Luxury villas, plunge pools, snorkelling, hiking and wild natural beauty – the soon-to-open Double Island resort offers all this and more, just a five-minute boat ride from Palm Cove, north of Cairns.
It’s felicitous that Double Island – a twin-peaked fragment of land moored just off the coast of Palm Cove, north of Cairns – should have been named in 1848 by the captain of a ship called HMS Rattlesnake, for there were Indigenous people who believed it to be the resting place of the mythical Rainbow Serpent.
We realise the island’s original inhabitants are long gone – and the snakes, too, it seems – as we pick our way around the island, searching for signs of the lives that once lived here, listening out for ghosts.
Just two souls live on Double Island now: a caretaker named Jack and a dog named Gypsy. But their peaceful idyll will be short-lived, for plans are afoot to bring the almost-deserted island back to life – Cairns-based Fortune Island Holding Co Ltd is implementing a multi-million-dollar refurbishment project. It takes little more than five minutes to reach Double Island from Palm Cove’s jetty – it’s the closest island to Tropical North Queensland’s coast – yet a stroll up the pontoon and onto the 19-hectare spread takes us back generations. It was here that Captain Owen Stanley, the man who named Double Island while charting the inner barrier reef, established a survey centre in the 19th century. It was later commandeered as a retreat for wealthy miners before passing through private hands, including those of the late Australian billionaire Robert Holmes à Court. And herein lies another pertinent connection, for the luxury villas built for Holmes à Court were the handiwork of Haggerstone Island’s Roy Turner when he was moonlighting as a builder in the 1980s.
The neoclassical structures stand empty now but their solid bones and airy proportions offer the restorers a sound template from which to work.
The rebranded resort will feature 24 villas sleeping 48 guests; some of them will contain their own plunge pools. A licenced restaurant, to be built beside a sundeck overlooking the island’s sinuous, coral-flecked beach, will offer relaxed lunches, à la carte dinners and themed barbecues. Solar panels are already in place and will provide 100 per cent of the island’s energy requirements.
Locals will be able to come across in their tinnies and enjoy the island’s amenities – water-based activities such as fishing and snorkelling, beach volleyball and hiking – alongside paying guests. The company hopes to commence half-day tours in late June and to open the resort before Christmas this year.