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First-Timer’s Guide to Orpheus Island in Queensland, Australia

First-Timer’s Guide to Orpheus Island in Queensland, Australia

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. 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!

Orpheus Island Aerial View

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, 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 unique experience you won't find anywhere else in Queensland.

The best part is, transport is included for all guests, making this the easiest way to get to the island!

Pool at Orpheus Island Lodge

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: 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.


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.

Orpheus Island Snorkeling

Orpheus Island snorkeling gives you a unique Great Barrier Reef underwater experience. The island is home to 1100 out of the 1500 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 parts of the fringing reef offers excellent snorkeling and diving.

Orpheus Island fringing reef

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!

Manta Rays in the Palm Islands Group

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.


Kayaking in Orpheus Island

Everyone loves a yak, especially over calm, fringing reef! You can hire kayaks from the resort, and paddle around the inner bays, often spotting manta rays and turtles.

Orpheus Island Kayaking

Check out the Famous 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 which 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.

Coral reef on the Great Barrier Reef

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!

Great Barrier Reef aerial photograph near Cairns, Australia

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For Sailors and Cruisers: Sailing to Orpheus Island

I visited Orpheus Island on our Australian East Coast sailing trip to the Daintree. For those sailing, read my sailing log for more detailed information on anchorages and overnight buoys.

Underwater Orpheus Island Snorkeling
Snorkeling at Orpheus Island
Underwater at the Palm Island Group
View of Orpheus Island

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.

Orpheus Island, Australia