“It’s not all palm trees and white sand,” says Craig Beckey, shortly after arriving on his private island.
As the pandemic hit, the 56-year-old photographer heard about Worthington Island, a 30-minute boat ride from Gladstone in Queensland, on morning television. He made arrangements for the trip and bought Beckey Island in 2021 for $385,000.
“I was walking and offering afternoons,” he said. “All of a sudden I was like ‘oh shit, I bought an island.’
He likes to crack a beer, crank some tunes, go fishing. But not in a very nice way – life on the island involves mozzies and middle battles, as well as his hut, he says.
“I call it a box, wooden floors nine meters by four meters, wooden floors, off the sails.
“I have solar, I have wind power, I have gas generators. I like to run, I can make my own ice, the stove is a pot belly.
And when there is no black, he throws his boat and kayaks into himself, or walks into the mangrove.
Failure to have your own island
The private island market has been hit by Covid-19, and the buzz around secluded idylls erupted again last week with the news that Poole Island in Whitsunday was back on the market for less than $1m.
Media coverage talked about “StressAn exclusive tropical island getaway for less than the average house in Sydney.
Acting, Private Island Online Australia director Richard Vanhoff said the location, the view and the swimming pool were all stunning, but it would take about $100,000 to make Polo Island habitable.
“This will cost you some money moving to the Pole. It attracted some vagabonds, some Robinson Crusoe, who left the windows and doors open. They had a front yard, leaving the windows open and we had a cyclonic rain that just flooded the place,” he said.
When he meets with a potential owner, he says he’s “candid and honest” about the condition of the property and what’s needed, whether they need a helicopter to access it, what they should buy into the deal, when no one is picking up. granary and any contract of lease.
A customer might need an AX to enter, or a plane – which means an airstrip. Some islands will not have internet access, let alone power or running water.
The Real Estate Institute of Australia advises buyer beware when it comes to finding your island.
“While the idea of buying your own private island sounds exotic, they are wrong,” says the company’s president, Hayden Groves.
“Buyers are required to be careful with the environmental requirements for any proposed developments or improvements that may limit the use of the island.
“Many of the island’s land properties are also subject to crowns, so buyers have a limited time to enjoy their island with no guarantee that it will be extended or re-offered.”
Multimillion dollar fixer-uppers
There is a huge waste of gulf between places like Worthington and Poole islands and they are at the luxury end.
“Worthington, you sold the cheapest island ever,” Vanhoff said.
Then I bought the islands up to $30m. In fact, you will have three islands in one of about 5000 acres [2,000 hectares]. Many of my islands are far from the market. So the owners. They just indicated that they didn’t want the ad.
“I just sold one for $38m.”
In Bass Strait, Island Nona is for sale for $1.98m; you will just build your house. Goat Island, on the north coast of New South Wales, has its own rainfall and has sold more than a million. Regina Island is on the market for $3.95m, with the buyer responsible for local bird care.
Islands can be sold as holiday homes, homes, or business ventures, depending on local regulations.
Vanhoff rushed into the offer after the public about Polo Island – the initial buyer was absent, and the place was back on the market.
He says while it’s working, if you add a “big boat and a cabana” it would have “the most beautiful pool in Australia”.
“It’s a grist mill [that] it sucks water from the ocean, and immediately it grows,” he said, before telling the story of the grandchildren of the previous owner who want to fill the tank with fish.
“At one time they took two places … they threw two places and begged the parents to come to swim,” he said.
“They were small places. But imagine that sharks ate in your tank.
(This same pond Natascha Mirosch said was full of dead animals when she went on a “hot” vacation there in 1977.
It’s island time
Back on Worthington Island, he says every time Beckey arrives, he wonders why it took him so long. It might not have palm trees and white sand, but it does have dolphins, and sometimes dugongs.
bandicoots, echidnas, and special lakes that only breed on the island.
“It’s so beautiful. You can crank your beatbox as loud as you want. You don’t have neighbors. Sometimes you just feel like turning up the tune, sometimes you’re just chilling in a tent one night watching the world go on,” he said.
“I think people love it a lot. When you’re there, it’s settled. Full refrigerator, beer or wine on ice, everything in place. You just kick back, read a book, go fishing. It’s island time. Everything is controlled.
“There’s a certain magic to it.”