Nine things you’ll love about Orpheus Island Lodge. A guide to this balmy haven in the Great Barrier Reef including accommodation and dining options, getting there and what you can expect from island life.
Life above water.
Oversized frangipanis, fat with perfume. The black arcs of poinciana seed pods scattered on the ground. Emerald ferns everywhere. When I shower, there is a baby green frog at my feet, a cricket outside my window and a gecko on the wall. The cicadas click for me.
Life below water.
In the shallows, whitetip reef sharks circle in groups of three. A manta ray slides slowly by, its skin weathered with age. Fish jump, startling me as they break the surface. Deeper than that? Giant bommies. A clam garden that’s home to 300 monster molluscs, each weighing up to 200 kilograms. And so many fish in so many colours. It’s truly kaleidoscopic.
The food and wine.
À la carte for breakfast. Tapas for lunch. A four-course dégustation for dinner. The common thread can be found in the quality (surprisingly good given the remote location), the produce (as local as possible, featuring vegies from the island’s garden) and the relaxed open-air dining room. The wine list is dominated by Australian labels, although there are plenty of champagne options if you feel like celebrating the fact that it’s Tuesday.
Is there a better time than when day melts into night? When we shrug off the sun but it lingers? During my time on Orpheus, twilight coincides with low tide. The colour of the sky is extraordinary. The water shines, preening for the last of the light. Life feels golden.
There are only 14 beachfront rooms, hosting a maximum of 28 guests. I’m in a South Suite, which features a private terrace and outdoor bathtub. The colour scheme (pale green and grey) is calming, the room large and airy and the mood tranquil. There’s a desk and, happily, little reason to use it.
The treatments at Gwandalan Spa – which takes its name from the Indigenous language of the region and means “rest” and “peace” – feature Li’Tya botanical products and use native Australian ingredients, such as wild rosella, lemon myrtle and Kakadu plum. The smells are heady; the experience sublime.
I paddle past these tropical trees on the island’s south-western side. I’m a Queenslander and it feels like the spirit of the state drips through the maroon-coloured roots – those bent, gnarled limbs that, from a distance, look like a tangle of flamingo legs. I am alone on this side of the island. Serenity? It’s everywhere.
The daily rate covers all meals; beer, wine and soft drinks; minibar; use of paddleboards, catamarans, dinghies and kayaks; fishing and snorkelling gear; and one “Orpheus experience” per day, which might be a guided snorkel or island cruise. And if you want to take a dinghy to a nearby beach, the Orpheus crew will pack a gourmet picnic lunch for you.
By helicopter from Townsville Airport, flying across the cerulean sea. Arrive like a rock star. Leave feeling lucky.