Percy Island (‘Middle Percy Island’) is one of the Percy Group in the Whitsunday islands. It’s 70 miles out from Mackay on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and is only visited by seasoned sailors. As you approach the white palm-fringed beach of Percy Island’s main anchorage at West Bay, a wooden A-frame hut comes into view…
We anchored at West Bay easily with calm waters not far from shore, and paddled kayaks to the beach. It was like something from a castaway film.
The ‘large shed’ we could see from the boat is an A-frame hut with a quirky hand-written sign naming it the ‘Percy Hilton’, filled with plaques bearing boat names and souvenirs left by passing boats over the years. I imagine passing yachties may have sheltered here when anchoring, perhaps staying for a while when seas were rough.
There’s a hut that works as a book exchange chock-full of books and more random memorabilia.
At the other end of the beach is a big ramshackle multi-level treehouse, with windows overlooking the beach.
A couple of local guys and and a group of other yachties who had just arrived were on the beach when we visited. One of the guys showed us around the treehouse. We walked up the ladder through three levels with basic bedrooms. I bet there are some stories from that place!
A ute passed and the drivers asked if the other yachties and I wanted to see the rest of the island. Of course I said yes, and we got an unofficial tour of the island while Ric waited on shore (he’d seen it before and there wasn’t space for him). We drove along a steep narrow dusty track for five minutes to the middle of the island and stopped at a ramshackle old house high on the hill overlooking the ocean. Tropical fruit trees surrounded the house.
The ranger / caretaker showed us around and we met a tall lean German guy who lived on the island, and an older woman who lived in the main house. The German guy had come to the island as a backpacker 20 years ago and never left! He said he had arrived a vegetarian, but living on the small island meant he’d adapted to available food by hunting wild pigs!
The yachtie guys asked if the the islanders had any limes they could buy to go with their rum. The German guy suggested we to go find some limes, so off we went on his motorbike, whizzing around the island looking for lime bushes.
We saw various trees and bushes along the way before we finally found the lime bush he’d had in mind, but it didn’t seem to be fruiting, except one old lime in the middle which wasn’t worth risking the thorns to get to. There are some incredible viewpoints from Percy Island across the sparkling blue sea dotted with islands.
Back at the main house the German guy said he’d guide me and the yachties back if we wanted to hike through the island. En route we stopped at his little wooden house that he’d built himself.
He’d recently installed a big wooden deck overlooking the ocean where he practiced yoga. What a life! After a quick photo on the deck we all set off walking back to the beach where we were anchored.
It was pretty hot, and the hike took much longer than I expected. We passed through some tough terrain and had to jump over a lagoon at one point!
There isn’t much info about Percy Island online, but the few articles I found were fascinating.
An entertaining old Independent article about the late ‘eccentric Englishman’ Andy Martin who held the island lease for years claims he abandoned his family in England and moved to the island circa 30 years ago. The writer was his step-son and went to visit him on Percy Island years later as an adult. He wrote an amusing but abrupt account of his trip, including some crazy island history about botanists being eaten by the original inhabitants, three gold-diggers who visited only to be murdered, commit suicide and disappear, corpses of escaped convicts found washed up on the beach after their stolen yacht sank and treasure being buried and never found. – The Riddle of Percy Island.
A more informative article with info about anchorages is here.
I visited Percy Island for the day while on a slow month-long sailing trip on a 40 foot catamaran from Airlie Beach to Hervey Bay in 2014. We stopped and explored many islands including Lady Musgrave and the fascinating abandoned resort on Brampton Island.
The Percy Isles are only accessible by private boat and aren’t included on tours that I know of. I’m glad I got to see the island, and feel lucky given it’s not on the tourist trail. I hope it’s unique quirky charm is preserved for years to come.
I went to Percy Island years ago on a long sailing trip. Great photos! Let’s hope its charm is preserved for years to come. A special place.
Thanks Steve, agreed, it’s such a unique interesting place and so beautiful. I hope it never gets ruined by development.
Hallo I am the a descendant of Henry Gittings my 3x gt Uncle Cook and Steward on the ketch The Vision he was part of an expedition that landed on the Percy Islands on a Botany Expedition in October1854 after an initial meeting with the local natives on the island they returned and a small party were attacked by the natives. Several of the expedition were murdered one of them was my ancestor. Frederick Strange was also killed the most well known among the group. Henry joined the Merchant Navy and “ran” at Sydney before eventually joining the expedition bound for the Percy Islands. The Royal Navy were sent in HMS Torch to the island to apprehend the natives and they must have randomly picked up the first 6 (including children) and sent them to Sydney for trial. A biography was issued documenting this story with a note to say the natives were found guilty and hung. I am pleased to say this is actually not true as they were found not guilty due to lack of evidence and returned home. I would love to have visited the islands but this will never happen as I live in the UK. I hope you dont mind me telling you this story you may have heard about it. Yours truly Jane Griffith nee Gittings
Hi Jane, thanks for your comment and telling this story. I really enjoyed reading it and learning something new about the island. There is some fascinating history in Australia. I can imagine the island natives would have been quite alarmed by the visitors. It’s a real shame that so much conflict and lost lives resulted from foreign explorers.
I am from the UK too. I hope one day you might get to visit Percy Island when travel opens up again.
I don’t post much on this blog any more but your comment inspired me to think about writing again!