It’s time The Great Barrier Reef’s Orpheus emerged from the shadows of its larger island neighbours in the Whitsundays, particularly after its million dollar luxury makeover, says Phil Hawkes.

There’s been a resort on Orpheus Island in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park for years… since 1931, in fact. It’s flown largely under the radar, perhaps overwhelmed by more developed and aggressively promoted islands in the Whitsundays and around the Cairns and Port Douglas.

But Orpheus, 80km north of Townsville, has a new lease of life, thanks to entrepreneur Chris Morris and his Colonial Leisure Group, with over $20-million invested (including the purchase price, believed to be around $5 million) to create, as he puts it, a special destination of “laid-back luxury”.

So what exactly does Orpheus Island offer? This is what…

1. Heli-va way to get there

The coup de grace is getting to and from Orpheus. It’s a helicopter ride from Townsville or Cairns so the adventure starts when you step into the Nautilus Aviation chopper, swoop low over the reefs and adjoining islands, and land at “Orpheus Island International Heliport”. No passport required!

2. Where is everybody?

With only 14 rooms and suites, it’s hardly crowded. In fact, at any given time it seems as if there are more staff than guests; ideal for that “getting away from it all” feeling.

3. All-inclusive and unpretentious

The accommodation is in unpretentious contemporary villa style with a “minimalist island aesthetic” – including the air-con and flat-screen-TV works, and the fluffy towels and the fittings and bathrooms are spotless. Importantly, all the rooms have private porches where you can contemplate the sea, the sky, the sunsets and your libation of choice.

4. Indonesian tastes, fine Australia drops

The real joy of Orpheus, however, is its food and beverage service. The highly regarded chef, Arie Prabowo, cooks up a storm in the modern kitchen and menus are personalised when you meet with him on arrival, over a glass of bubbly, of course. There’s an emphasis on fresh seafood (often from guests’ fishing trips), prime meats, vegetables and herbs from his garden, and spices from his native Indonesia. The flavours and textures of the fusion cuisine are mouth watering. The wine list, naturally, is formidable with a solid selections of Australian varieties and French Champagnes. Dining With the Tides (a private dinner on a pier over the Coral Sea) is the must-try signature dining experience.

5. Reasons to get off the daybed

Activities range from doing nothing at all to kayaking, fishing, snorkelling and swimming in the 25-metre horizon pool. There are some great walks across the island or if that’s too strenuous you can take a motorised dinghy to explore the bays, with a picnic lunch on a deserted beach where clothes and inhibitions are superfluous. At the end of the day head to The Gwandalan Day Spa, which uses LI’TYA products, full of feel-good Australian organic ingredients.


More information: See Orpheus Island


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