Lying low in the Southern Great Barrier ReefLady Musgrave Island sits untouched and idyllic just 60km off the coast of Agnes Water & 1770 in the Gladstone region of Queensland.

There are no beachfront bungalows, swim-up bars or hints of any development at all, and that’s the unique charm of the only island in the Great Barrier Reef with a navigable lagoon. Beyond the few camping spots on Lady Musgrave Island lies an island untouched by humans, where Casuarina and Pisonia trees entangle the islands 8square km interior, and sea turtles grace the shoreline and surrounding reef. In the summer months it is even common for nesting turtles to outnumber visitors staying on the island for the night.

The island itself, although an isolated coral cay, provides refuge for thousands of nesting seabirds and serves as a rookery for black noddies, wedge tail shear waters, bridle terns, black-naped terns and silver gulls.

The reef itself is spectacular and much livelier than what you would find on most commercial day tours operating out of Cairns or the Whitsundays further North. Colourful coral bommies sit surrounded by schools of vibrant fish, as turtles, reef sharks and manta rays glide by through the crystalline water.

 The island is a major breeding ground for Green and Loggerhead turtles and snorkelers have the opportunity to swim with them all year round. October onwards is the best time for turtle spotting as they populate the island’s shoreline and surrounding waters for breeding season, but even on a mid-winter visit it would be incredibly rare for visitors not to sight at least one. We visited twice in June and on both occasions found ourselves swimming alongside a turtle within 10 minutes of jumping in the water!

Protected by the island and surrounding reef, the water in the lagoon is much calmer than most of the other commonly visited spots on the outer Great Barrier Reef. Tour operators offer floatation jackets for the less experienced, so families and first-timers can even experience the underwater world with ease.

To make the most of the available day-trips to the island, it is recommended visitors stay in the picturesque towns of 1770 & Agnes Water, a relaxing coastal community with an abundance of other natural and adventure activities for visitors. Daily cruises to the island are operated by a number of companies and depart from 1770 each morning, with prices starting from around $200 for adults and $600 for families.


​Words, photos & video by travel photographer James Vodicka.