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Why you need to visit Lady Musgrave Island (and stat!)

Dreaming of a little-known tropical hideaway where your only neighbours are feathered, gilled or just plain unable to keep turning the volume up on that stereo? On Lady Musgrave Island you’ve come to the right place.

With so many of the Great Barrier Reef’s heavy hitters nearby, why go to Lady Musgrave Island, a tiny coral cay measuring only 19.45 hectares in size and lacking any kind of amenities that could class it as a resort?

Admittedly, in print, it doesn’t seem like much of a sell – not yet anyway. But it’s precisely because the island’s still well off the public radar that you should go, and happily, there are plenty of other reasons to help see you through to a ‘book now’ button near you.

#1: You can cement your position as a well-travelled explorer

Lady Musgrave IslandYou know that friend who loves to regale you with tales of their stay in that obscure village just outside of that equally obscure city they went to ‘before it became overrun with tourists’? Turn the tables and jump in with your own tales of an uninhabited island moulded of striking white coral and seashells, surrounded by a marine-abundant reef measuring a none-too-shabby 2930 hectares – a third of it pristine lagoon.

Sure, you’re hardly Christopher Columbus – after all, Lady Musgrave (the southern-most island in the Capricorn Cay) is located only 52km from Bundaberg. But never let anyone take from you the joy of being able to tell others you ‘went to Lady Musgrave loooong before everyone else jumped on the bandwagon, so there’.

#2 You can truly hide away from the world

Hammock time | Lady Musgrave IslandUnlike many other islands which offer a multitude of resorts, activity menus and well, fellow man, Lady Musgrave’s only full-time inhabitants are 22 breeding seabird species such as the white-capped noddy terns that nest (and poop) in abundance in the Pisonia trees, and the silver gulls and black-naped terns on the ground closer to the beach.

Your closest neighbours? Over 1500 species of fish as well as manta rays, reef sharks and sea turtles as keen to explore your snorkelling gear as you are to check out their digs.

To put this simply; if you’re the kind of person who needs excitement, entertainment and 2am karaoke sessions, a day visit to the island might be a better bet, leaving the longer stays to those who wish to make the most of their relative solitude (not to mention front-row seats to Mother Nature: The Musical).

#3 Turtles may try to spoon you in the middle of the night

Turtle | Lady Musgrave Island It’s not often you’re advised to place logs and backpacks in front of your tent door to prevent turtles from mistaking your makeshift home for theirs, but this is a possibility on an island which is a huge nesting ground for green turtles, and to a smaller degree, loggerhead turtles.

Visitors to the island between November to February can expect to see mama turtles laying their eggs. If you’re day-tripping between January to March (camping during this time is strictly prohibited) you could be lucky enough to see the sand come alive as hundreds of tiny hatchlings make their way out of their sandy nurseries and down to the water. Remarkably this is the beginning of their 30-year journey around the globe before they come back to nest themselves.

The hardest part? Only one in 1000 will make it to adulthood – a fact made all too clear by the number of predators who pick them off during that harried dash.

#4 It’s home to some of the best snorkelling on the reef

Snorkelling | Lady Musgrave Island

Photo by @tracyolive

Admittedly, there’s no shortage of great places to snorkel and dive around the Southern Great Barrier Reef, but Lady Musgrave Island is unique in that its lagoon is formed by a huge, circular coral wall which protects the inner lagoon, leaving it calm and crystal clear. Not only does it make it easier to view Lady Musgrave’s abundant marine life (everything from reef sharks, manta rays and stingrays to sea turtles and schools of colourful clown fish) and over 200 species of coral, but makes the ‘put your face in the water and breathe’ thing much easier for first-timers.

Elsewhere on the island, activities mostly revolve around bird watching, swimming, playing the odd game of UNO and embracing your inner Robinson Crusoe. Adventure is what you make it.

#5 Your children will thank you for it

Boat trip | Lady Musgrave Island

Photo by @tracyolive

There’s no better way to teach your children about the beauty of the reef and why we need to work harder to protect it, than by spending a day or two out here. Whether they’re watching the birth/death cycle of the hatchlings and the predators on the island itself, or studying coral bleaching and rejuvenation in the water, the island’s gentle waters are all the encouragement they need to become reef-warriors.

Day trips with Lady Musgrave Experience, a 27-metre luxury catamaran, cater well for children with instructors, not only teaching them how to snorkel but giving them a guided walk on the island as well as a glass-bottom boat tour. Add morning tea, a buffet lunch and winning commentary and your holiday experience is made.

#6 You can sleep under a canopy of stars

Sunset | Lady Musgrave Island Dreaming of camping under a sparkling sky with only the sounds of waves in the distance for company? Provided you book in advance through Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (camp permits are $5.75) and only a handful of the 40pax maximum allowed to camp on the island at any one time show up, your wish may come true.

To camp here, you will need to be really, really, really organised as there is no fresh water, mobile reception, food or shelter of any kind on the island so everything from camp gear to food and water and any equipment you’ll need will need to be brought in. Occasionally rough seas can also prevent your return transfer from collecting you, so pack a little extra to prevent you going all Tom Hank’s Wilson-nutty.

Lady Musgrave Experience provides camping transfers, but you know what else they provide? A luxurious Sleep on the Reef experience for those who’d like to visit the island but then bunker down in the manner to which they’d like to become accustomed – one where meals are cooked and wine is poured regularly.  

Go on you trailblazers, what are you waiting for? Have you been to Lady Musgrave Island?