Escape reality on exclusive Orpheus Island

Rachael Burnett
(Australian Associated Press)

It’s become a cliche that exclusive tropical resorts have the power to magically dismiss the stressful detritus that builds up on our souls throughout life.

The Orpheus Island Resort, off the coast of north Queensland, is the reason why.

As my helicopter soars over the Great Barrier Reef on our way to the resort, it occurs to me that I’m not escaping the proverbial grind of reality. I’m just trading one reality for another.

And with views like these, I don’t want to trade back.

If anything, Orpheus presents a heightened reality: drinks constantly on hand, decadent food, deep blue water and unspoiled beaches. Without overbearing waiters hovering around you all the time, this could easily be mistaken for a dream.

Only 28 dreamers are allowed on Orpheus at a time. The resort’s 14 rooms accentuate the secluded atmosphere, while the dining options, like the roomy verandah, where you can enjoy meals and a cheeky drop, underline it.

There’s a distinctly un-hotel feel to the resort, and it’s clearly by design. It’s easier to unwind when you feel like you’re staying at a rich friend’s house.

My room has eschewed the stale welcome mint approach for a complete cheeseboard and fruit platter partnered with a bottle of champagne, which I can enjoy on my own private terrace with ocean views.

Make that a very rich friend.

The island’s agenda is very firmly centred on relaxation: you’d think hammocks grew on palm trees here. I could get a lot of reading done, but there’s too much else to do.

The enticing ocean views offered by just about every vantage point on Orpheus are a little too inviting: I want to get out on it or deep beneath it. Fortunately, both options are on the table.

Snorkelling is a given at a place like this, but there’s nothing routine about the galaxy of aquatic life on parade beneath the waves. At one point, I’m surrounded by a cloud of fish, and the colours threaten to overwhelm me. I let them.

Back on the shore, crabs and stingrays look on as I remove my mask and prepare for the cruise.

The neighbouring island is accessible by boat, but the Orpheus resort wouldn’t just put you on a dinghy and hope for the best. That’s why I’m on a sunset cruise, enjoying a lychee martini and a grazing platter. The word spoiled comes to mind.

Orpheus is home to bushwalks with eye-popping views from Picnic Bay. Again, I’m drawn to the water, so I grab a kayak and paddle into the mangrove forest.

Stingrays languidly comb the shallows and tiny crabs scuttle along the mangrove roots as I drift by. The only sound is the gentle lapping of the water against my kayak.

Up ahead, a deserted beach calls me over for a swim. Who am I to say no?

It’s hard saying farewell to the tropes of the tropics, but once back on the mainland, I find it’s a long goodbye. Far from typical Australian coastal towns, Townsville and Cairns keep the island vibe going with award-winning beaches, boardwalks, lagoons and fresh seafood.

As I stare down a plate of crocodile sliders with wattleseed damper at Ochre Restaurant in Cairns, I know it’s almost time to wake up from this dreamy reality.

I’ve always liked a sleep-in. Maybe I’ll give my rich friend a call.


GETTING THERE: Cairns is around a 2.5-hour flight from Brisbane, just over three hours from Sydney and five hours from Perth.

A number of airlines, including Qantas, JetStar and Virgin Australia offer daily flights.

Orpheus Island lies off the north Queensland coast, 110 kilometres north of Townsville and 45 kilometres east of Ingham. You can access the island by charter or private boat, or by helicopter. The closest boat ramp is at Taylors Beach, 25 kilometres from Ingham. There is also a boat ramp at Lucinda, but it is a little further from the island. Charter boat access is from Dungeness in Lucinda, 23 kilometres to the northwest of the island.

The resort is a 30-minute helicopter journey from Townsville, or one and a half hours from Cairns. Prices are $275 per person one way from Townsville or $670 from Cairns and must be booked through Orpheus. For more information visit

STAYING THERE: Orpheus Island accommodates up to 28 guests. A north beachfront room is $1,400 per night, for two guests, including meals, wines, beers and soft drinks, certain daily activities and equipment. Visit

PLAYING THERE: For more information about visiting the Great Barrier Reef go to

* The writer travelled as a guest of Queensland Tourism.


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