned into a sweet reality. On the last day of our 5-day trip, we were going Gold Coast to Lady Elliot Island.
It was quite an experience – almost as much fun as my scuba diving experience in India.
Lady Elliot Island Trip
And then the last day happened, and I found myself sitting groggily at the hotel reception waiting to be picked up around quarter to 6.
The hotel transfer to the private flight terminal of Lady Elliot Island, in Gold Coast, was a total blackout, but as soon as we got into our charter plane and took off, things became interestingly unavoidable.
The surreal ariel views of the entire Gold Coast, North and South Stradbroke Islands, Moreton Island and Fraser Island as we slowly made our way to Lady Elliot Island kept hold of me.
We flew over white sand beaches, beautiful suburbs, periodic cliffs and of course, an eternal turquoise sea. And since it was a small chartered plane and didn’t fly much higher (like big planes do) spotting life on land was easier.
It was much better than having a business-class flight experience.
Located about 450km north of the Gold Coast the flight to Lady Elliot Island takes almost 100 minutes from the Gold Coast, and 80 minutes from Redcliffe in Brisbane.
Snorkeling At Great Barrier Reef: Lady Elliot Island
Located at the southernmost tip of the Great Barrier Reef, Lady Elliot Island is known (among those who know about it!) for its unspoiled coral life. Its remote location on the edge of the continental shelf gives it the clearest water on the reef and also some of the best marine life.
Lady Elliot Island is moreover particularly popular for its manta rays — in fact, there are consistently more resident manta rays here than virtually anywhere else on the planet. But during our visit to the island, and two equal 30-minute snorkelling episodes we, unfortunately, could not spot any.
On a brighter note, however, we got to swim with a turtle — and that too, not just once but thrice. As unreal as it may sound, the experience of floating with the turtle and even going underwater with it for a few brief seconds (as I held my breath) was an experience of a lifetime.
It appeared that the turtle was not at all afraid or bothered to be swimming right beside me — after all, I was in his world, and he was the king!
If you end up visiting Lady Elliot Island between February to April, you can even experience turtle hatching.
Other than turtles, we explored the beautifully diverse coral of the Great Barrier Reef with fishes of all colour and sizes and shapes appearing suddenly before gracefully disappearing into the vast sea. The visibility was also as good as 20+ meters away.
Day Trip To The Lady Elliot Island: The Itinerary
Upon arrival at Lady Elliot Island (after a 15 min hotel to Lady Elliot Island’s private flight terminal in the Gold Coast and a 100min flight) our guide took us on a brief orientation tour of the island before escorting us to the Day Guest facilities to collect our snorkel equipment.
Please note that all snorkelling equipment (for day-trippers as well as those who are staying at the island) is included in the price so no need to carry anything with you but just your daily essentials and a swimsuit. Even sunscreen and flip-flops are provided so wear shoes if you want to and forget about them getting wet.
Once done, we had a 20-minute boat ride to the snorkelling spot, in the glass-bottom boat, making the journey interesting to another level. As we finished the snorkelling tour and got back to the island (which took a total of 2 hours) we had time to either explore more of the island, relax on a beach, play volleyball or snorkel at another destination. We chose to snorkel (for another half an hour) — following which was a hot and cold buffet lunch waiting for us.
Post lunch, we had a guided stroll across Lady Elliot Island’s nursery — the very reason for any vegetation on the island and a brief fish-feeding session.
The entire tour started around 8.45 in the morning (after our arrival at Lady Elliot Island) and finished at 2.30 in the afternoon (before catching our flight back to the mainland).
How Much Does Lady Elliot Island Trip Cost
If you’re wondering how much Gold Coast to Lady Elliot Island trip costs, let me tell you that during my visit it was 800AUD per person. Though this price for a day trip from Gold Coast may sound too much given the experiences I found it worth the money.
I mean if you Google how much it cost to fly to Lady Elliot island, you will probably see huge money for a return ticket for a 100 min flight. Now if you compare the cost to fly to Lady Elliot Island and the experiences you get to do there on a day trip with 800AUD, it won’t seem that high. Gold Coast to Lady Elliot Island trip to Lady Elliot Island is certainly worth it.
- All-day Lady Elliot Island trips can be booked directly from their website (ladyelliot.co.au)
- For day trips, you get your in-flight breakfast, a buffet lunch and a tea snack after the finish of the tour, so no need to bring any packed lunch.
- You also don’t need to carry thing extra than your swimsuit and a towel. All necessary snorkelling gear as well as sunscreen and reef walking shoes are included in the price and provided happily.
- You can start your tour from one destination (say from the Gold Coast) while in return, choosing to be dropped off at a different destination (eg Brisbane) if informed in advance.
Scared Of Snorkeling?
Though snorkelling is certainly the best part of the entire day trip to Lady Elliot Island, if you’re scared of the waters, it’s still worth a visit. And there are two reasons for it. Actually, there are three:
One reason is the scenic flight to the island, which is a great treat for all the views it has to offer.
The second reason is that the 15-minute boat ride to the snorkelling location (and back) is done in the glass-bottom boat, making it possible for even those who are not getting into the water to explore life underwater in the Great Barrier Reef.
And third, is the nature calendar: visiting during winter to experience feeding the Mantra Ray, visiting between November and March to experience Turtle nesting, and visiting between February to April to experience Turtle hatching. If visiting from June to October, however, you can spot some migrating whales.
Spend At Least A Night
Though most international travelers visiting Lady Elliot Island do only a day trip to Lady Elliot Island, I found that the best charms of the island can be explored only by going a little slower. Plan a one-day trip, and experience the serenity of the place. Though the island has a total occupancy of 150 people (and 100-day visitors) it still feels pretty deserted at all times, offering its guests a near-experience of staying on an island with no life around.
There are different accommodation options to choose from, ranging from eco-cabins to glamping tents to island suites.
A few days of holiday with your family and friends, as you do nothing and lose yourself in the oblivion and the beauty of Lady Elliot Island, you find a world far unparalleled and beautiful.
And hey, did I tell you that there is no phone reception on the entire island? Makes it even better, right?
If you are looking for cheap flight tickets from India (or someplace in Southeast Asia) to the Gold Coast, I will suggest checking out fares for Scoot Airlines. They’ve been flying to the Gold Coast in addition to a few other destinations in Australia for amazingly cheaper prices. I am sure their prices will give you another reason to be planning a holiday to Australia, and to the Gold Coast in particular!
Continue planning your trip to the Gold Coast with my ideal Gold Cold Travel Itinerary
Disclaimer: I was invited by Queensland Tourism for a 5-day trip to the Gold Coast. Though the trip was completely hosted, all recommendations and suggestions are solely my own. I only recommend what I personally try and find worth appreciating.