Inside Australia’s newest island 10 years in the making

Located in the beautiful waters of the Great Barrier Reef, surrounded by coral, caves and canals — a new ‘island’ has been born.

As I take off from Hamilton Island’s super-luxe qualia resort, my heart jumps into my throat. The water circles beneath me as the chopper glides over Whitsunday Island and dips around to Whitehaven beach.

My eyes are glued to the glass of our chopper as I take in every shade of blue beneath me.

The boats below look like tiny specks dancing over the waves.

As we snake along the 7km stretch of beach, the chopper rattles as it’s hit with a thud of turbulence.

After running in to a bit of turbulence, we were on our way to Australia’s newest ‘island’. Picture: Vanessa BrownSource:Supplied

Our destination is a 60km helicopter ride off Hamilton Island. Picture: Tourism AustraliaSource:Supplied

“Sorry for the wind, folks,” our pilot, Brad, says as I keep a steady grip on my seat.

“Will be a bit shaky up here, but we will be at the island in about 15 minutes … so enjoy the ride.”

As we push away from the cluster that surrounds Hamilton Island and in to the open ocean of the Coral Sea, a thin white break stretches out towards the horizon.

The heart-shaped coral of Heart Reef is one of the most famous sights of the Great Barrier Reef.

Hundreds of thousands have travelled from all over the world to experience the distinctive reef, which was discovered almost 45 years ago.

The formation is 17 metres in diameter, and until now had only really been enjoyed from the sky.

Heart Reef, is one of the most photographed compositions of coral on the Great Barrier Reef. Picture: Tourism WhitsundaysSource:Supplied

But after eight years of painstaking approval attempts, and a further two years of steady construction — Australia’s most famous reef has a new neighbour.

As we circle the ‘Island’ below, I felt like I was having a James Bond experience from Casino Royale.

We hover for a moment, a large H lingering on the roof of the $2 million ‘island’ before we plunge down to land.

The structure — which is actually a pontoon — is moored in a lagoon just a short swim from the famous Heart reef. And while you can’t actually snorkel on to the famous reef (a boat will take you there instead) it’s the closest tourists can get. In fact, the fish, sharks and turtles have rarely been joined by human visitors until now.

The island took 10 years to pass government approval and build on the reef.Source:Supplied

But perhaps the best bit is what’s on board. Free flowing champagne, a glass bottom boat to explore the wider reef and even a spot of lunch upon arrival.

After we land, it’s a quick dash to the front door of the exclusive site, which can only be booked by Hamilton Island guests. At it’s most crowded, the pontoon will have just six guests on board.

Inside, shades of blue extend beyond the windows that wrap about the floating five-star pontoon.

The pontoon is surrounded by coral reef and stunning lagoonsSource:Supplied

Shadows of fish dart below the deck as our glasses are filled with champagne. You feel like you’re walking on water.

The majority of the space is taken up by glass-bottom boat that sits inside the pontoon and is lowered into the water when guests want to go out for a swim.

The only way to reach the island is by helicopter. Picture: Celeste MitchellSource:Supplied

The site has been no easy creation.

First came the approval. An eight year back-and-forth with the government to get the nod for construction. Then came the building.

A huge task to not only construct, but to withstand any of the environmental catastrophes tropical Queensland is so well known for. The region is still recovering after the surrounding islands were ravaged by Cyclone Debbie.

Inside the new Aussie ‘island’ 10 years in the making.Source:Supplied

Sit back and relax.Source:Supplied

To develop Heart Island, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority had to sign off on the final development and environmental impact study before construction could begin.

The pontoon has been designed to be ecologically sustainable, by being moored in sand and powered by wind and solar.

The island doesn’t carry any waste and only operates within a designated lagoon where regular reef health monitoring takes place.

Opening to the world on Monday July 15, to get there you have to be staying on Hamilton Island and have a few pennies saved — because the three hour experience will set you back just short of $1000 per person.

The complete three hour experience will set you back $999.Source:Supplied

This writer travelled to heart island as a guest of Hamilton Island Tourism.

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