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Detailed information for pre-arrival

See here for up to date information about COVID-19 safety at LIRS.

How to get food to Lizard Island

Food is ordered in Cairns and delivered to Lizard Island by barge every two weeks (schedule below). You can bring small quantities with you as baggage from Cairns but you must stay within the baggage limit of 25 kg per person which includes cabin baggage.

The following instructions apply only to people who are staying at Lizard Island Research Station. Other island visitors need permission from the Lizard Island Resort to send anything on the barge.

How is food sent on the barge?

The supermarket in Cairns (Coles) will pack your food into boxes labelled with your name and one of three storage categories: freezer, chiller, or ambient. Each box will be stored appropriately on the barge and when it arrives at LIRS. Bread, fresh milk, and meat will be sent frozen rather than chilled. Coles will only pack your food in this way if you have set up the address correctly for "remote delivery" (see Coles Online section below).

All boxes are at ambient temperature during transit between the store and the barge yard in Cairns, and again when being transported across the island on arrival. But this is kept to a minimum and even ice cream usually arrives just fine.

Ordering hints

Many fruit and vegetables survive the journey well and last for the full two weeks, including lettuce and tomatoes. However, your food will be shopped about nine days before it arrives on the island so you should not order items with short shelf life (e.g. fresh berries, bagged salad leaves, bananas, some dairy items) because they are often spoiled or beyond their use-by date by by the time the barge arrives at the island.

While there is substantial refrigerator and freezer storage space at LIRS, it does have a limit and your ordering should take that into account. Order only enough food to last for the period from your arrival to the day the next barge arrives - you should aim to have an almost-empty fridge and freezer by the time barge day comes around. And think about how much bread you really need - almost everyone orders too much.

A long-standing tradition is for everyone at LIRS to have a beach barbecue every Saturday night. This is a bring-your-own-everything event. Please order some suitable food if you'll be at LIRS on a Saturday night.

Timing of orders

The barge is scheduled to arrive on a Thursday every second week. Prior to covid, the barge came directly to Lizard Island from Cairns and it arrived two days food was delivered. Now it goes to other locations first and arrives six days after loading. Occasionally it is held up and may arrive a day later than scheduled. The barge schedule is provided below.

The barge company accepts general freight in Cairns on three days (Tue, Wed, Thu, before 3:30) per fortnight, in the week before barge week. It is not always possible to arrange delivery in such a tight timeframe if sending equipment to Cairns from other places. In that case, freight carriers who have facilities in Cairns (e.g. TNT) will hold your consignment until the delivery window opens. Sea Swift may accept deliveries earlier from carriers who have no other options. Delivery of goods that originate in Cairns (including Dan Murphy's) will only be accepted during the 3-day/fortnight window. The only exception is for food ordered through Coles, which is accepted on the Friday before the barge arrives at Lizard.

Send orders to the suppliers within the period listed in the schedule. Note that the latest time for submitting orders is 10 pm five days before the barge loads. Coles Online does not open for orders until two weeks before the delivery date.

Some visitors will need to send orders for two barges before they arrive at LIRS. An email reminder will be sent to the trip arranger, giving one week's notice to submit your order.

Supplier options

  • Groceries, including fresh fruit and vegetables - order directly through Coles Online.
  • Alcoholic drinks – order online from Dan Murphy’s.

Details on how to order from these suppliers are provided in the next sections on this page.

Food must be ordered through Coles Online. There is a $30 fee for the service irrespective of the order value.

It is now difficult to place Coles Online orders from overseas. Some people have been successful using VPN, others haven't. If you can't place your order from within Australia, please contact LIRS well in advance.

You will need to set up your own account with Coles and pay by credit card. It is critical to set up the delivery address correctly. Because LIRS does not have a standard street address, setting up its address for the Coles account can't be done in the normal way. You will need to contact Coles Customer Care to have them put in the geocode for LIRS as explained below.

It is also critical that your order is checked out correctly for remote delivery.

Step-by-step instructions are provided below for these processes. Coles has also provided its own instructions here: Instructions provided by Coles.


Coles puts a hold on your credit card for the estimated cost of your order when you check out online. The actual charge goes through when the shopping is actually done, which is at least four days later. If your card is declined at that stage, your order is automatically cancelled and there is no way that it can be reinstated in time to be loaded onto the barge.

Your card will be declined if the actual cost exceeds the estimated cost and if there are insufficient funds available to cover the difference. You should ensure that your card has at least a 15% buffer above the cost estimated when you check out online. Glitches can occur even if there are sufficient funds and overseas cards sometimes decline for security reasons.

