Thursday, August 09, 2012

NYT Travel: Makepeace Island, Australia

New York Times Travel: Destination Makepeace Island
By Julie Earle-Levine

August 8, 2012
Makepeace Island as seen from above.

Makepeace Island, Richard Branson’s island in Australia, is a 10-minute ride on a private launch from Noosa, on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. The name is reason enough for any couple (quibbling or not, let’s make peace!) to visit, plus the island is heart shaped — though not quite as much as it appears to be on its namesake Web site — a forgivably cheeky exaggeration.

Zipping to the island by luxury speedboat, our driver advises us to look in the trees for koalas and indulges us with tales of kangaroos swimming over from the mainland. It’s very Australian: sweet-smelling eucalyptus trees, bouncing marsupials and laughing kookaburras. Branson bought the island in 2003, and the friendly locals, fishing in dinghies, often shout “Hi, Richard!” as they pass by the chic island launch.

The property is exquisite, with private two-bedroom villas and a four-bedroom house (the hideaway can accommodation up to 22 guests), an outdoor cinema and a lush lagoon pool that is lit at night by a roaring fire pit. Villas are furnished with authentic antique Balinese furniture.

The general manager Nick Jones does double duty as a chef, preparing delicious, mostly locally sourced meat and seafood. His tamarind-glazed crispy pork belly with a green mango, Asian herb and rice vermicelli salad is delightful. At night, there is a private theater for films, billiards and even bongos and a didgeridoo to play. If kayaking around the island has wiped you out, just relax in Branson’s huge black volcanic rock bath before retiring to his four-poster, with racy bedside reading in the form of “Position of the Day.”

Total seclusion has a price: you need to book the entire island, which is not a small commitment. It’s far pricier than couples therapy at $2,800 a night for exclusive use of Makepeace, plus $575 per adult per night (for 7 to 22 guests), or $890 per adult per night for 1 to 6 guests. But hey, if you’ve got the dough, give peace a chance.