Bedarra Island – Belinda, Taking Time Out To Know Paradise

Belinda on Bedarra
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The spectacular view from Treetop Hideaway on Bedarra Island. Photograph by Belinda McDowall

For those in need of a quiet getaway with a hint of Robinson Crusoe but including all the mod cons, Bedarra Island may be the answer. With one boutique resort and only seven houses, privately-owned Bedarra Island is the absolute definition of a deserted island.

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The welcoming sight of palm trees upon arrival at Bedarra Island. Photograph by Belinda McDowall

Bedarra Island is part of the Family Islands, situated just off the coast of Mission Beach, in Far North Queensland in Australia. The Family Islands were named by English explorer Captain James Cook, who came across them on his journey throughout the southern seas in 1770. This small group of islands consists of a ‘father isle’ – Dunk Island, popular in the 1980s and 90’s as a resort, but since the havoc wreaked by Cyclone Yasi in 2011, has become a tranquil retreat for campers – a ‘mother isle’ of Bedarra Island, and the ‘children': ‘twins’ Wheeler Island and Coombe Island, and ‘triplets': Smith, Bowden and Hudson Is.

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The deserted white sands and crystal blue waters of Doorilla Beach. Photograph by Belinda McDowall

Bedarra Island has been referred to by several names over the years. Captain Cook initially referred to it as Richards Island, and subsequently it became Allison Island, for the first European settler Captain Henry Allison. It became Bedarra Island thanks to author Edmund James Banfield, who lived on Dunk Island in the early 20th century, and wrote ‘Confessions of a Beachcomber’, inspired by the 23 years he spent in the Family Islands. Banfield began referring to the island as ‘Bedarra’, which was in fact a misspelling of the Indigenous term ‘Biagurra’, which translates loosely to ‘the place of endless water’.

WOOD, Noel Australia b.1912 d.2001 Tropical landscape c.1940-50 Oil on canvas on plywood 47.6 x 62cm Acc. 1:0544 Gift of (Professor) Dr J.V. Dug 1952 courtesy QAGOMA Queensland

WOOD, Noel Australia b.1912 d.2001, Tropical landscape, c.1940-50 Oil on canvas on plywood 47.6 x 62cm, Gift of (Professor) Dr J.V. Dug 1952, courtesy QAGOMA Queensland

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Palm Trees surround the relaxing Doorilla Beach on Bedarra Island. Photograph by Belinda McDowall

The Family Islands, and particularly Bedarra, have attracted artists and writers since Banfield’s time, enticed by thoughts of a tropical idyll in which to while away the hours engaged in artistic pursuits and a bohemian lifestyle. In 1936, Australian modernist painter Noel Wood visited Bedarra and subsequently purchased a significant section of the eastern side of the island. Wood managed this property for almost 60 years, residing on the island for much of this time.


Two boats 1946 WOOD, Noel, Australia QLD 1912-2001 Oil on canvas 45.7 x 56.5cm Acc. 1:0384a Purchased 1946, courtesy QAGOMA

He travelled extensively, but always returned to Bedarra and his studio.

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The rustic track from the beach up to the accommodation. Photograph by Belinda McDowall

Other artists in residence included John Busst and his wife, who migrated to the island in the 1940s and hosted many guests from all walks of life during the forties and fifties, notably Prime Minster Harold Holt and his wife.

Poet Judith Wright lived on Bedarra during the 1980s, and more recently photographer Peter Lik has owned a house on the island.

A section of Noel Wood’s land was subdivided in 1993 and sold, and the seven houses now on the north west of the island are each located within what was previously Wood’s land.

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Bedarra Island Treetop Hideaway. Photograph by Belinda McDowall

Six of the seven houses are rented out as holiday lettings, and each one is a private paradise, whether perched by the beach, on the rocks, or up near the top of the hill. The delightful Treetops Hideaway is one such house, its name providing clues as to some of its many charms. Hidden away amongst the treetops, a short but vigorous uphill walk from the beach, this luxury property provides everything one might require for a truly relaxing break.

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The beautiful recycled wood flooring of Treetop Hideaway. Photograph by Belinda McDowall

The house has been designed by award-winning architect Chris Van Dyke using an ingenious design of three octagonal pavilions of Asian influence, and built using recycled timbers, including floors from old railway sleepers, and ceilings from bleached logs.

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The sleeping quarters of Treetop Hideaway. Photograph by Belinda McDowall

Every wall is comprised of either glass doors or wooden louvred windows, which open up completely to an expansive deck offering a spectacular view over the water to some of the other Family Islands. A plunge pool is also on offer, for a quick dip after relaxing on the sunbeds.

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The awakening day. Sunrise on Bedarra Island. A few of the “children” islands can be seen in the distance. Photograph by Belinda McDowall

The house is perfectly located to see the sunrise, should one choose to rise early. And as the day gets going and the sun climbs higher in the sky, it is fascinating to watch the changes in the weather rolling in, as the fluffy bands of clouds come and go, and tropical afternoon rain showers arrive and depart in quick succession, cooling and freshening everything in their wake.

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The crystal blue waters of Doorilla Beach. Photograph by Belinda McDowall

For those wishing to venture further than the spacious wooden deck, Doorilla Beach is a short ten-minute walk down the hill. Framed by palm trees, this white sandy beach is truly the stuff of dreams. With crystal blue water and soft waves, this secluded cove is perfect for spending a quiet morning reading a paperback novel.

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Doorilla Beach with Turtle Rock in the background. Photograph by Belinda McDowall

At dusk, scramble up onto Turtle Rock, to see the Turtles frolicking in the sea just off the coast. Or sit quietly at any time of day and watch the array of crabs in action, going about their business, big ones and small ones, scuttling sideways over the rocks and across the sand.

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The spectacular view from inside Treetop Hideaway. Photograph by Belinda McDowall

With no distractions apart from the incoming waves and the clouds in the sky, Bedarra Island is the perfect location for a true getaway. Perfectly private in every way, without even a corner shop or local restaurant to distract guests, all food must be brought across from the mainland.

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Breakfast with a view on Bedarra Island. Photograph by Belinda McDowall

Luckily, a number of stores with quality produce are close to Mission Beach, allowing visitors to pick up meats, freshly caught fish, and a plethora of tropical fruit along the way to the island. A fully functioning kitchen as well as barbecue facilities are available at the Treetops Hideaway, enabling guests to survive on this deserted island in relative comfort.

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The author gazes out to sea. Photograph by Paul McDowall

Bedarra Island is accessible by boat courtesy of Mission Beach Charters, or for those with a little more disposable income, helicopter. An exhilarating 30-40 minute boat ride over the waves from Mission Beach drops guests at Coomool Bay. And short ten minute walk through the bush brings visitors to the Treetops Hideaway, a home away from home, equal parts stylish and comfortable, with a spectacular view. The welcoming caretaker, Chris, will be able to assist with luggage, although it is advisable to keep suitcases to a minimum, and it should be mentioned that guests are likely to only require swimsuits and minimal light clothing for the duration of their stay!

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Panoramic view at sunrise from Treetop Hideaway on Bedarra Island. Photograph by Belinda McDowall

Belinda McDowall, Deputy Editor and Special Features, The Culture Concept Circle, 2017

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