In Travel

No Wi-Fi, No Signal & Not A Soul In Sight: The Little-Known Great Barrier Reef Island

Australia is home to some phenomenal private islands, from ultra-exclusive Orpheus in the Great Barrier Reef to Makepeace Island on the Sunshine Coast. Now there’s a new private island on the block – and it offers the kind of barefoot luxury you’ve only dreamed of.

Just 40 minutes by boat from Heron Island near Gladstone, Wilson Island is an adults-only escape where disconnection isn’t just possible, it’s guaranteed. No phones, no emails, no Facebook alerts to draw your attention from the sea or the sandy shore… it’s paradise.

Described as living in the middle of a bird sanctuary, where lapping waves are your soundtrack and turtles can be seen nesting outside your tent in season, the 5.24-acre coral cay is small enough to walk around in half an hour, but it offers a big experience.

wilson island

Image: Jordan Robins

Catering exclusively for adults 16 and over, Wilson Island welcomes just 18 guests at any one time, with all-inclusive meals, drinks, and snacks provided for the duration of your stay. Prices start from $950 per couple per night, or the whole island can be booked exclusively if you have a cool $8100 to lay down.

As you’d expect from such a remote getaway, accommodation is fairly low-key. Hidden discretely amongst Pisonia Forest, each of the nine designer glamping tents is minimally furnished, though the view to the sea beyond your door more than makes up for it.

What makes the Wilson Island experience even more remarkable is the site was completely abandoned by its former owners just five years ago, left to rot and return to nature after Tropical Cyclone Ita tore through the region and devastated the previous camp in 2014.

Canadian group Aldesta Hotels saw huge potential in the tiny speck of sand, which was once named by Condé Nast Traveler as one of the ‘10 best islands on the Great Barrier Reef’. They purchased Wilson in December 2017 and embarked on an extensive multi-million-dollar restoration and rejuvenation process – both of the resort and the island itself.

The ambitious project took around 18 months to complete, seeing vast amounts of rubbish and debris removed. Public buildings such as The Longhouse kitchen and dining area, which had been extensively damaged and vandalised, were refurbished as faithfully as possible.

General Manager and Vice President of Aldesta Hotels Australia Tony Barradale says the restoration has brought the island back to its former glory, while also implementing new sustainability features including a large solar array and state-of-the-art waste facility.

wilson island

Image: William Debois

Wilson Island is now 100 per cent solar and battery powered, and committed to using 100 per cent Australian products, resources and food where possible. There are no single-use plastics, water glasses are up-cycled from wine bottles, and bathroom amenities are plant-based and biodegradable. They even have turtle-friendly lighting for use during in laying and hatching season.

First guests were welcomed back the new-look Wilson Island in November 2019.

Each glamping tent now features a king-size bed and eco-friendly linen, as well as a small deck with chairs and a hammock for you to relax, unwind and slip into island time. There’s no Wi-Fi on the island, giving a perfect excuse to switch off and just live in the moment.

Beyond the tents is where you’ll find the real stars – wildlife of the island is next level.

wilson island

Image: William Debois

Part of the Capricornia Cays National Park, which encompasses eight islands including Lady Musgrave and Heron, Wilson is a haven of wildlife – a vital breeding ground for endangered loggerhead turtles, as well as a bird sanctuary for species such as wedge-tailed shearwaters. The island is closed for the bird breeding season from late January to the end of March, though it remains a fantastic birdwatching location throughout the rest of the year.

Offshore the waters are teeming with a rainbow of dazzling marine life, with snorkelling gear provided for a closer look. If you’re not big on snorkelling, you could go for a self-guided tour of the island with a picnic hamper, or just lose yourself in a good book.

Wilson Island is accessible via Heron Island in the incredible Southern Great Barrier Reef. Ferry connections to Heron Island are available from the Gladstone Marina daily, except Tuesday and Thursday, with the journey taking an easy two hours each way.

Sound like an escape you could handle? Wilson Island is waiting to help you switch off.

(Lead image: Jordan Robins) 

Published 16 December, 2019