New eco-resort to bring tourists back to Hook Island in the Whitsundays

A new eco-resort will be built on Hook Island in the Whitsundays. Picture: Supplied by CBRE
A new eco-resort will be built on Hook Island in the Whitsundays. Picture: Supplied by CBRE

A new eco-lodge will be built on a once-popular holiday island in the Whitsundays, almost a decade after its cyclone-damaged resort closed.

Sydney hotelier Glenn Piper plans to build a world-class eco-resort after buying the Hook Island Lodge for an undisclosed price – his third recent hospitality acquisition.

“The Whitsundays is one of the most naturally stunning and diverse tourism destinations in the world and we are thrilled to secure a landmark position in the heart of it on Hook Island,” Mr Piper said.

Mr Piper, the CEO and founder of property investment group Meridian Australia, partnered with a small syndicate of investors to acquire the leasehold in perpetuity for Hook Island Lodge.

Aerial view of the beach at the Hook Island Lodge site in the Whitsundays

The site of the Hook Island Lodge, which closed in 2013 after being ravaged by a cyclone. Picture: Supplied by CBRE

Located on the south-eastern side of the uninhabited island, the Hook Island Lodge has been closed since 2013 after being ravaged by Cyclone Yasi in 2011. It was further damaged by Cyclone Debbie in 2017.

The old infrastructure was cleared from the site and the owners secured development approval for a 50-room, experience-based tourism operation.

Now a blank canvas, the 9.3ha site has two private beaches, more than 1km of water frontage and sweeping views of Hook Passage and the Great Barrier Reef.

“There’s nothing quite like it. Very few locations in the world can offer this level of natural wonder,” Mr Piper said.

“I want to create an experience that befits the beauty of the island and the Whitsundays – respectfully and sustainably.”

Palm trees and sand on one of two private beaches on the Hook Island Lodge property

The 9.3ha site has two private beaches. Picture: Supplied by CBRE

Mr Piper said he plans to create a world-class hospitality experience for “this slice of paradise”.

Tourists have been restricted to the reefs around Hook Island since the lodge’s closure, but will be welcomed back when the new resort is built.

The eco-lodge will be the only private operation on Hook Island, the second largest island in the Whitsundays at 58sqkm.

Hook Island sale attracted strong interest

The sale attracted strong investor interest, CBRE Hotels director Tom Gibson said.

“The fact that Hook Island Lodge went under offer in the very first week of a public expressions of interest process highlights the confidence experienced operators have in our tourism market,” Mr Gibson said.

“We received in excess of 150 enquiries through the process from a range of well-known investors, including major international food and beverage players, as well as ultra-high-net-worth individuals.

“Queensland, and more specifically the Whitsunday Islands, has witnessed record hospitality and tourism investment in recent years, marking it as one of the most resilient markets through the pandemic and positioning it perfectly to capture a resurgent international inbound market.”

A cleared site beside a beach on Hook Island in the Whitsundays

The opportunity to build a new lodge on Hook Island generated strong interest from investors. Picture:

Tourism Whitsundays CEO Rick Hamilton welcomed the development of the new resort.

“The new eco-resort will further enhance the reputation of the Whitsundays and Queensland both domestically and internationally as the must-do destination in Australia,” he said.

Island buy is hotelier’s third recent acquisition

The acquisition is the third hospitality asset to be bought by Mr Piper in recent months.

He also bought the Beach Hotel in Newcastle’s Merewether earlier in May and recently took over the leasehold of Q Station in Manly’s North Head, in a deal announced in November. 

The jetty, buildings and beach at Manly's Q Station

Hotelier Glenn Piper’s recent acquisitions also include Q Station at North Head in Manly. Picture: Supplied by CBRE

Q Station, the former quarantine station, sits on a 30ha site and includes boutique hotel accommodation, wedding and conference venues, restaurants and bars, and also hosts ghost and history tours.

Mr Piper, who also owns the Harbord Hotel in Sydney’s Freshwater, said he is committed to delivering and respecting iconic venues that hero Australian beach culture.

“It is a great privilege to act as the custodian of these sites and to preserve the rich history that each embodies,” he said.

He said there were important environmental, historic and local factors to consider.

“We are currently in the process of extensive research and consultation as part of the work on Q Station, and will soon begin a similar process for Hook Island.”