Orpheus Island is surrounded by marine parks, with white coral-sand beaches leading the way to some of the world's most spectacular snorkelling.
Orpheus Island is surrounded by marine parks, with white coral-sand beaches leading the way to some of the world's most spectacular snorkelling. James Vodicka

Expect great things from this Barrier Reef island

Our toddler shrieked with delight as black and blue butterflies fluttered into the air all around him.

Moments earlier he'd oohed and ahhed as he saw his first echidna. That morning he sat mesmerised on the front of my paddleboard as a school of small stingrays glided across the ocean floor underneath us.

At dinner, he chuckled happily as a bandicoot ran past our table.

These were just a few of the epic encounters with nature we had during our stay at the exclusive Orpheus Island Lodge sitting amid an untouched wilderness nestled inside the Great Barrier Reef.

The stunning Orpheus Island forms part of the Palm Island group, which comprises 13 magical islands nestled in between North Queensland's Magnetic and Hinchinbrook islands about 110km north of Townsville and 45km east of Ingham.

The island itself is surrounded by marine parks, with white coral-sand beaches leading the way to some of the world's most spectacular snorkelling. There are few formal walking tracks and Orpheus remains largely untouched and uninhabited.

Orpheus Island Lodge itself accommodates just 28 people.

It's completely private and its facilities are not open to day guests.

The resort was purchased by tech-billionaire Chris Morris in 2011 and today it is run as a family business - with absolutely no expense spared.

You can do essentially anything you can imagine at Orpheus Island Lodge.

Fancy a boat trip? Most days the lodge's main vessel, Maree-Ann, takes guests for a free-dive at one of the many surrounding reefs and shoals that make up the Palm Island group.

Orpheus Island Lodge itself accommodates just 28 people.
Orpheus Island Lodge itself accommodates just 28 people. Simon Shiff

If getting away with just you and your family is the goal, there's also a fleet of tinnies and the chefs are more than happy to pack you an amazing picnic.

For visitors from North Queensland, like ourselves, Orpheus Island Lodge offers the opportunity to feel half the world away from our home in Townsville without any international airfares.

For couples looking for a getaway, it's the ideal place to escape to without having to leave the children too far behind.

There is no airstrip and the island is only accessible by boat or chopper.

We set off from Townsville on our 28-foot Catalina, Ripple, at dawn and covered the distance to the Palm Island group in about eight hours.

It was the biggest journey we'd done as new sailors and we were apprehensive about the voyage with our two-year-old son.

We had planned to stay the night at the back of Havannah Island but the conditions weren't favourable so we ploughed on to Juno Bay where we enjoyed a comfortable anchorage for the night before getting up sharp and making the short motor sail round to Hazard Bay.

Hanks Jetty is an ideal spot to get off and on the boat and we spent a day and night exploring the area, paddle boarding the pristine reef, fishing, swimming.

My husband is the adventurer, but I'm definitely more of a food, wine and pamper kind of holiday person, so I survived the action-packed part of the trip knowing soon I'd be in my own little slice of paradise, which is the perfect compromise for couples such as ourselves.

Most of the guests arrive by helicopter, so we provided a little entertainment for the staff and other holidaymakers when we arrived at the jetty in our little dinghy and our belongings in a bright orange dry bag.

We were handed two glasses of champagne and a sippy cup of iced water and we immediately knew we were about to be spoiled. We were to chat to the executive chef and beverage manager about our preferences for the stay before being given a quick tour.

Orpheus Island forms part of the Palm Island group.
Orpheus Island forms part of the Palm Island group. James Vodicka Photography

However anticipating our son's fascination with the fish at the jetty, the staff kindly fetched us some pilchards to feed the groper instead.

And that set the tone for the way they treat their guests at Orpheus Island Lodge. Apart from the second-to-none backdrop, spectacular rooms and gourmet food, it's the staff that make the trip feel truly special and that no request is too much trouble.

They will do anything to make sure you feel comfortable. Mostly, we were self-conscious about having an unpredictable young child with us and we requested only that we kept a safe distance from the other guests so as not to annoy them.

The staff were beautiful to our boy, providing sand toys, special meals and indulging his near constant desire to feed the fish.

An absolute highlight for us was arriving at our degustation dinner to find our table had been set up on the starlit pier in our own magical dining room while reef sharks and spangled emperor circled in the water below.

"We figured your son might appreciate being able to watch the fish while you two enjoy dinner,” our host said.

It was very special.

The accommodation itself is also stunning. We were in a suite with ample space and stylish furnishings. The highlight was a private terrace and an outdoor stone bath.

When we first entered our room we were met with a cheese platter and a bar fridge stocked with wine and beer.

The holiday is all-inclusive, which gives you access to a fine selection of wines and all of the resort's fridges are well stocked with beers produced by another of the Morris family's investments - Colonial Brewing Co.

There is no end to the number of activities you can enjoy while at the resort, in between being wined and dined.

Orpheus Island is completely private and its facilities are not open to day guests.
Orpheus Island is completely private and its facilities are not open to day guests. James Vodicka Photography1

Paddle boards, small catamarans and kayaks are available for the guests to enjoy and if you're a novice, there is an activities co-ordinator on hand to talk you through things.

Spa treatments and experiences such as fishing on the outer reef are available at an extra cost.

But simply enjoying a dip in the infinity pool while looking out at the spectacular Coral Sea twinkling beneath the jagged mountains of Hinchinbrook Island is an experience very hard to top.

The only bad thing about our trip was having to leave.

Our little one complained noisily - the accommodation on board our boat was a far cry from the luxury in the lodge's villa.

My husband took our tiny tender back to Ripple, while the crew at Orpheus gave my son and I a slightly smoother trip back on their dinghy.

That night as we sat aboard our little boat, which was gently rocking just off Hanks Jetty, we enjoyed a glass of wine and watched the torches that light the resort jetty flicker in the distance.

I sighed, longing to return to the comfort of the room when we heard a loud "fwissshhhh” and in the light of the moon we saw the unmistakable swish of water as a whale passed just metres from our boat.

The whole trip was an experience our family will never forget.

For more information, visit https://www.orpheus.com.au/

ESCAPE ROUTE

Flights run daily from Brisbane and Sydney to Townsville Airport.

From there your private chopper takes you on to Orpheus Island. Visit https://www.nautilusaviation.com.au/

The alternative, for locals, is to do as we did and take your boat - a day's sail or a half day under motor.

The writer was a guest of Orpheus Island Lodge



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