Destinations

Eco-friendly luxury resort opens on abandoned Great Barrier Reef island

An abandoned island north of the Tropic of Capricorn has been transformed into off-grid luxury accommodation.

Wilson Island has seen guests visit for the first time in five years after being redeveloped into a picturesque and sustainable, solar-powered island paradise now home to an eco-friendly luxury camping resort, 15 kilometres from nearby Heron Island.

Wilson Island is just a 40-minute boat ride from Heron Island, which is located 80 kilometres offshore from Gladstone. Depending on their preference, travellers can get to Heron Island by sea or air transfer.

The island caters to nine permanent tents that host a maximum of 18 guests at any one time. There are no phones or televisions on the Great Barrier Reef cay, which is reached by boat from nearby Heron Island.

“As you can imagine, once you arrive, you won’t find any modern distractions like phones and TVs,” Aldestra Hotels & Resorts writes online.

“What you will find is the opportunity to disconnect from the modern world, to relax and rejuvenate and truly become a guest of nature.”

The island was developed by Aldestra, which purchased it on a rolling lease following its abandonment in 2017.

Speaking to ABC News, project manager Kevin Nixon said being on the island is “a unique experience”.

“It’s like you’re living in the middle of a bird sanctuary. You wake up [and] there’s turtles outside your room nesting.”

Wilson Island closes every year from 28 January to 1 April to allow the resident bird population the peace and quiet they need to nest.

Lack of consultation with traditional owners a ‘missed opportunity’

But although the opening of the island has been welcomed by the region’s peak tourism body, traditional owners have expressed their disappointment over a lack of consultation.

Wilson Island is part of the land traditionally owned by the Port Curtis Coral Coast (PCCC) People, a group which is made up of four tribes: the Byellee, Gooreng Gooreng, Gurang and Taribeland, and Bunda people.

The PCCC board is made up of two representatives from each group, responsible for managing the benefits of various Indigenous Land Use Agreements (ILUA).

Board member Kerry Blackman told ABC News he was unaware of any ILUA agreements made between the Government and the PCCC about the new development on Wilson Island.

Gooreng Gooreng woman Cherissma Blackman-Costelloe told the outlet it was frustrating to be left out of processes happening on their land.

“All of this land and sea jurisdiction here, it does belong to a certain tribe,” Blackman-Costelloe told ABC News.

“We have the responsibility and obligation to care and care for country and land and sea management.

“At the end of the day, all we want is the recognition and respect, and then everything else comes after it if you do things in an open and transparent way.”

Blackman-Costelloe said it was a missed opportunity for the government and developers to form beneficial partnerships with the traditional owners.

“They can form a partnership with all Indigenous traditional owners on those offshore reefs and islands,” she said.

“That will then create economic development. It will create pathways for the future generations, and I’m not talking only for traditional owners — it’s for the wider community as well.”

Travel Weekly has contacted Wilson Island for comment.

Featured image: “Your private escape on the Great Barrier Reef is officially open”/wilsonisland_(Instagram)

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