To start a new Coles account

  • Go to Coles Online and select Log in/ Sign up on the right hand side. At the bottom, select 'sign up'.
  • Enter your details then continue.
  • For the address, enter any real address in Australia. For example, you could use 115 Abbott Street, Cairns, QLD, 4870 which is Cairns Post Office. This is just to enable the system to create an account - the address will be changed later. In the field "Give this address a name", enter something like "Bodgy address for Lizard Island" - this is known as the nickname by Coles. In "Who can we contact?", enter your own details. You can enter the LIRS phone number 0740603977 if you don't have an Australian phone number.
  • Verify that the address you entered is correct and continue. You should get a screen that confirms your account has been set up.
  • Now call Coles Customer Care (1800 455400) to have the address changed. You will need to provide them with your name, the email address and the phone number that you used to set up the account. Explain that the real delivery address is remote and cannot be entered by you. Ask them to enter the address Lizard Island Research Station, Lizard Island, Qld, 4871. They will look up and enter the geocode. Also ask for the nickname to be changed to your name. This is the name that is printed on the box labels and it is needed for sorting the boxes at LIRS.
  • Just so you know, the postcode 4871 is not the correct postcode for Lizard Island. It is one assigned by Coles to indicate remote delivery. It is essential that the postcode for the delivery address is 4871.
  • If you already have an account but don't have an address entered with postcode 4871, contact Customer Care as above to enter the new address.

Checking out and selecting the correct delivery option:

  • Do your shopping, then select 'Choose a delivery time' from the panel on the right.
  • Select 'View remote delivery options' for the address with postcode 4871.
  • From the large number of delivery provider options, scroll down and choose 'Lizard Island barge service'. Do not choose 'Sea Swift'.
  • If you get a message that there are no delivery slots available, you are either trying to check out too early (can only be done on the 6th or 7th day before the delivery date) or you have not selected the correct delivery provider.
  • Select the correct delivery date (i.e. the date the barge loads in Cairns in the table above, the only time option available should be 1 to 5 am).
  • To the right of the list of dates, there are two delivery options that often confuse people. Select 'Remote delivery via Sea Swift, Portsmith, QLD, 4870, 1 to 5 am, $30'. The other option, Delivery, should appear as "not available for Lizard Island".
  • Select 'Trolley and checkout' on the right, review your order then proceed to checkout.
  • In 'Delivery instructions', it is extremely important to enter Lizard Island Research Station. This is the only way they know to send it to LIRS and not the resort.
  • Pay by credit card.
  • It's very important that you have enough credit available on the day they will be shopping your order, which is usually the day before delivery. Coles puts a 'hold' on the estimated value of your order when you check out but the actual cost can be higher when they're actually checking out the goods (e.g. items charged by weight can increase the total). If your card declines when the shopped order is being processed, your order will be cancelled and it will miss the barge. Coles suggests that cards should have 15% more available than the estimated cost of the order.
  • Coles will send confirmation of your order by email - but that is subject to your card processing the charges when your order is shopped.
  • If you have difficulty setting up your account or checking out, call Coles Customer Care on 1800 455 400 from within Australia. Contact LIRS if you are outside of Australia.

In summary, there are two addresses involved in making an order. You set up only one of them in your account: that is the ultimate delivery address which is Lizard Island with the all-important postcode of 4871. When you check out, you need to select that ultimate delivery address and then select the correct pre-set delivery provider, which is listed as "Lizard Island barge service" in the dropdown menu for remote delivery providers.

You can order wine, beer and spirits online from Dan Murphy's. It's important to follow the instructions below to ensure that your order makes it onto the pallet that will be delivered to Sea Swift at the correct time for the barge.

The deadline for Dan Murphy’s orders is 10 pm Sunday in the week that the barge arrives but it’s a good idea to do it earlier, at the same time as the Coles order.

  • Set up your own account on the Dan Murphy’s site.
  • Go shopping; while shopping, set your store as Earlville, Qld (postcode 4870).
  • Go to Checkout.
  • Choose “Pick up” (NOT “Delivery”). You should get the response: 1. Pick up for free from: Dan Murphy's Earlville, and its address.
  • Under 2. When will you pick up your order?, select "Choose a date" and select the appropriate day (see schedule below). Leave "Chill my items" set at No.
  • Still in that section, scroll down to "Who will be collecting". This is the most important step to ensure that your order makes it onto the barge!! Enter First name: "Lizard Is Research" and Last name: your own first and last names.
  • People have repeatedly failed to do this and have entered "Lizard Island" into the address section further down instead. "Lizard Island" MUST be in the name section or your order may not be delivered to the barge.
  • Still under "Who will be collecting", enter your own phone number so they can contact you if necessary, or give the LIRS number 07 40603977 if you will not be contactable.
  • Under "3. Enter your billing details", enter an address just to complete the form. It can be your own (Australian) address or that of LIRS (PMB 37 Cairns Qld 4870). This address has nothing to do with delivery. Don't tick the box for business customer.
  • Under "4. Payment", make the required agreement and pay by card or Paypal.
  • You will get confirmation and a tax invoice straight away by email.
  • Some time later, you will get an email or text message advising that your order is ready to be picked up. You can ignore it. Your order will be delivered to Sea Swift without any further action by you.
  • If you need to change your order or have any queries, use the Dan Murphy chat bot and attempt to get onto a human. They might be able to make changes if the timing allows or put you in contact with the Earlville store if necessary.

