Lonely Planet Writer

Great Barrier Reef islands get a makeover after cyclone damage

More than two years after Cyclone Debbie caused widespread flooding and damage to the North Queensland coast, the Great Barrier Reef islands are set to undergo a major makeover.

The Great Barrier Reef islands are set to benefit from a major restoration programme. Image by Getty

Cyclone Debbie was one of the most ferocious tropical storms to hit Australia in years when the category four storm blew ashore in March 2017. Islands and resorts in Queensland were lashed with destructive winds that uprooted trees, tore the roofs off homes and stripped the islands and corals of their vegetation. Now the Queensland government is investing AUS$55 million (£30 million/$38 million) into a major restoration programme that will help mend the resort islands and get them back on their feet.

“The Great Barrier Reef is our greatest tourism asset,” tourism minister Kate Jones said. “Attracting millions more tourists to our Great Barrier Reef resorts is an important part of our strategy to grow our tourism industry. That’s why we’re investing more than AUS$55 million to partner with the private sector to restore these resorts to their former glory.”

Kangaroo hopping along the beach at Daydream Island resort and Spa, Queensland. Image by Kieran Stone/Getty

The first resort to benefit from the programme was the revamped Daydream Island in the Whitsundays, a popular honeymoon resort which officially reopened last week after the devastation of Cyclone Debbie. Ms Jones said Daydream Island resort offered 277 rooms and suites, three new restaurants and three new bars supporting 240-250 ongoing jobs for the region.

One of the island’s trademark attractions was one of the world largest man-made living coral reef lagoons – a 1.5 million-litre body of water that has also been restored to house more than 100 species of fish and 80 species of coral.

Whitehaven beach on Whitsunday Island. Image by Matt Munro/Lonely Planet

The Great Barrier Reef contributes AUS$3.9 billion (£2.13/$2.68) to the state’s economy and supports more than 33,000 jobs.

“The reopening of Daydream Island resort is a major milestone for our tourism industry and will create hundreds of jobs for locals,” Ms Jones said. “We’re committed to working with tourism operators to create jobs in our state.”