Surrounded by fringing coral reef, and accessible only by private boat or helicopter, Orpheus Island resort, just off the Queensland coast, is laid-back luxury at its very best. It is the kind of place where you can laze by the pool with a glass of bubbles, or grab a kayak and paddle to a giant clam garden. It’s the type of resort where the chef can name the fisherman who caught your dinner, and when your snorkelling guide tells you she’s taking you to her favourite site, you know you are in for a very special treat.
For me, the wow factor starts from the time we board the helicopter in Townsville for the 30-minute ride to Orpheus Island. Leaving the mainland behind we are soon flying over the Palm Islands, looking for manta ray in the shallow turquoise waters. Orpheus Island itself is 12km long, and about 2.5km wide – covered in bushland – with the tiny resort discreetly tucked into a sandy stretch of coastline. The moment we touch down I know that our three-night stay will not be nearly long enough. With a beautiful bushland backdrop and a glistening green bay on our doorstep, the relaxed resort is my idea of paradise.
The island accommodates just 28 guests in coastal vibe rooms and villas, spread out along the palm-fringed beach. Every room is just a short walk from the beach, the infinity pool and the al-fresco restaurant where all meals are served.
Dining is a very big deal on Orpheus. Forget the resort buffet, this is all about fresh produce, exquisite tastes and delicately prepared meals. Breakfast features all of your favourites with a tropical twist: buttermilk pancakes with a lemon mascarpone mousse, avocado toast with green hummus and poached eggs. Or if you’re feeling more adventurous there’s the potato and leek hash with a pork knuckle croquette. For lunch, you can opt for a themed meal in the restaurant or take a picnic and explore the island. Dinner takes things up a notch. Think spanner crab katsu, followed by lobster ravioli, and hibachi short rib. To finish, how about a dark chocolate hazelnut with salted caramel. Yes, please!
Things to do
Different activities are offered each day, ranging from snorkelling at one of the spectacular local reefs, to yoga and beer tasting. If it’s not too windy, you can take out a dinghy and enjoy a specially prepared picnic in a neighbouring bay. Want to stay closer to the resort? Jump on a standup paddle board and look for turtles, or kayak around the bay. You could also just sit around the infinity pool and enjoy the all-inclusive hospitality!
The highlight for me is a snorkelling trip to Curacao Island, a 20- minute boat ride away. We’re on the Barrier Reef here, so stunning coral gardens are never far away, but these really are next level. I have never seen anything like the huge plate and staghorn coral that fringe the islands here. The resort fits you for a mask, fins and wetsuit before you go out. This might be the tropics but it can get chilly in the water when you’re snorkelling for 45 minutes.
The entire island is a national park, and there are several trails that criss-cross the island. Take a picnic to enjoy a hill-top view or just take a hike see the bushland.
Everything is first class – the meals, the rooms, the excursions. This really is an amazing place to visit. Whether you’re exploring by kayak, heading out in a dinghy, or dining on freshly caught kingfish, this tiny piece of palm-fringed paradise will make you want to stay forever. Flying back to Townsville over the reef, I’m reminded just how lucky I am to live in Queensland, and to have all of this on our doorstep. I will definitely be back.
Julie Fison is a Brisbane author and travel lover. Her debut novel for adults, One Punch, is a compelling contemporary drama that tells the story of two mothers facing impossible decisions after one life-changing night. Julie has also written books for children and young adults, including the Hazard River series, stories in the Choose Your Own Ever After series, and a play for high schools, As the Crow Flies. When not at her desk, you can find Julie hiking a bush trail with her energetic border collie, exploring the outback, or chasing the perfect sunset. She is a committed traveller and enjoys sharing tips for midlife adventurers. www.juliefison.com
Images are credited to John Fison