Orpheus Island, secluded Barrier Reef sanctuary

Located on the Great Barrier Reef, Orpheus Island has been a desirable remote retreat since the 1930s. Orpheus Island is the second largest island in the Palm island group.

Private, exclusive, and romantic, the island only caters to 42 guests at a time, at the Orpheus Island Resort. The resort is the only private land on the entire island.

The island caters to couples and honeymooners who are seeking sanctuary. There are no televisions, telephones, day visitors, dance clubs, or children under 15 on the island.

The entire island was declared a National Park in 1960, and within a few years the waters around the island were also declared part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.


The traditional name for the island is Goolboddi Island. Lieutenant G. E. Richards gave the island its name in 1887, in reference to the ship HMS Orpheus.

Natural environment

Orpheus Island is a continental island with tropical rainforest, and many sheltered bays and sandy beaches. The island, which is 11km long, has a protected National Park which surrounds the island’s resort. The National Park protects 1300 hectares of land.

The island is surrounded by coral reefs, some of the best reefs along the Great Barrier Reef. The fringing reef surrounding the island itself is inhabited by approximately 1,100 species of fish, and contains 340 of the 350 known species of reef coral in the area.

Orpheus Island has a wide variety of wildlife, including snakes, green tree frogs, birds (friar birds, orange-footed scrubfowl, kites, reef heron ospreys, sulphur crested cockatoos, spangled drongo, rainbow lorikeets, boobook owls, yellow-bellied sunbirds, and egrets).

Activities (Nature and Wildlife Interest)

Orpheus Island is designed not for adventure- and activity-seeking travelers, though plenty of activities are available. The resort has a very visitor-oriented attitude towards island activities. The resort does not push activities upon guests, who might simply seek the ultimate in rest and relaxation. Activities include:

  • Swimming
  • Snorkeling and scuba diving: Explore nearby coral reefs, which are inhabited by more than 1,000 fish species. Guests can snorkel off the beach, take out a dinghy individually to a nearby beach, or join a tour to the Outer Reef. The resort does not offer certification courses.
  • Walking: self-guided and guided walks through the National Park’s three walking tracks. Keen hikers can trek over the majority of the island – without needing to stick to the tracks.
  • Educational activities: talks by marine naturalists and horticulturists, visits to the James Cook University Marine Research Station
  • Boating: motorized dinghies, catamarans, canoes, sunset cruises
  • Fishing: fish feeding from the jetty, game fishing
  • Seaplane charters


Orpheus Island Resort is designed to help guests get away from it all, and is very oriented to personal service. The resort does not have televisions or telephones. The resort caters to couples, honeymooners, and as such does not offer activities or facilities for children.

The resort has 21 air-conditioned rooms, all of which are surrounded by tropical gardens and have beachfront views. Guests can opt for the Orpheus retreat, which is a studio-style accommodation with private patio and personal spa, or the Nautilus suite, which boast a huge private patio, separate lounge and bedroom areas, and a personal spa.

Facilities: Restaurant, bar, game room, internet and lounge area , heated spa, recreation room, swimming pools, tennis courts, water sports centre, conference facilities.

Getting There

Orpheus Island is located 1189km northwest of Brisbane, 80km north of Townsville, 190km south of Cairns, and 24km offshore.

Cairns and Townsville are the gateways to Orpheus Island. The resort oversees daily seaplane flights to transport visitors to and from the island; from Cairns the flight is one hour, and from Townsville the flight is 30 minutes. The resort owns a seven-seater amphibious Cessna aircraft, which is operated by Nautilus Aviation.

Getting to the island is part of the experience, as the plane flies over pristine glittering ocean waters and various islands en route to Orpheus Island.

Related posts:

  1. Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland
  2. Wilson Island, Great Barrier Reef
  3. Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef
  4. Lady Elliot Island, Great Barrier Reef
  5. Reef HQ Aquarium, Townsville

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