Boutique hotel Orpheus Island is a secluded, totally private stay (largely because it can only be reached by helicopter) in the Great Barrier Reef, with just 14 bungalow-style rooms, all within a shell’s throw of a white-sand beach. Start each day with an alfresco breakfast, then grab the hotel’s free-to-use snorkelling gear to spy on the surrounding reef’s colourful residents or spend some time having any remaining semblance of tension pummelled away in the spa; the hotel also arranges daily guide-led activities (free for guests). This family-friendly stay has plenty for active little Smiths too; babysitters can be hired at short notice, the oceanside infinity pool has a shallow end, and the restaurant’s skillful chefs can whip up child-friendly fare as well as four-course feasts. It really is your own little world.
Get this when you book through us:
A welcome bottle of Australian sparkling wine and chocolate-covered strawberries
4pm, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, noon.
Double rooms from $983.01 (AU$1,455), excluding tax at 10 per cent.
Rates usually include a Continental buffet breakfast and à la carte dishes, all meals, selected Australian wines and beers, one daily activity, unlimited use of motorised dinghies, paddle boards, kayaks, catamarans, snorkelling equipment and light fishing
For an extra dose of romance with your evening meal, ask to ‘Dine with the Tides. Don’t fret about the phrase – your experience will be far more ‘Sha-la-la kiss the girl’ than ‘sleeping with the fishes’. You’ll get a private meal for two at the pier.
The hotel is closed annually from mid-January to 5 March.
At the hotel
Beach; spa; boutique; free-to-use motorised dinghies, watersports equipment and fishing gear; laundry services. In rooms: flatscreen TV, iPod dock, Bella coffee machine and Li’tya bath products.
Our favourite rooms
For a private outdoor terrace, complete with alfresco dining area, lounge space and a cheeky, freestanding bath tub for two, spring for the South Suite. If you’d like to be as close to the infinity pool as possible, go for a North Beachfront Suite (you’ll get a terrace too).
The saltwater, outdoor infinity pool has uninterrupted ocean views. It’s unheated and there’s a shallow end for family-friendly dips.
With a name meaning ‘rest and peace’, Gwandalan Day Spa doles out as-promised pampering. Indigenous herbalism and aromatherapy traditions are used in tandem with with modern massage techniques to restore balance and wellness. Choose from mud wraps, massages and facials, all of which feature sustainable Australian brand Li’tya spa products.
In addition to your beach wear, you’ll want to bring your hiking boots: the island is a National Park, complete with a James Cook University research station.
Due to the lay of the land (and helicopter-only access), Orpheus Island may not be suited to guests with mobility issues.
All ages are welcome. Extra beds or and cots (free) can be added to rooms on request, and babysitting can be arranged for AU$50 an hour, with one week’s notice.
Always mindful of its potential environmental impact, Orpheus Island treats and recycles all waste water, uses solar panels to heat water, and grows most of its vegetables and herbs on site (fish are caught locally too).
Ask for a table on the deck, so you’re just that bit closer to the ocean.
Cast off those Castaway looks in favour of smart tailoring and ocean-hued beach dresses.
Chef Daniel Main and team stay on their toes at Orpheus Island Resort Restaurant, serving up daily-changing four-course dinners. Menu items include pickled and torched salmon, snapper with rhubarb and chutney, freshly-caught tuna with white-soy pearls and yuzu butter, and curry-spiced venison. Save room for desserts, such as citrus-curd-topped almond shortbread with ricotta ice-cream or Mexican dark-chocolate mousse with sour-cherry sorbet. Course-by-course wine pairings can be added to any meal for an additional cost. Themed lunches change daily; mix it up with Japanese beef gyudon and green-tea desserts one day, lamb koftas with couscous and rosewater-infused pistachio ice-cream the next. Continental and à la carte breakfasts of seasonal fruits, freshly-baked breads and made-to-order egg dishes are also served in the restaurant.
The island is your bar; order drinks from the main dining area, your poolside perch, your beach towel laid out over the sand. Specialties include Fowles farm-to-table wines, minty-fresh mojitos, and zingy grapefruit spritzes.
Breakfast is served from 8am to 10am, leisurely lunches from 1pm to 2.30pm, and decadent dinners from 7pm to 8.30pm. The bar is open from 7am to 10pm.
None officially, but flag down a helpful member of staff if you find yourself growing peckish; they’ll help you out in no time.
This waterfront resort is set in an unspoilt stretch of the Great Barrier Reef, on an island fringed by coral.
Due to the island’s wonderfully remote nature, it can only be reached by helicopter. Fly from either Townsville (AU$295 a person each way, AU$990 for private one-way transfers) or Cairns (AU$725 a person each way, from AU$2,475 for private one-way transfers). All helicopter transfers are subject to availability. Due to payload restrictions, there is a luggage limit of 15kg a person, preferably packed in a duffel bag – which hotel can provide – so that it can be stacked in the storage compartment. Anything guests don't need on the island can be left in a locked room at the hangar.
Worth getting out of bed for
The sandy white beaches of Hazard Bay are a short walk away from the resort, and the surrounding coral reef is a snorkeller’s dream. During your stay at Orpheus Island, you’ll have free use of kayaks, paddleboards, motorised dinghies and a catamaran, so make the most of your time by spending it in open water.
Snorkelling and diving day trips can also be arranged; there’s a vibrant outer reef just an hour’s boat ride away. Check out what that day’s free activity is: past guided adventures include snorkelling trips to Curaçao Island, treks around Orpheus, and leisurely beer tastings. If you’d rather stay dry for a bit, lace up your hiking boots and head to the James Cook University Island Research Station, which gives educational tours. After a more leisurely afternoon? Ask staff to pack a picnic hamper and take a motorised dinghy out to a secluded beach.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this luxury boutique hotel in Queensland and unpacked their sand-dusted togs, a full account of their Australian break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Orpheus Island in the Great Barrier Reef…
Your introduction to Orpheus Island will begin with a bird’s-eye-view of verdant greens and glittering blues, since the only way to reach this secluded stay is by helicopter – quite the ‘how do you do?’ Once your feet touch the powdery white sand of the island’s lengthy stretch of eye-catching coastline, you’ll be enthusiastically whisked away to your ocean-view home-from-home. Shimmy into your swimwear and make a beeline for the oceanside infinity pool, head to the indulgent organic spa to banish any signs of your pre-holiday stresses, or take your pick of the watersports gear from the hotel’s collection of ready-to-borrow paddleboards, snorkelling equipment, and more.
In the evening, four-course dinners are served by the coast, to a soundtrack of beach-lapping waves, and with wine pairings arranged by they’ve-thought-of-everything staff at Orpheus Island. Wish the resident black-tip reef sharks a good night at the pier, then meander your way back to your beachview bungalow with a nightcap in hand, ready for the next day’s adventures.
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