The Great Barrier Reef is home to many beautiful islands, and among the ones gifted with captivating allure is Orpheus Island. It’s perfect for people spirited to seek a much-needed journey into serenity and nature. It is also a perfect location for people with a deep, curious interest in nature and marine life.
The name “Orpheus” was given in 1887 by Lieutenant G.E. Richards. It refers to a Royal Navy ship wrecked off the coast of New Zealand in 1863. Prior to the arrival of Europeans, it was known to be inhabited by local Aborigines, potentially being the Nyawagi people.
Orpheus Island is famous to researchers for its diverse marine life, and the James Cook University Orpheus Island Research Station is situated there. Tours can be arranged of the research station at Pioneer Bay.
While there, visit the ruins of the historic Shepherd’s Hut at Little Pioneer Bay – a reminder from the days of early settlement by the first Europeans on the island.
Orpheus Island is a remote island, to which access is only available through a 30-minute helicopter ride. There are plenty of activities to be done on the island, including bushwalking, swimming, birdwatching, snorkelling, and guided eco tours.
Being a remote island allows tourists to enjoy a serene experience with nature without the anxiety brought by an overcrowded setting. The island offers crystal clear water, the whitest sand, and sometimes not a single person in sight!
Unspoilt Orpheus Island National Park
Orpheus Island, thanks to its exclusivity, retains its unspoilt beauty many years since its formation. Orpheus Island National Park is open to visitor 24 hours a day.
The origin of the island is as impressive as its present-day image.
It is a continental island sheltering a rich, diverse variety of water, land, and air-based organisms for tourists to see, with the inclusion of native mammals, reptiles, and bird species such as the orange-footed scrubfowl which can be seen hunting for food on the rainforest grounds of the island.
Orpheus Island National Park is the perfect destination for tourists who appreciate nature, offering secluded, sheltered bays, spectacular fringing reefs and interesting geology. If visiting by private boat, there are public moorings in the waters around Orpheus Island to reduce coral damage from anchors.
Where is Orpheus Island?
Orpheus Island is located off the north Queensland coast, 110 kilometres north of Townsville and 45 kilometers east of Ingham, and is part of the Palm group of islands and within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.
It is a composite of volcanic rocks originally formed 280 million years ago. Distinctive ring dykes were formed as a result of molten rock intruding cracks in the granite bedrock. Patterns of spider-web-like dykes can be seen on the headlands and rocky shores.
Being a small island of 12 km long and 2.5 km wide, covering an area of 1300 hectares, Orpheus Island is nothing short of natural beauty, fringed with coral reefs and dominated by dry woodlands of Moreton Bay ash and acacias (wattles).
Not too far from Orpheus Island is Australia’s largest island national park, Hinchinbrook Island. Helicopter and boat tours are available from Orpheus to visit Hinchinbrook Island – by boat you will tour the channel between Hinchinbrook Island and the scenic Cardwell Coast.
Best time to visit the Island
The best time to visit Orpheus Island is around the dryer, winter months of June to August. During this time, the weather is calm and predictable enough to plan activities, while maintaining a temperature staying around 25 to 28 degrees Celcius, with water temperatures averaging around 23-25 degrees.
Another factor which makes these months optimal for a visit is the lower risk of encountering a stinger when snorkeling around the waters of the island.
Orpheus Island Great Barrier Reef Day Trip
There will be no shortage of activities available to be explored on an Orpheus Island Day Trip. After indulging in a tropical cuisine for breakfast and lunch, one can simply stroll around the beach looking for activities to do while drenching in the warm waters surrounding the island.
There is an abundance of marine life to be explored around the waters, and tourists can book activities to enjoy such as snorkeling, scuba diving, game fishing, and ocean cruises among others.
An Orpheus Island day tour would be incomplete without an experience with the marine life inhabiting the area. There are over 1100 species of fish, snubfin dolphins, manta ray, harmless reef sharks (how cool is that?), and humpback whales to be seen and admired. A giant clam garden, where each can weigh up to 200 kilograms and populated by 300 impressive molluscs, is minutes away by boat from the lodge.
The Southern tip of Pioneer bay offers the optimal location for Snorkeling around the Orpheus Island. However, any spot offering fringing reef can be just as excellent for people to explore. A remarkable highlight during this activity is an inevitable experience alongside manta rays, which may be spotted around all year long.
Manta Rays are intelligent, among the largest inhabitants of the ocean, and they are harmless to humans unlike their sting-ray cousins. Another fact about these rays is how, much like humans, they need to be able to swim to stay alive!
Where to Stay?
There are a couple of accommodation options for staying on the island, the local island resort – Orpheus Island Lodge (where guests are spoilt for comfort), and camping at one of the three campsites around the island. Both very different ways to experience the island and all that the Great Barrier Reef has to offer.
