A complete and up-to-date travel guide to visiting Orpheus Island on the Great Barrier Reef, Queensland.
Orpheus Island is a tropical Great Barrier Reef Island and part of the Greater Palm Island group.
For adventure travelers, Orpheus Island snorkeling and hiking are some of the best of the Great Barrier Reef Islands.
Orpheus Island was one of my favorite stops on our trip up the East Coast of Australia. In this guide, I’ll give you a brief rundown of exactly how to get here, what to expect, and give you some tips on what to do based on my experience.
By Olly Gaspar, traveler, travel blogger & photographer for 5+ years with 600+ published travel guides. I visit every place I write about & share real tips from what I learn.
How to Get to Orpheus Island
Although the Palm Islands are relatively close to Townsville, getting here is more difficult than other Great Barrier Reef Islands including Magnetic Island or Fitzroy Island. However, that's not to say it's not possible.
Below I've broken down the four ways to get here.
Option 1: Book a Stay at Orpheus Island Lodge
The truth is that the majority of people who visit Orpheus Island will be staying at the luxurious Orpheus Island Lodge.
This is one of the most surreal Australian island resort locations and a true gem. Offering reef-side suites and luxurious villas, staying on Orpheus Island is a unique experience you won't find anywhere else in Queensland.
The best part is that transport is included for all guests, making this the easiest way to get to the island!
Option 2: Organized Ferry Day Trips
If you're looking for a day trip, then It's possible to book an Orpheus Island return ferry ticket from SeaLink Ferries. However, these organized day trips are irregular and cost quite a penny.
If you don't have your own gear, you can also include the Orpheus Island snorkeling gear add-on at checkout.
For the Wealthier: A Private Helicopter
If you have a big of money to spend, or if you are already staying at the Orpheus Island Resort, then you can take a private helicopter from Townsville for a few hundred dollars per person.
Sailing to Orpheus Island
If you're lucky enough to have your own sailing boat or yacht and are cruising the Australian East Coast, then the best way to get to Orpheus Island is to sail there yourself.
The main anchorage area is in the Northern Bay, which is known as Pioneer Bay. There are five 24-hour visitor mooring buoys here, which accommodate monohulls up to 20 m and catamarans to 18 m.
Best Time to Visit Orpheus Island and the Palm Islands
You might be wondering when is the best time to visit Orpheus Island. Due to the tropical nature of North Queensland weather, the best time to visit is in the dryer, Winter months of June to August.
These months offer the calmest weather and a more predictable Southeast wind pattern. The temperature usually stays around 25 to 28 degrees Celcius, with water temperatures typically averaging 23-25 degrees.
Furthermore, and probably the most important factor, these months are not in peak stinger season, so the risk of encountering a stinger while enjoying some Orpheus Island snorkeling is much lower than in the Summer months.
Don't Miss:Dunk Island Near Mission Beach
Staying on Orpheus Island
Yes, it's possible to stay on Orpheus Island. However, it'll cost you.
The Orpheus Island Resort is the only accommodation option on Orpheus Island and caters to high-budget travelers and honeymooners. Their luxury rooms are a perfect escape for people looking to splash a bit of cash.
Top Things to Do on Orpheus Island
So, you've managed to reach Orpheus? Here's a brief list of some of the best things to do while staying in tropical Great Barrier Reef paradise.
1. Go Snorkelling at Pioneer Bay
Orpheus Island snorkeling gives you a unique Great Barrier Reef underwater experience. The island is home to 1,100 out of the 1,500 fish species which live on the reef.
The best Orpheus Island snorkeling locations are at the Southern tip of Pioneer Bay, or on the point near the Research Station. However, exploring any part of the fringing reef offers excellent snorkeling and diving.
Snorkeling With Manta Rays
While we were on Orpheus Island, snorkeling with manta rays was a clear highlight. We saw dozens of different manta rays, some swimming solo and some in pairs. There isn't a specific spot to find them, but if you spend enough time in the water, spotting one is pretty much inevitable.
The best part is that the Mantas stick around all year long!
2. Orpheus Island Hike and Viewpoint
A great short walk up to a viewpoint on the Northern end of Orpheus Island can be found at the beach near Pioneer Bay.
