Keswick Island

PHOTO: Keswick Island

After decades of unfulfilled promises, Queenslanders are giving up on their dream of retiring in a tropical paradise on Keswick Island, nestled on the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef, off the coast of Mackay.

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In the late 1990s, several lots on the island went up for sale with dreamers jumping at the opportunity to own their own slice of paradise.

But many of these lots, still bare, are now back on the market.

A tropical cove and beach on an island
Basil Bay is one of the major attractions on Keswick Island. (Supplied: Mackay Tourism )

Resident Craig Gilberd bought a block on Keswick nearly two decades ago, commuting to work on the mainland, via his private plane.

But Dr Gilberd said this all stopped when Oasis Forest, formerly China Bloom, took over the head lease in 2016 and barred the use of the island’s airstrip to residents.

He said this was just one of most recent frustrations tenants on Keswick had faced and believed these shortcomings like this — and lack of development — had stopped many from building homes on the island.

No houses built

Dr Gilberd said when they first bought, an all-tide jetty and a marina were on the cards.

“The original lots that were sold in the early 2000s are starting to change hands now, because people are too old, they’ve moved on, they’ve had other things happening in their life,” Dr Gilberd said.

a keep out sign is on a beach
Signs were posted around Keswick at the height of the tension between China Bloom and visitors. (ABC Tropical North: Angel Parsons)

Dr Gilberd said there had been no houses built on the island for at least a decade.

The island is home to at least 10 full-time residents, with several others splitting their time between the mainland and their corner of heaven.

Most of the residents and landowners have had a complicated relationship with Oasis Forest.

Dr Gilberd said when the lots first came on the market in the 2000s, they ranged between $70,000 and $500,000.

One of the lots is now selling for $30,000.

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Dr Gilberd said many of the original buyers had since become “fed up” with the lack of development.

“Some people just gave their blocks back,” Dr Gilberd said.

Many Keswick residents and mainland visitors struggled with the company’s previous island caretaker but say relations and understanding with Oasis Forest had improved since Scott Wilkinson took the position in 2021.

a man stands next to a ferry smiling
Scott Wilkinson was appointed the new Keswick Island caretaker in 2021. (ABC Tropical North: Angel Parsons )

Dr Gilberd said he had seen the prices for blocks on the island beginning to improve.

“There have been quite a few blocks sold recently, the prices are climbing back up again,” he said.

“The main thing is the jetty, an all-tide jetty. The airstrip opened up for more commercial people coming in and private and a formal place to park our trailer boats.

‘Exciting time again for Keswick Island’

Despite the frustrations, Dr Gilberd still wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

“There are stunning views, I mean we’ve got 270-degree sea views from our place,” Dr Gilberd said.

Mackay real estate agent and Keswick Island property owner Greg Chappel’s agency PRD has 12 island lots for sale.

“It’s getting better and better to live there, the management of the island is doing all it can to get a jetty on the island, the investigations are underway now,” Mr Chappel said.

“It’s an exciting time again for Keswick Island, it’s at a point where it’s perfect for someone who wants to own some land on the island, and it can only be upwards in value from here.”

Mr Chappel said the blocks were being sold as sub-leaseholds, where owners paid levies each quarter to take care of the landscaping, the airstrip facilities, garbage collection and other services.


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