A beginner’s guide to Turtle Cove on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef
There’s not many LGBTQ resorts in Australia.
There are lots of queer-friendly places - on the whole, Australia is a pretty liberal country, and most accommodation providers are keen for your business, whatever your sexuality.
Turtle Cove is exclusively queer. No straights allowed. I’m not sure how they screen for that, if you wanted to try and smuggle a straight guy in, I don’t think it would be too hard, but in principle it is queer only.
My stay at Turtle Cove was the first time that I’d stayed at a queer-only resort or hotel of any kind. I’d never even done a gay cruise. I was travelling by myself, staying for a couple of days to do some thorough research.
The best way to access this region is to fly in to Cairns, on the northeast coast of Australia. There are shuttle services that operate from the airport, but it’s much more convenient to hire a car. I picked up my hire car from the airport and headed north.
Discreetly sign-posted, Turtle Cove is just off the picturesque Captain Cook Highway that runs along the coast between Cairns and Port Douglas.
As you drive in, first impressions are a little underwhelming, but as I walked through into the reception area I could already begin to glimpse the clear blue ocean that the resort looks out upon.
It’s a unique setting, right on the beach. They don’t really do private beaches in Queensland, so technically anyone can come and use the beach. But, protected by rocks at either end, Turtle Cove is effectively blessed with its own beautiful stretch of sand. You don’t have to be staying at the resort to enjoy access to the beach, the pool, and the bar. The resort welcomes anyone staying in the area who fancies calling in for a bit of clothing-optional tanning, swimming, and socialising.
The room was modern and functional. Not over-the-top luxurious, but very comfortable.
I’d arrived in the early afternoon and everything seemed pretty quiet. I quickly got changed into a pair of shorts and a tank-top and headed down to the beach. It was clearly sign-posted as clothing optional.
Perhaps emboldened by the fact that I couldn’t see anyone else on the beach, with only a moment’s hesitation I stripped off and made myself comfortable on the sand. It will sound naff, but there’s something incredibly liberating about sunbathing naked.
Stupidly I didn’t have any sunblock with me, so I couldn’t stay out on the beach for too long – there were parts of my body that hadn’t seen the sun in a long time. No one wants a sun-burnt butt.
While the beaches along this coast are spectacular, and the water a magical clear blue, I’m always a bit apprehensive about jumping into the waves in this part of the world - there are big signs everywhere warning about the dangers of jellyfish and crocodiles.
The coastal forest runs right down to the beach in most places, and I guess there must be a few crocodiles around, though I haven’t really heard of any floating around out in the sea – but no one wants to be that swimmer that hits the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
The jellyfish around here are a bit more ubiquitous. There are two types of jellyfish to watch out for – the Irukandji Jellyfish are really small at about 2cm in diameter, but their sting packs a real punch and will cause severe pain, nausea, and vomiting. The other one to watch out for is the Box Jellyfish. These are quite enormous – a small bucket-like body that trails incredibly long stingers. If you get stung it’s extremely painful and will scar.
I was visiting in mid-July, which technically is not jellyfish season, however I didn’t venture any further into the water than my ankles. I was already feeling a bit vulnerable being naked, I didn’t want to get stung or bitten on any of my more sensitive areas.
Of course, one of the reasons to come to this part of the world is to explore the Great Barrier Reef. Once you’re out on the reef you can swim safely and without fear of attack from anything too life-threatening. Even the reef sharks won’t try and take a bite out of you.
Having topped up my all-over tan, I headed back up to the resort buildings and took a swim in the pool. This was all clothing optional too, and I was really getting into the swing of just hanging out naked.
I’d been a bit apprehensive that an exclusively queer, clothing-optional resort would somehow be a bit sleazy. It really wasn’t. If you were looking for sex with other guys, then that was clearly an option. However, there were also plenty of guys there who just wanted to enjoy the spectacular surroundings and hang out in a friendly resort where you can just relax and be yourself.