After such an epic week on Magnetic Island, we knew that anywhere we’d go next would be hard to follow up.
However, after spotting our first whale and spending an incredible week sailing to Orpheus Island and the Hinchinbrook Channel, we were pretty sure we’d had the best week so far.
Setting Sail for the Palm Island Group
Picking up where we left off last week, we hoisted sail at first light and continued Northwest with light winds towards the Palm Island Group.
A popular stop is Great Palm Island, also known by its much older indigenous name “Bwgcolman”. This is primarily an indigenous community, so we decided that it would be better to leave the island occupants in peace and instead sailed to Orpheus Island.
Finally! We got our first glimpse of the famous Australian East Coast whale migration. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch a snap of her breaching, but it renewed my faith in seeing more migrating whales on the journey.
Exploring Orpheus Island
Sailing into Orpheus Island made it feel like we were exploring remote, unexplored wonders in the middle of the ocean. In reality, Orpheus is only a quick hop from the coastline, but it didn’t stop the imagination from running a little wild.
Orpheus Island Anchorage
Orpheus Island has several guest mooring buoys available for sailors to sit on for 24 hours. All of these are located in the Northern bay, known as Pioneer Bay.
There is one buoy on the southern side of this bay, and a further four on the northern end. These buoys offer excellent protection in light Southerly winds, but even better protection for those sailing in the Summer season, when northerly winds prevail.
Although we had a quiet few days at anchor, it’s clear that the northern buoys are a little exposed to southerly swell.
Snorkeling and Manta Rays
Immediately after securing the buoy lines, we spotted an enormous manta ray cruising gently beside Malaika. We watched as it swam backward and forward on the surface in awe.
As we’d find out, Orpheus Island is regularly visited by dozens of cruising mantas. Sightings are hence extremely common.
We spent the rest of our short visit on Orpheus Island either on the bush tracks or in the water.
We found that the best snorkeling spots were in the bay to the south, where there is a permanent research facility stationed. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any more mantas while in the water, but we managed to spot plenty from the drone.
READ THE FULL BLOG POST: EXPLORING ORPHEUS ISLAND: HIKING AND SNORKELING
Hiking the Bush Trails
A good hike on Orpheus Island begins on the beach at Pioneer Bay. We followed the track to an old, abandoned hut which are the only signs of original British settlers on Orpheus Island.
The track winds through the thick scrub and onto a rocky outcrop overlooking both sides of the island.
From the top, we could see turtles and mantas swimming in the crystal clear coral waters below.
Forward to Hinchinbrook
We’d been excited for the Hinchinbrook channel from the very beginning of the trip due to the allure of its fjord-like peaks and vine-like creeks.
It was difficult not to think of Jurassic Park as we entered the channel. Huge peaks on both sides surround a wide river which seems to split into an endless web of creeks and streams.
Our first anchorage in the Hinchinbrook channel was on Hayckock island. It was a little tricky to anchor at first since the tidal flow had moved mud deposits, exposing large sections of the channel to a rocky seabed.
However, once we found the best spot to anchor, we enjoyed one of the calmest nights of the journey so far.
Sailing in Hinchinbrook Channel
We didn’t have much of a chance to explore Hinchinbrook Island on the land, as the majority of hikes begin on the ocean side of the island.
However, it was still an epic few days of sailing through one of Australia’s last untouched wildernesses.