Pelorus Private Island Is One of Australia’s Most Exclusive Hotels — Here’s What It’s Like to Stay

The private island retreat has five bedrooms, incredible views, and activities galore.

<p>Jason Ierace/Courtesy of Pelorus Private Island</p>

Jason Ierace/Courtesy of Pelorus Private Island

On the 30-minute helicopter commute from the northern Australian city of Townsville to Pelorus Private Island, sharp-eyed pilot Will Owens points to sharks and turtles in the coral-mottled seas below. I ask him what the most incredible sight he’s seen while flying over the Great Barrier Reef is. "In July and August, you can get a big whale breach right in front of you and then smash down on the sea’s surface,” he says.

When the choppers powered down on the parakeet-green lawns in front of the Pelorus beach house, hosts Kate Hawkins and Grant Logan greet me with Champagne and strawberries, which I nurse during a brief orientation of the ocean-edge pavilion’s five bedrooms, its airy lounge with gabled roof, horizon pool, and the open bar-slash-teppanyaki grill. Common to all spaces are walls of glass framing the tropical paradise outside.

The house beach is a white crescent of crushed coral sand. From here, guests can slip straight into the house reef with its walls of soft corals, myriad fish, and all manner of rays and turtles. Motorized and pedal- or paddle-powered toys allow guests to explore their waterworld from every vantage point.

Rambler, the resort’s motorboat, stands by for island explorations and excursions to the outer reef, including the Museum of Underwater Art.

<p>Jason Ierace/Courtesy of Pelorus Private Island</p>

Jason Ierace/Courtesy of Pelorus Private Island

But this being a classic Australian beach house, taking it easy is encouraged. Linger over sunny breakfasts and Hawkins’ excellent espresso coffees, tap into the wine wall (mostly Australian labels, plus Champagne) at lunch, and then see where the afternoons lead you — perhaps lounging poolside, taking a siesta, or hiking nearby Hinchinbrook Island.

Pelorus Private Island is the latest addition to Computershare founder Chris Morris’s $270 million Northern Escape Collection tourism portfolio, which includes the recently inaugurated Ardo Hotel — a sleek seaside tower handy for stays before or after Pelorus — as well as neighboring Orpheus Island and the 28-guest lodge Mount Mulligan Lodge, set beside a billabong on a 70,000-acre outback cattle station.

Pelorus Private Island

  • The exclusivity, privacy, and isolation of the house and its location in the heart of the World Heritage-protected Great Barrier Reef are exceptional.

  • The private beach is rigged with all manner of motorized and pedal- or paddle-powered aquatic toys for exploring the house reef and beyond.

  • The next-level activities, from diving expeditions to the outer reef to rigorous hikes on nearby Hinchinbrook Island, are top-notch.

  • The white sands, swaying palms, and translucent sea add to the perfection of Pelorus’s setting.

The Rooms

<p>Jason Ierace/Courtesy of Pelorus Private Island</p>

Jason Ierace/Courtesy of Pelorus Private Island

The house’s five almost-identical bedrooms share a relaxed, Pacific aesthetic inspired by the Queenslander houses of northern Australia, including louvered windows and screen doors for cooling ocean cross-breezes and a visceral connection to your surroundings. Oiled New Guinea rosewood adds tonal warmth while crisp Italian cotton bedding, fans, and air-conditioning keep things comfortable in Australia’s notoriously steamy north.

<p>Jason Ierace/Courtesy of Pelorus Private Island</p>

Jason Ierace/Courtesy of Pelorus Private Island

Pendant egg chairs hang from sea-facing decks for swinging in the breeze like the palm fronds in front of you.

Walls clad in whitewashed shiplap and custom-designed, neutral furnishings keep guests’ focus firmly on the surrounding natural paradise — the brilliant blues and greens of sky and sea and the blinding intensity of the Australian light.

<p>Jason Ierace/Courtesy of Pelorus Private Island</p>

Jason Ierace/Courtesy of Pelorus Private Island

Galley-style bathrooms are stylish and textural with limestone floors, spotted gum benchtops, and sea views from showers. The fifth room can be configured with three single beds, twin beds, or a king, and connects to room four to form a family compound. There are no minibars in rooms, but Pelorus staff will happily cater to all your earthly desires.

