7 reasons why you need to holiday on Orpheus Island
Never in all my years, have I started a holiday like Frida Lyngstad – jumping out of a glass chopper with three other friends – sans the tighty whitey onesie Frida sported on the jacket of ABBA’s hit album, Arrival, but with the requisite big hair from her Thank You for the Music days. (Unlike Frida I was botched from birth with frizzy hair, boosted by Great Barrier Reef humidity.)
Such was my rock star arrival on Orpheus Island, a low-key atoll accessible only by helicopter and a tropical escape that puts your pulse about three beats slower than a Barry White ballad.
Including my A-lister means of arrival, Orpheus ticks the list as a resort ripe for romance; there’s a quintessential arc of white sand, swaying coconut palms, infinity pool over the turquoise sea, tropical cocktails, and 14 cottages with killer Coral Sea views. Sure, it’s priced at the high end, but you get more than a financial transaction on this holiday.
Here are 7 reasons why Orpheus Island is my current chart-topper.
Chinchilla-Lipped Clam Garden
If you’re old enough to remember The Muppets, then you might recall Janice, the lead guitar player in The Electric Mayhem. Well before blowfish lips and duck faces were Insty-vogue, Janice sported an oversized pair of colourful lips that had their own Jolie-esque life.
The Chinchilla Lipped Clam Garden – just minutes by boat from an Orpheus breakfast – is like looking deep into a choir of Janices, each clam rocking royal purple, cyan and teal striations, some gaping and others snapping shut when you get close by.
Genuinely friendly overtones
No gold taps. No robots reciting, “It’s a pleasure to help you”… the Orpheus team is genuine. Genuinely friendly, genuinely good looking, genuinely nice. More than that, they are genuinely good at their jobs.
Ninety-one-year-old Lennie, who joins me on a morning snorkel trip, is testimony to that. During our hour-long paddle, I watch as GM Jennifer gives this kindly digger some space to venture around the reef, yet stays close enough to help out when he gets tired. In between they laugh and chat like old mates.
Like Lennie, by about the fourth hour into my Orpheus stay, it feels like I am hanging out at the home of my seriously rich friends and the staff are my reliable roadies. Yep, I genuinely liked them.
Cabins that meet the grass that meets the sea
I read somewhere that only 20% of the world’s population wears shoes. Well, screw the blessed ones, I join the other 80% and every morning hop barefoot out of bed, straight on to a cool patch of perfectly manicured elephant grass and dash across the sand and into the ocean – basically, it’s a 50-metre run for reflexology.
The ancients believe that walking barefoot can reduce insomnia. I don’t recall seeing Nat Geo docos of the so-called ancients in shoes but it must be true. At Orpheus, I earth and then I sleep – like a baby. I dare you to do that at other resorts.
A Life unlocked
I like to pay my bills on time, be at the airport five minutes early, and lock my valuables away from the “baddies”. Control is my middle name and Monica from Friends is my alter ego. So no locks at Orpheus had me at panic.
Whoa! No worries. I could sock the jewels away in the room safe.
Nope. There are no safes either.
Orpheus Island is about stepping back to a time when the world was safe and anything inside your fence was yours. Odd at first, it makes sense when you realise just how far you are from the rest of the world. (P.S. Frida, my 11-year-old self says the “what’s yours is yours” bets are off should Benny show up!).
An Australian history
History can tell us a lot about who we are and Orpheus speaks volumes. From the munching goats silhouetted on nearby Palm Island (put there to feed shipwrecked souls) to the black-and-white posters of a 1950s honeymooning couple riding a giant green turtle (not an activity the current management team condones), and the subdued knowledge that neighbouring Fantome Island was a leper colony until the early 1970s, Orpheus has been around the block.
It’s got a past that reminds us of Australia’s edge-of-the-world location and connections to our first people. But it’s something we should all know about, and the team on the island are not afraid to shed that light. Call it a holiday with a history lesson.
Food to chew… with a view
Each year a throng of those in the know pump out a guide to the best restaurants in Australia and the world takes note. Well folks, take note. Orpheus should be on that list.
Every meal is a degustation of flavours, with a nod to the local ingredients, some sourced from Orpheus itself. This is Michelin living and it all comes paired with exceptional wines too. And, you get to eat your cornflakes (or smashed avo if you’re a Gen Y) with a stunning view. Mamma Mia!
It might be an untouched atoll but this place is far from an Aussie-only secret. The Americans – prolific in the region during World War II – dominate the guest list, now trading their khakis for boardies and bikinis and genuinely lovely smiles.
The fact is, the resort is intimate enough to strike up a decent conversation and long-lasting friendships and I can’t help but wish Frida had made it to Orpheus while I was there. I reckon we would have bonded over Absolut Vodka and a chunk of Gravlax and Ritz crackers – and of course that glass-bubble arrival.
So, while Orpheus is a bit on the pricey side at $1400 per night, it is a special place and will deliver years of memories. Kind of like the time I forked out $5.99 for my treasured Arrival album. Really!