Simon Lloyd

With strong returns from north Queensland property, investors are asking: where’s next?

The next hot spot

Innisfail is next. An hour’s drive south of Cairns, Innisfail became a household word around the country last March – for all the wrong reasons – when Cyclone Larry ripped through this regional city (which boasts the biggest concentration of art-deco buildings in Australia country, most of which are, happily, being lovingly restored in Larry’s wake).

With the cyclone’s anniversary approaching, it’s amazing the job that has been done to rebuild Innisfail, and the aura of optimism around town has been given a big boost recently with work starting on Ella Bay.

Touted as the next Port Douglas, Ella Bay is a 500ha development just outside Innisfail and is being touted as a “master-planned eco-community”, which in fact is property-speak for “great big subdivision”.

Ella Bay boasts all the necessary ingredients: resorts with more star-ratings than Hollywood Boulevard, up-market homes (no MacMansions please), more than 4km of the obligatory pristine beachfront, tree-lined “corridors” for wildlife protection, oh, and a golf course – of course!

It’s likely to take about 10 years to finish, but with the fast-diminishing supply of beachfront opportunities in this part of the world, investors looking for solid, long-term capital gain are already lining up to buy not just at Ella Bay, but in central Innisfail itself.

Ella Bay also marks the return of a very high-profile West Australian to Far North Queensland, Janet Holmes a Court. Her Holland Construction Group is a joint-venture partner with Witt Property Group in the building of Ella Bay’s infrastructure.

Janet Holmes à Court is no stranger to Far North Queensland property deals. One of the most exclusive islands off the FNQ coast, Double Island near trendy Palm Cove, used to be a Holmes à Court family hideaway.

Then she sold it to Ozemail founder Sean Howard (he has since turned it into an uber-chic resort that attracts the ultra-rich and ultra-shy, happy to fork out the $21,000 a night tariff for guaranteed privacy).

Prices on Ella Bay residential lots haven’t been published yet, but you can bet they’ll look as if they’re missing a zero compared with Port Douglas, where these days a piece of beachfront dirt the size of a Kompressor’s steering wheel will set you back seven figures.

Even though Cyclone Larry has sent house prices in Innisfail through the blown-off roof, you can still pick up an elevated one hectare block 10 minutes from the beach for $185,000.

Work on Ella Bay’s infrastructure is under way, so watch out for the inevitable slick marketing campaign in the next few months.

The pitch will be the investment allure of resorts boasting more stars than a Dubai spa, the obligatory four km of pristine beach, and up-market home sites (no MacMansions allowed here, thank you), not to mention all manner of environmental bonuses such as wildlife-friendly “corridors” (whatever the hell that means).

Oh, and a world-class golf course – of course.

Innisfail, meanwhile, is not only set to benefit from the tourism influx Ella Bay is expected to generate when the first resort opens in about 18 months.

There’s also a proposal to build a $130 million marina-style resort and housing facility close by within a similar timeframe, providing an alternative anchorage to Port Douglas and Cairns for the growing armada of super-yachts that berth in Far North Queensland every season.


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