LIRS provides the following things for visitors:

  • Kitchens are equipped with all essential cooking and eating utensils. Washing-up detergent, bench wipers and tea towels are provided but not things like cling wrap or paper towels.
  • Bathrooms have a composting toilet and solar hot water shower. Toilet paper is provided but not bath towels, hand towels, beach towels or toiletries.
  • Beds are made for you before you arrive. Visitors are responsible for subsequent washing of sheets.
  • Washing machines, laundry detergent and line-drying facilities are provided.
  • Snorkelling gear is available for hire without pre-booking, including short wetsuits and full length lycra suits.
  • A limited number of dive regulators and BCDs are also available for hire to divers who qualify under LIRS regulations. These should be booked in advance.
  • Laboratory equipment is outlined here.
  • Extensive first aid equipment and supplies are on hand at LIRS but people should bring their own supplies to treat and prevent minor medical issues.
  • The Telstra mobile network is accessible in a limited area close to an antenna at LIRS. No other mobile networks reach Lizard Island.
  • Phone messages will be taken for you on the LIRS office number 07 4060 3977.

There are no shops at Lizard Island so you need to bring everything else you need for your visit, or order it for delivery by barge or mail.

Visitors should consider bringing the following personal items:

  • Swimming gear
  • Sun protection, including sunscreen, hat, and a long-sleeve shirt
  • Bath towel (or two)
  • Personal toiletries and medications
  • Things to treat and prevent common minor medical issues (e.g. paracetamol, bandaids, Betadine antiseptic, ear-drying drops)
  • Snorkelling gear and dive gear (can be hired at LIRS)
  • Minimal clothing for warm weather year-round
  • Warmer top for cool nights between May and September
  • Torch for moonless nights
  • Thongs or sandals for use around the station between October and March as the tracks get very hot
  • Walking shoes and a day pack, if you intend to hike on the island
  • Possibly a light rain jacket between December and May, although it’s warm rain
  • Mosquito repellent (mosquitos are only present after rain; midges can be a problem whenever the weather is calm)
  • Water bottle

Please contact LIRS with any queries about planning your trip.

+61 (0)7 4060 3977


Everyone in Queensland is obliged by law to minimise the biosecurity risks of their activities.

A biosecurity risk is the risk of an adverse affect on the environment, human health, amenity or the economy caused by living things (other than humans), pathogens, disease or contaminants. LIRS minimises the biosecurity risks of its activities by following its Biosecurity Plan. This requires cooperation from suppliers, transport providers, people who stay at LIRS, and other island users and stakeholders.

Importation and spread on the island of exotic pest species and pathogens is a big risk to the island's environment because invasive species can change the community structure. In common with many other islands in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, Lizard Island suffers ongoing impacts from introduced pests. More than 80 introduced plant species have been recorded, of which some are highly invasive. At least two invasive ant species have established populations on the island. Cane toads have also found their way to the island on several occasions but have been captured before a population could establish.

Everyone who visits the island can help to preserve its biosecurity:

  • Ensure that your luggage and clothing are free of weed seeds and insects when you come to the island.
  • If you come by boat, do not carry plant material or soil between islands and ensure that you are not carrying any animal pests that could escape onto the island.
  • If you charter a flight to get to the island, ensure that the charter company is aware of biosecurity concerns and that the aircraft's landing gear is not contaminated with soil or seeds. This is especially important for helicopter charters because they do not always land on paved surfaces.
  • When walking around the island, take care not to transport seeds from place to place. Some weeds on the island have burrs or sticky seeds. If you find them on your clothing, please collect them and dispose of them properly.

Thanks for helping!

Barge schedule 2024
Orders to Coles and Dan Murphy's before 10 pm on Earliest date for Coles checkout for some accounts Delivery date for general freight including Dan Murphy's, before 3:30 pm Delivery date for Coles food, 1-5 am Barge arrives at Lizard Island*
Sun 11 Feb Sat 10 Feb Thu 15 Feb Fri 16 Feb Thu 22 Feb
Sun 25 Feb Sat 24 Feb Thu 29 Feb Fri 1 Mar Thu 7 Mar
Sun 10 Mar Sat 9 Mar Thu 14 Mar Fri 15 Mar Thu 21 Mar
Fri 22 Mar^ Thu 21 Mar^ Thu 28 Mar Wed 27 Mar^ Thu 4 Apr
Sun 7 Apr Sat 6 Apr Thu 11 Apr Fri 12 Apr Thu 18 Apr
Sun 21 Apr Sat 20 Apr Wed 24 Apr^ Fri 26 Apr Thu 2 May
Sun 5 May Sat 4 May Thu 9 May Fri 10 May Thu 16 May
Sun 19 May Sat 18 May Thu 23 May Fri 24 May Thu 30 May
Sun 2 Jun Sat 1 Jun Thu 6 Jun Fri 7 Jun Thu 13 Jun
Sun 16 Jun Sat 15 Jun Thu 20 Jun Frii 21 Jun Thu 27 Jun

* The barge sometimes arrives a day later, on the Friday rather than the Thursday, if it is held up earlier in its run. This cannot be predicted in advance.

^ These dates are slightly different to the normal schedule because of the Easter and Anzac Day public holidays.