Orpheus Island Lodge
There is only one resort on the island that cater up to 28 guests at one time. Orpheus Island Lodge is perfect for those wishing to avoid a crowded experience and opt for a more intimate setting and having a private beach and the turquoise sea all to yourself!
Guests of the resort are greeted by a team of smiling staff as you enter past an impressive infinity pool overlooking the beach, fringed by palm trees and wander down to the white sand beaches of Hazard Bay. Tropical bliss!
There are suites to choose from which has similarities and differences from the other, but all have the glorious experience of being ingrained in nature. There are 14 contemporary suites in the Orpheus Island Lodge, each embracing a natural atmosphere and boasting a view of the beach as its primary luxury for. There are five room types at the Orpheus Island resort, each structured uniquely, providing an accommodation that is unique from one to the other.
For families visiting Orpheus Island Lodge, the North Beachfront Villa is best, while the South Suite’s outdoor bath and private terrace make it the perfect accommodation on the island for those looking for a romantic getaway.
The lodge also offers activities for people to enjoy during the course of their stay. Unlimited use of equipment such as paddleboards, kayaks, catamarans, and fishing and snorkeling gear is also available to the guests. Or guests of the resort can take a dip in the infinity pool and simply relax.
Daily curated activities are a part of the lodge experience in Orpheus Island. There are snorkeling trips and forest hikes for nature-inclined tourists to indulge in throughout the journey.
Guests receive three gourmet meals daily, with Australian wine as a compliment, beer, sparkling and soft drinks, and an all-inclusive mini bar and gourmet snacks. The resort has a bar and restaurant with an alfresco-style dining area. Anyone who enjoys a good beer will surely rejoice at beer tastings held at the lodge.
Internet coverage on the island is also limited, and one will not find it difficult to avoid distraction from the digital world for an immersive experience with the tangible atmosphere of Orpheus Island.
You can’t have a trip to a Great Barrier Reef paradise like this, without some pampering? On Orpheus Island, you may unwind at the Gwandalan Day Spa, which gets its name from the Aboriginal word for “rest and peace”: Gwandalan. The spa combines indigenous herbalism and aromatherapy methods from throughout the world with more contemporary massage techniques to provide a really unique experience. The Dreaming therapy is an excellent way to reunite the body, mind, and spirit.
Stay at Orpheus Island Lodge for pure luxury. While it’s not a particularly big island resort compared to some other Great Barrier Reef resort standards (you can probably walk from one end of the resort to the other in around 20 minutes) the privacy, intimacy and personal touches are all part of its charm.
Check rates and availability: Orpheus Island Lodge
Camping on Orpheus Island
There are three camping grounds on Orpheus Island, namely Yanks Jetty, Pioneer Bay, and South Beach. All islands in the area are accessible by boat, with only Pioneer Bay being accessible through kayak or canoe. Each island offers a different set of options regarding facilities, number of sites, campsite surface, and suitable campsites among others.
All the camping areas can only be reached by boat. The Yanks Jetty camping areas accommodates the most number of people in an open area without separately defined sites, allowing a maximum of 30 people, while Pioneer Bay and South Beach only permitting a maximum of 12. All the campsites are suitable for tent camping, having campsite surfaces of sand and grass.
Like many campgrounds in Australia, open fires during camping is prohibited, while guests and campers are encouraged to utilize the facilities present at their respective camping grounds. Essentials encouraged to bring during the trip are drinking water, rubbish bags, and insect repellent. Bookings are easy to access as it can be generally done online, although different other options are available as well.
How to get to Orpheus Island
Getting to Orpheus Island (part of the Palm Island group of islands) involves a 30-minute helicopter journey from Townsville Airport to Orpheus Island, departing at 2 o’clock in the afternoon and arriving at 2:30pm in the afternoon.
The flight over from Townsville gives a fantastic scenic view of the island, giving a glimpse of the paradise from afar. A private helicopter charter may be warranted in cases where a normal flight does not coincide to a desired schedule.
Helicopter payments are made through Northern Escape Collection on behalf of Nautilus Aviation. Passengers are limited to 15kg baggage in total per person for safety purposes. Individual bodyweight of passengers will be recorded by filling up a form prior to booking a flight.
There are two separate processes to be followed by passengers checking in from Cairns and Townsville. Helicopter check in time is 45 minutes before departure for both cases alike. Passengers’ body bag and weight will be measured to record accurate weights prior to the flight per standard aviation safety policy. In cases of delay or cancellation at the day of the flight, it is advised to contact Nautilus Aviation.
We all feel the need for a getaway every now and then and Orpheus Island in Australia’s tropical north has so much to offer. A trip to a place like Orpheus Island gives a feeling of bliss. It serves as a sanctuary, with a direct connection to nature.
By seeing the coral, the sea life and the wondrous experiences on and around the island, it reminds us what is important. Orpheus Island is more than an island, but an experience in and of itself.