For sailors, this is the beach where you'll most likely be anchored. However, if you're visiting the island on a day trip or staying at the resort, you'll need to kayak or get a dinghy over to the beach.
From here, you can find the start of the track just past the old National Park seating area. After a short 10-minute walk, you'll see the remains of the first British settlement. You can keep walking up the thick, rainforest-like terrain until you reach a clearing with long thick grass.
Avoid any Brown Snakes, pushing up the hill to find the viewpoint rock which overlooks both sides of the island. Make sure you remember look down for incredible views of the reef below, where you'll often find Manta rays and turtles swimming in crystal, turquoise water.
Everyone loves a yak, especially over the calm, fringing reef! You can hire kayaks from the resort, and paddle around the inner bays, often spotting manta rays and turtles.
4. Check out the Orpheus Island Research Center
Between Pioneer Bay and Orpheus Island Resort, you'll find a settlement dedicated to marine research. There are buoys marking the research zone, and you should avoid kayaking or boating in this area.
However, the southern headland point is one of the best Orpheus Island snorkeling locations, where you can snorkel in the shallow fringing reef. Here, the research center has helped to replant coral that has been damaged by bleaching and is in excellent shape.
While I was snorkeling at the point, I saw a huge humpback whale which entered the bay and cruised almost all the way into the Research center! This was by far my favourite Orpheus Island snorkeling experience.
5. Take a Day Trip to Hinchinbrook Island
If you're staying no the island, then why not take a day trip to one of Australia's last wildernesses; Hinchinbrook Island.
Day trips can be organized by the resort, however, is a little expensive. If you're sailing around the islands yourself, make sure not to miss Hinchinbrook!
Planning a Trip to Queensland
I hope you've enjoyed this comprehensive travel guide to visiting Orpheus Island in Queensland. If you want to travel independently in Queensland, here are the resources that I use for planning my travels.
Flights: Find & compare flight deals to Queensland using Skyscanner. Use the "search by month" feature to discover the cheapest day to fly.
Hostels: When it comes to scoring epic deals on hostels and cheap stays your secret weapon is Hostelworld. Queensland is a great place for backpackers. Use the “See Who's Going” function to see who's staying in your dorm!
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Internet & Connectivity: Stay connected as soon as you land in Queensland with Airalo's eSIMS. Download their app and grab an eSIM from the comfort of your own home, even before you board the plane. No more frantic searches for local SIM cards when you arrive.
Car Rental: Don't overpay for a rental at the airport. Compare rental car prices across all dealerships in Queensland with DiscoverCars.
To learn more about independent travel to anywhere else in the world, read my ultimate step-by-step guide on how to plan a trip.
More Great Barrier Reef & Queensland Travel Guides
I hope you've enjoyed this quick guide to visiting Orpheus Island on the Palm Island Group, Queensland. Before you head off, have a browse through some of my other detailed guides for more travel inspiration and hidden gems.
- 60+ Things to do in Cairns - my ultimate Cairns and FNQ travel resource covering the best activities, hidden gems, and unmissable experiences.
- Cairns Hiking Guide - a huge list of epic rainforest, waterfall, and lookout hikes in Cairns.
- Cairns Waterfalls - a huge list of epic waterfalls that I've visited in Cairns and the surrounding tropics.
- Cairns Islands - discover my favorite Great Barrier Reef islands near Cairns and Port Douglas.
- Cairns Tours - my roundup of the best tours you can book in Cairns and FNQ, from the Great Barrier Reef to the Daintree Rainforest.
- Cairns Packing List - tips on what to pack for a trip to Far North Queensland.
- Top Things to Do in Port Douglas - a comprehensive guide to the sleepy Far North Queensland town of Port Douglas.
- Epic 5-Day Cairns Itinerary - my suggested adventure itinerary if you only have 5 days to spend in Cairns.
- Cape Tribulation Travel Guide - discover where the rainforest meets the reef at one of my favourite places in Australia.
- Magnetic Island Travel Guide - your ultimate resource for visiting "Maggie" near Townsville.
- Best Things to do in the Atherton Tablelands - my guide to one of Far North Queensland's most underrated adventure destinations.
- Accommodation Resources: Discover where to stay in Cairns, the best hotels in Port Douglas and my Cape Tribulation accommodation guide.