ONE OF OUR ALL TIME FAVOURITE DESTINATIONS, THIS REMOTE ISLAND IS A TROPICAL OASIS AND (FOR US) THE ULTIMATE CHRISTMAS GETAWAY.
‘Never heard of it!’ I hear you say. No neither had we, but considering Andrew and I both changed jobs last year at different times, we never really got to have our “big” holiday for the year. After doing a lot of research and costing up somewhere in Asia at peak Christmas time, versus somewhere in Oz, we worked out that heading north was going to be surprisingly cheaper. Note this is definitely not a weekend trip from Sydney, although you could get away with 4 days, (trust us, you’ll definitely want to stay the week, if not forever)!
Bedarra Island is just one of those magical places you have to see to believe. Although we have to be upfront here and mention that it does take a while to get there, once your feet jump off the boat onto the island all that seems to slips away.
You need to fly to Cairns and hire a runabout from Sugarland Car Rentals (I say runabout because unless you’re going to stay in Cairns you’ll only be in the car 2-3 hours tops). Then you have two choices, you can race all over Cairns like we did getting groceries for the week, or you can just put your order in for Woolies and the boat transport guys at Mission Charters will meet you at the boat with your shopping. Next time we’ll do the latter. Then you have a picturesque drive from Cairns to Mission Beach, where you’ll be met at the boat by your Captain Jason, who will load everything you need for the week onboard and then head off you head for a 40 minute boat ride to Bedarra.
The boat will take you past the well known Dunk Island Resort, which since the hurricane in 2011, has been closed down for renovation, but you can visit or camp the island if you so wish. See our last day on Mission Beach guide for more details on how to get there.
Arriving at the island, you really do feel like Robinson Crusoe, as it seems quite far from the mainland. And lucky for us, the Captain just informed us that the the other 7 residents of the island weren’t going to be there for this particular week over Christmas. So (apart from the island caretaker), we had the entire place to ourselves. As in the whole frickin island was ours! You’d be pretty hard pressed to find a more remote, private, romantic, stunning island for that price during the Christmas week!!
- Getting there We flew to Cairns from Sydney with Tiger, flying early morning and returned via Jetstar. Hire a cheap car from Sugarland car rental and drive to Mission Beach which takes around 2-3 hours. Pre book your boat transfer over to the island with Bec at Mission Charters and they'll pick you up and take you back when you're done. Rent Sugarland again to return to Cairns airport.
- Where to stay We stayed in a gorgeous 3 bedroom house called Bedarra Beachcombers. This place is perfect for families or groups, as well as couples (particularly honeymooners). The two bedrooms are separate villas with their own bathroom. The views face both ways, so you could basically sit up in bed and look out to the surrounding islands. Everything else about this place was spot on, newly renovated with bi-fold doors, water views and nestles into the landscape. Think Balinese style villa. Also see our 'Where to stay' section for more island options.
- What to do Lounge about really. There are two beaches that you have access to which will help mix it up, and there's also a very short walk you can do around the island. If you're feeling adventurous, the accommodation provides a double kayak, which gives you access to circle the whole island. As long as you stay away from the resort, you are ok. Mission Charters will also come and pick you up for a day rate if you feel like going snorkelling or boating out to towards the reef. We mainly read and swam and made cocktails and then read and swam again.
- How much Flights at Christmas from Sydney were about $1000 for the two of us return. Flying off season you could get there for about $400 for 2 return. Boat transfer to the island and pick up is $340 and accommodation was $550pn (but it is 3 bedrooms so you could do it much cheaper). Add in groceries/booze for the week totalled between $5-6000K - 7D7N. So definitely luxe holiday or ideal honeymoon (if you're a couple).
Arriving on Bedarra can only really happen through private boat and yes it is a little OTT to rent your own Island for the week, but we’ve never really found staying at resorts or hotels that appealing. Plus, cost wise it’s easy to justify considering there are no restaurants, shops, homeware stores or other distractions to spend your money on. You basically take all your food, alcohol and everything you need (which isn’t much – swimmers, sarong, books) for the week. Once you get there, the island caretaker transports it all up for you and all you have to do is unpack and take in the amazing views from your new home. Well, for that week anyway.
There are 7 houses on the island, not all of them you can rent. Ours was a gorgeous multi-villa, 3 bedroom paradise called Bedarra Beachcombers. Pictured above is the view from the kitchen looking out to Dunk Island. Once you’ve unpacked and squealed “omg, come and have a look at this” all over the house to each other, it’s cocktail time, followed by a swim, then exploring ‘your’ island.
We really couldn’t believe our luck when we went exploring, not only did we have our own private beach, we had two of them. You can decide which one you feel like on the day, or just spend time at both. Some really tough decision making to be had at Bedarra.
The accommodation has everything you need as the kitchen/lounge is huge with two fridge/freezers and a large pantry. Some dried food is supplied if you run out of things. Mission Charters can also bring you over anything (for a fee) if you happen to run out, but try to bring everything. We mainly did bbq’s every night, so nothing too fancy.
We should also add here that the island does have these amazing Rhino bugs which are beautiful to look at but are like christmas beetles on steriods. Considering the house is the only real light on the island, you tend to get a lot of these guys suicide into lamps/lights anything, so try to keep it low and close the doors at night.
Oh and there might be snakes… we weren’t sure if we should tell this story as we didn’t want to put you off, but Bedarra is a tropical island, so you can see the occasional snake. Best to warn you to take a torch at night going between the villas, as Andrew did almost step on a snake’s head, which meant by the time I got to him it was standing up in shock. Both of us were in shock too! So just be careful, he seemed harmless but better to be cautious.
Much like all tropical destinations the afternoons at Bedarra can get a bit overcast and stormy but that’s ok because you can just head back to the pad, make a cocktail (our favourites were mango daiquiris), grab a good book and take it in the vista whilst it passes through. It’s a hard life.
Once the sun comes back out it’s time to head back down to your private beach for a swim and watch the sunset.
Now we’d be telling a little white lie if we said the Island was completely ours, as the truth is there are 2 parts, one for residents and the other for the Bedarra Resort. Directly opposite this beach in the distance you can see the resort, which is much more of an exclusive stay on the island with prices starting from $1100-$1600pn twin share (which includes food and alcohol) per villa. It does look amazing and it is how I discovered the Island, but it is a little out of reach for the average punter. Once I started researching that you can stay in a 3 bedroom house on the private residential side, with your own food and alcohol and not see another soul, I knew which option we’d choose. Depends on your taste and budget I guess, but either way Bedarra is magic and it’s small enough to kayak around the entire thing so you can explore it all.
Above is the view from the huge verandah off your bedroom. We were lucky enough to get a full moon, which out here in this remote darkness just made the sky light up as if it were sunrise. Andrew took some long exposures to capture the moment.
On the island you can choose whatever breakfast you like (as long as you make it). This particular day we had his and her versions of paleo pancakes with watermelon maquiris (mocktail daquiris – – I made that up ;).
Screensaver type beaches that are slightly less crowded than Bondi over the Christmas period.
Don’t forget to follow us on instagram if you aren’t already.
Couldn’t take that smile off my face the entire week. Bedarra really was that perfect spot to truly unwind and relax after a busy year. And once our families eventually forgave us for not being around at Christmas, it truly was a no regrets holiday (despite the little splurge).
Coming very soon to the site you’ll be able to download a more packaged version of this guide that you can take with you, as well as some him/her/blank printed guides for that special gift in our soon to be shop. To see the other half of our Christmas holiday, the 7D7N in Mission Beach click here.