First look: Branson’s $25k-a-night Queensland hideaway


SIR Richard Branson had only one instruction for the designer rejuvenating his unique Queensland retreat: make this island feel like a home for all who visit.

The multimillion-dollar makeover of exclusive Makepeace Island, secluded on 10ha in the pristine Noosa River, is now complete with News Queensland given an exclusive first look.

After finishing touches yesterday, the heart-shaped hideaway will host national and international media and travel industry representatives today and tomorrow before re-opening for "exclusive-use hire'' from Friday.

It can be enjoyed by high-flying guests, so long as they can afford the $10,000 to $25,000 per night rates, depending on the number of "castaways'' and the season.

There is no shortage of people looking to take a billionaire's break and the private sanctuary is fully booked until the end of the year and only taking bookings for 2019.

The rejuvenated Makepeace Island in Noosa, owned by Sir Richard Branson. Picture: Lachie Millard
The rejuvenated Makepeace Island in Noosa, owned by Sir Richard Branson. Picture: Lachie Millard

The price tag is a bargain compared with Sir Richard's Necker Island resort in the Caribbean which costs $85,700 a night (US$62,500) for up to 24 guests.

The target audience includes families on multigenerational retreats, those celebrating special milestones, health and wellness lovers and "top-end strategisers'' from the corporate world.

Sir Richard, who visited the Sunshine Coast in mid-October to review the progress, said he was thrilled the transformation had been completed.

"We look forward to welcoming guests to our newly-renovated Australian island home," he said.

The Virgin tycoon bought into Makepeace, 150km north of Brisbane and 6km upstream from the beach, in 2007, joining Virgin Australia co-founder Brett Godfrey, who purchased it in 2003 for $2.86 million.

It was used initially as a home away from home for the owners and as an awesome free hangout for Virgin employees and special friends looking to recharge their batteries.

Guests can expect to pay from $10,000 to $25,000 a night to stay on the he redeveloped island. Picture:  Lachie Millard
Guests can expect to pay from $10,000 to $25,000 a night to stay on the he redeveloped island. Picture: Lachie Millard

Since 2011, it has been opened to paying guests and this will be a greater focus following the comprehensive renovation. Ex-CEO of Swisse Wellness, Radek Sali, has recently bought a share.

High-profile visitors have included pop star Justin Bieber, US rapper, The Bachelor's Sam Wood and Snezana Markoski and singers Guy Sebastian and Natalie Bassingthwaighte.

Sir Richard flew in his personal designer, June Robinson Scott, to oversee the changes.

The interior designer for Necker Island and the exotic Branson Estate on Moskito Island in the Caribbean said there was only one special request from her famous boss.

"This was that we retain the concept of Makepeace being the home of the owners alongside being used as a holiday destination,'' she said.

"Richard just wants everyone to be able to relax and have a good time … be at ease.''

Ms Robinson Scott said her main goal was to ensure the island was welcoming and relaxing but had a sophisticated edge. She said she had aimed to open up the property, improve the flow and lighting across communal areas and retain the exotic Balinese elements. Major alterations have been made throughout the resort where "the outside has been brought in'' with a distinctly Balinese style.


The interior of the Master Villa. Picture:  Lachie Millard
The interior of the Master Villa. Picture: Lachie Millard


The property's three large villas and stunning four-bedroom house have seen sweeping changes to make them more luxurious and inviting, while The Boathouse has been turned into a unique suite that showcases uninterrupted views of the Noosa River and North Shore. The kitchen has been opened and there's a new poolside bar, games room, library and yoga and meditation sanctuary, along with additional decks, water features, and river dining hut.

Makepeace Island general manager Cathryn Grieve said the owners would not disclose the exact budget for the renovations, but it was "significant''. The property had been closed for the winter for the makeover.

The Courier-Mail understands the cost was into the millions.

Ms Grieve said many local tradespeople and businesses had been used for the project. She said Makepeace was well-connected to the Noosa and Sunshine Coast community, sourcing much of its meat, seafood and produce from the region. It has four permanent staff and employs 25 casuals.


The new-look pool area. Picture: Lachie Millard
The new-look pool area. Picture: Lachie Millard


"We aim to attract a wider audience to the island, including families wanting multigenerational retreats and people celebrating milestones like wedding anniversaries and birthdays," she said. "We also cater for wellness retreats, with healthy food, yoga, reflection and the perfect location to recharge.''

The island is just one of the projects in a tourism boom for the Sunshine Coast as developers briefed Tourism Minister Kate Jones about their plan to build the state's largest family "eco-leisure resort''.

Sanad Capital Pty Ltd will lodge a development application with Sunshine Coast Council "within weeks'' for stage one of a $450m water-themed tourist resort on the Steve Irwin Way at Glenview.

The first stage of the Actventure project is to be a $37m accommodation element with 250 eco-villas and glamping tents, a family restaurant, healthy café, spa, next generation waterpark, adult and family pools, slides, and sports activities, Sanad chief executive Bradley Sutherland said.