An aerial shot of Hayman Island by InterContinental
An aerial shot of Hayman Island by InterContinental Contributed

Island paradises left to languish now return to glory

JUST two years ago Daydream and Hayman Island resorts were decimated as a slow-moving destructive storm pushed towards the Queensland coast.

Severe Category 4 Tropical Cyclone Debbie caused havoc across the region as she made landfall near Airlie Beach, unleashing the fury of winds at more than 250km/h. Directly in her unwavering path were the luxurious Whitsunday Islands.

But standing on either island now, the utter destruction left by the storm is unimaginable.

Instead, multi-million-dollar renovations totalling more than $240m have returned both resorts to something far better than their former glory. And now they're ready to open their doors.

 

Lincoln Lewis at Daydream Island
Lincoln Lewis at Daydream Island Contributed

Queensland Tourism Industry Council chief executive officer Daniel Gschwind said it was encouraging to see investors pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into the Whitsunday Islands.

"It has been a tough stretch over the past couple of years, for obvious reasons," he said.

Adverse publicity stemming from extreme weather, shark attacks and climate damage has had an impact on the marketability of the region.

"Once you implant these images into people's minds it takes a long time to reverse that," Mr Gschwind said.

"I go back to the cyclone. Lots of accommodation infrastructure on high profile islands, Daydream, Lindeman, Hayman and South Molle (was damaged). They are not operating and desperately waiting for a reboot.

"Daydream is officially back online. Hopefully that is good news for the Whitsundays."

Hayman Island Resort manager Mark Eletr is preparing for the resort's grand re-opening in July.

Mr Eletr said the "new" Hayman was a modern take on luxury; you won't find flashy, flamboyant gimmicks which oversell and underdeliver.

Instead, he said, the resort would deliver a fully-integrated mindful experience for guests, offering them a luxurious location to relax and connect with their loved ones.

"Technology and environmental sustainability got a huge amount of attention (in the re-design)," Mr Eletr said.

 

"There are no single-use plastics and eco-friendly plastics on the other products.

"It is fully integrated to minimise waste and reuse. Guest are expecting that now; they frown when they see single use plastics."

Operated by InterContinental, Hayman Island resort will open to the public on June 30.

Seven islands, nine resorts

ACROSS the Whitsunday archipelago nine current resort leases are in place across seven islands.

A Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy spokesperson said this included open and operating resorts as well as those that had fallen into ruin.

SITTING just off the coast of the Mackay region, Lindeman Island has lain dormant since resort operators Club Med shut up shop in early 2012. Four months later, Chinese/Australian tycoon William Han acquired the property through White Horse Group China for $12 million.

At the time, Mr Han told Newscorp Lindeman had been through "challenging times" but said the company was investigating how to re-position the island as an attractive tourist destination.

The proposed $600 million resort overhaul would see the dilapidated resort transformed into three world class tourist resorts as well as a day spa, tourist villas and village precinct.

Construction was pegged to begin in 2017, but a pending Commonwealth approval has stopped shovels turning the first sod.

White Horse Australia director David Richards spoke at a Regional Project Forum in Mackay in 2018. He told the crowd the Lindeman project would create more than 300 permanent jobs and generate about $100m annually.

 

Artist Impression of the Lagoon pool at the new look Lindeman Island, due to be finished by 2022.
Artist Impression of the Lagoon pool at the new look Lindeman Island, due to be finished by 2022.

The Daily Mercury was unable to confirm whether or not construction on the project had started.

ONCE dubbed the heart of the Great Barrier Reef, South Molle Island was left nothing more than an eyesore by Cyclone Debbie. The damage was so extensive, owners China Capital Investment Group, who also own Daydream Island, closed the resort completely.

In the wake of the devastation, CCIG released a statement saying it had focused its resources on Daydream Island.

 

The full damage on South Molle Island in the Whitsundays.
The full damage on South Molle Island in the Whitsundays. Facebook

The company snapped up South Molle for close to $25 million in 2016. In April, the ABC reported redevelopment on the Island was still "years away".

In November that year Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk met with CCIG during a trade mission to Shanghai. Newscorp reported she was briefed on "hundreds of millions of dollars of investments planned for South Molle Island next year".

EASILY the most iconic and picturesque location in the region, the panoramic views from Whitsunday Island have made it a drawcard for tourists the world over.

The island, which is the largest in the Whitsunday archipelago, has no permanent inhabitants. Several small, minimalistic campsites allow visitors to stay on the island.

In November last year, the State Government began fielding expressions of interest for private operators keen to develop green adventure and tourism opportunities on the island. This plan drew immediate criticism from Mackay Conservation Group, which launched a 'Hands off our National Parks' campaign.

The Daily Mercury understands there has been strong interest in this concept, with the State Government working through a tender process in order to launch the project.

 

The stunning shores of Whitehaven Beach have been nominated (again) as one of Australia's best beaches.
The stunning shores of Whitehaven Beach have been nominated (again) as one of Australia's best beaches. Phill Gordon

SPURRED by high-profile island launches and investor interest in Queensland's leisure assets, Sydney investor David Kingston has put his slice of paradise back on the market.

This time around, Long Island's price tag is estimated to be upwards of $15 million. In 2016 Mr Kingston was unable to sell the 172-room resort at an asking price of $20 million.

Situated just off the coast of Conway National Park, Long Island is one of the 74 Whitsunday Islands. Sitting closest to the coast, it is 9km in length and about 2km at its widest point.

CBRE Hotels' agent Hayley Manvell is one of the agents working on selling the property. Ms Manvell said the island resort would be suited to redevelopment by investors.

"Long Island Resort features mainland power and presents strong foundations for an incoming purchaser to redevelop and re-establish this once thriving island getaway and realise its true potential," she said.

A NEW island eco-resort destination could soon be on the cards on

Hook Island

with leaseholders, the government and an island expert in "preliminary discussions" about its future as a tourism destination.

Island broker Richard Vanhoff said the current leaseholders had owned the property for some time and were "fairly enterprising people" not shy to throw a few dollars at a project.

"Eventually, I guess, if they don't decide to produce a resort themselves, they will put it back on the market," he said.

The $50 million Hook Island Wilderness Resort Redevelopment Project was proposed by Laguna Island Adventures in 2007.

 

Hook Island
Hook Island

State Government documents show plans to develop a 120-room eco-resort with cabins and tents were still current in 2017.

Despite obvious setbacks in the region's tourism industry, Mr Gschwind said offering strong tourist products which offer sustainable and luxurious experiences would attract tourists.

"The reef and the ecosystem will continue to be a major attraction and we need to pull out all the stops to make sure investment goes into protection of these incredible assets," he said.



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