The rapid development of nanotechnology has led to an increase in the number and variety of engineered nanomaterials in the environment. Gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) are an example of a commonly studied nanomaterial whose highly tailorable properties have generated significant interest through a wide range of research fields. In the present work, we characterise the AuNP-lipid membrane interaction by coupling qualitative data with quantitative measurements of the enthalpy change of interaction. We investigate the interactions between citrate-stabilised AuNPs ranging from 5 to 60 nm in diameter and large unilamellar vesicles acting as a model membrane system. Our results reveal the existence of two critical AuNP diameters which determine their fate when in contact with a lipid membrane. The results provide new insights into the size dependent interaction between AuNPs and lipid bilayers which is of direct relevance to nanotoxicology and to the design of NP vectors.