Lying between Magnetic and Hinchinbrook Islands, the 13 islands of the Palm Group are a melting pot of uninhabited national parks, residential Aboriginal communities – and one exclusive resort. Little-visited except by residents, Great Palm Island has a troubled history harking back to the 1920s when Indigenous Queenslanders were forcibly moved here.
Tensions increased as people from more than 57 different language groups were crammed onto the island, with today’s residents descendants of this fusion of tribal and clan sets. These days, locals are working with Tourism Queensland to develop a fledgling tourism industry.
One of the few options for visitors is to skipper a bareboat to explore unspoilt bays. Wendy Kellar was so impressed when she first sailed through that she bought Tropic Sail bareboat operation. “I love the ideal seclusion and absolute wilderness that the region offers,” she says. Divers aren’t forgotten, with Remote Area Dive operating charters from Townsville (www.remoteareadive.com.au).
Volcanic Orpheus Island attracts two distinct visitor types. Naturists with a tent and a sense of adventure will find sanctuary at campsites located at Yankee Bay (near WWII ruins), Little Pioneer Bay (more ruins, this time a shepherd’s dwelling) and South Beach, all accessible only by boat, while Orpheus Island Resort (www.orpheus.com.au) is a low-rise luxurious private beachfront hideaway for 42 pampered guests looking to indulge themselves in five star elegance. For a memorable evening, particularly popular with honeymooners, “Dining with the Tides” is an intimate degustation dinner above the Coral Sea on the jetty.
Getting There: Ferry services operate between Townsville and Palm Island, bareboat charter from Townsville. Guests at Orpheus Island Resort arrive by seaplane from Townsville or Cairns.