Food and Drink

After several years’ cheffing aboard Morris’s chartered superyacht in the Med, there are few cuisines, cultures, or dietary quirks Logan can’t cater to. At Pelorus, he likes to keep things relaxed and family-style, serving copious platters of proteins, vegetables, and salads that showcase the freshness and luxury of Australian ingredients.

Hyperlocal offerings include seafood line-caught from the Coral Sea by local fisherman Chris Bolton, prepared as charry, grilled coral trout and nannygai (snapper) sashimi with pickled jalapeño. Morris insisted on a classic teppanyaki bar, so Logan has been busy honing his hotplate skills with teriyaki-grilled Tasmanian sirloin and jumbo shrimp. He’s also proficient in pizza oven and barbeque.

All guests are sent pre-arrival preference sheets to note any dietaries or special requests, such as caviar (at extra cost). The bar, too, can be curated to residents’ tastes. Still, with two house Champagnes, a cellar of fine Australian wines, and a cocktail bar equipped with premium domestic and international liquors, there’s no need. Hawkins takes care of sunset cocktails and, come morning, fresh-squeezed juices and espresso coffees that would even pass muster in Melbourne.

Activities and Amenities

<p>Jason Ierace/Courtesy of Pelorus Private Island</p>

Jason Ierace/Courtesy of Pelorus Private Island

The house sits in beautifully landscaped gardens surrounded by almost a thousand acres of pristine but inaccessible wilderness. There are plans to hack hiking trails through the bush, but for now, all the action is on the UNESCO-listed reef — Pelorus’s greatest asset and raison d’être.

There’s an array of watercraft at your disposal — jet skis, sea-bobs, kayaks, paddleboards, and water bicycles — for reef explorations and close encounters with turtles, rays, exotic fish, and centuries-old bommies (columnar corals, an indigenous word) submerged beneath the sea.

For adventures further afield, hail the motorboat Rambler for dive and snorkel excursions to the outer reef and visits to the Museum of Underwater Art, a collection of submarine installations at John Brewer Reef, about 40 miles off the coast of Townsville. Rambler is also available for fishing charters to nearby green zones (Logan will happily cook your catch) and outings to the island’s Bat Cave, which Chris Hemsworth made Instagram-famous.

Nearby Hinchinbrook Island or Munamudanamy lies northwest of Pelorus, offering privileged access to Australia’s largest island national park. Hike its untamed wilderness to Zoe Falls, a rainforest oasis of tumbling cascades and crocodile-free lagoon swimming. Dugongs often graze the fringing seagrass beds.

If the weather closes in, there are board games, yoga, and cooking classes, an open bar (that’s an activity, surely?), and a TV the size of a small cinema screen.

The Spa

There is no spa, but local therapists can be called in for massages. Guests can also pop over to Orpheus Island’s Gwandalan Spa for massages, facials, and body wraps using riverbed mineral salts and native botanicals.

Family-Friendly Offerings

As a private island experience, activities are tailored to each guest, including children. The Pelorus team can take young ones snorkeling or see-through boogie boarding on the house reef for joy rides on jet skis or beachcombing. Beach picnics, barbeques, and pizza nights cater to the whole family.

Accessibility and Sustainability

One room has been adapted for wheelchair access, but the resort and most activities are unsuitable for people with advanced mobility issues.

Solar panels and batteries fully power the residence; freshwater comes from the sky and an on-site desalination plant.


Laidback Townsville is North Queensland’s largest city and the gateway to Pelorus. It’s a two-hour flight north of the Queensland capital, Brisbane, with direct air links to the U.S. with United Airlines, Qantas, American Airlines (and, from December, Delta), or from Vancouver with Air Canada.

Northern Escape also operates the just-opened Ardo, Townsville’s first five-star hotel, for pre- or post-island seaside stays,

How to Get the Most Value Out of Your Stay

Rather boldly, Pelorus Private Island is priced at $12,000 a night for two people. But each extra room is just $1,300, so gather a group of 10, split the cost, and that’s a much more reasonable $1,800 per person per night to stay in glorious isolation on the Great Barrier Reef.

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