Middle Percy Island

Coconut trees. Actual proper ones, each with a little warning sign on the trunk cautioning potential conks on the head. I’m pretty happy with this being my first experience of a tropical island. (And I’m not really counting Lady Musgrave Island, because it’s more coral than land…)

Small DB. Middle Percy Island. The A-Frame.

For all the people who know about the myth and magic of Middle Percy Island, there must be more that have no idea of it at all. (More here).

In the first hour we were on the beach we met our new friend Lindsay – one of the two treehouse dwellers on the island. He showed us how to dehusk and spike a coconut – we tried coconut flesh and milk from coconuts of different ages and stages.

He introduced us to his bearded friend Bob – a part-time treehouse dweller, who swopped us a Coral Trout he’d caught earlier that day, for some onions and potatoes. We all felt happy with the deal! Here is the old communications shed, now historical relic emporium and book exchange…

Book exchange shed. Middle Percy Island.

Book exchange shed interior. Middle Percy Island.

We visited the famous A-Frame building (sporting the recent addition of solar panels) which was rather intimidating with its multitudes of boat signs, and a few hardened looking cruising people.

The A-Frame on Middle Percy Island.

The A-Frame on Middle Percy Island.

Island grown/made. The A-Frame on Middle Percy Island.

The non-national park part of the island is dog friendly, so there were a few running about – we made particular friends with Rhythym – the beautiful, sleek and gentle Treehouse dog, and Pippi – a little while poodle with attitude from the boat Easy Rider.

DB and her true love. Pippy the dog. Middle Percy Island.

Over the following week we used the communal fireplace at the A-Frame as our cooker when our stove broke. We mingled with other boaties and island dwellers while eating goat curry on two different nights. The Smalls and I hung out there for a day when we couldn’t bear the sandflies in the lagoon – we were so grateful for the shelter it offered, and the crazy history it contained – a living breathing record of cruising visitors.

Hammock. The A-Frame on Middle Percy Island.

Do a good deed...

The second or third day of our stay, Small Z and I walked up the long track that leads to the homestead, looking for a spot where you could obtain mobile coverage.

Our stroll was laced with a hint of urgency, because – in having detoured to Middle Percy Island – I forgot my fortnightly committment to touch base with Centrelink.

ARGH! My sole reason for contact is to reiterate that I continue to homeschool the Smalls. I am able to receive some money because I am on duty as their teacher and thus am absolved from seeking or doing paid work. Which is undeniably useful. However, in the idyll that is Middle Percy Island, there is NO mobile coverage. None.

A lovely couple, Linda and Jamie, told us that if you walk a fair way up the hill in the direction of the homestead (I know nothing of this mythical homestead except that there is one and they operate on VHF Channel 73) – eventually you will reach a sign hanging from a tree that reads:

Ring, ring!

So Small Z and I set off walking. Me with my phone, my Telstra hotspot thingy, water and some secret biscuits for bribery. M looked at me with gimlet eyes before dropping us ashore, and said, for the third time,

“Go to the treehouse and ASK them where to go. I KNOW you. You’ll walk however many kilometres being a tough loner and then have to walk all the way back and ask someone and it’ll all go pearshaped. Just do it. Ask.”

Something that has served me well throughout my vast experience with mansplaining is the nod-and-smile. And generally the nodding hides my eyerolling. Of course, once we got ashore, Small Z and I did some exploring to see if we could find the path. We studied a helpful map.

“Just go and ASK, mum,” bleated Small Z, channelling her father. But there’s one thing that Small Z will adhere to – RULES. And when she saw the sign to the treehouse had the word ‘private’ added to it, we agreed that we would ask – but only if someone was visible as we walked by. There wasn’t – so we started trudging up the only obvious track.

We trudged. And saw a beautiful wallaby emerge from the bush. We trudged. And watched a cockatoo dig around in the dirt and hop between fallen branches. We trudged even further and saw two wild and gorgeous goats.

Just for fun we followed a little sign to Rescue Beach – and came face to face with Jamie and Linda. Two dinging sounds occurred and we all jumped. And then realised – mobile phone reception!! They were able to get enough coverage to send a few text messages – but I needed to use an app to report in, and the signal wasn’t strong enough for that.

We continued onward for about another kilometre. Small Z was beginning to flag, so I gave her a biscuit. I had been told that the signal would kick in before we reached the ‘Ring, ring’ sign – and so it did. Why I didn’t remain where I was and utilise the signal is beyond me. For some reason I was convinced that the best signal would be under the sign…

Waiting at the 'ring, ring' sign. Middle Percy Island.

Wrong! Wrong!! Wrong!!! And the signal — it kept moving. It was an exercise in biscuit fuelled frustration. Finally, having texted my woes to L, I gave up. Small Z and I began the Long Walk back. And 20 metres down the track… DING! It was L, returning my message. I had FOUR BARS on my phone – I stood like a statue, with only my thumbs in motion. I reassured Centrelink that my situation was unchanged, and did a brief dance of relief (on the spot) – sending a thankful text to L, and another to the Mothership, letting her know we were offgrid. Small Z was very relieved to head back to West Bay…

Back to the beach on the long track. Middle Percy Island.

After a day or so in West Bay, conditions changed and the chop became intolerable. M went out in Foamy and scoped out the lagoon at high tide. We’d heard there were sandflies there, but were prepared to put up with them if we could stop bumping up and down.

At high tide we nosed our way into the lagoon. We did a much improved version of our Mediterranean anchoring system (trialled once before in Casilda Cove). It was far easier in transparent water and zero rocky shoreline.

M, immersing to anchor us in the lagoon. Middle Percy Island.

This was the first time we had ever dried out in Bella Luna!

Dried out alongside 'Easy Rider' in the lagoon. Middle Percy Island.

I was tempted to think that we needn’t have scrubbed the hulls in Hervey Bay – it was also very apparent that the antifoul we had put on less than a year ago in Melbourne was hopeless – I can’t avoid stating that M had ignored me when I told him we should use copper – he had wanted to whack the antifoul on and get going….

DB and I walked off the boat this morning!  Middle Percy Island.

The lagoon…the beautiful lagoon. It was completely blissful for the first three or four days while we were still getting breezes through. As the tide came in, we could hear the sand swishing under the hulls for ten or fifteen minutes – it wasn’t a sound we had ever heard before – kind of a ‘hush, hush, hush’ sound coming from the floor.

The tide cometh in.  Middle Percy Island.

145/365 • drying out for the first time ever, back at Middle Percy Island in the lagoon • . #latergram #middlepercyisland #queensland #catamaran #bellalunaboat #lagoon #Winter2017 #6yo

From the lagoon we could walk off the boat at low tide (a sparkling novelty) and walk up the hill past two boats that are being worked on – an old racing boat called Champagne and a trimaran, owned by a guy called Donny – a true sea-gypsy.

Swimming in the lagoon. Middle Percy Island.

Once over the hill and around a little bit we came to the treehouse, where the Smalls spent a lovely morning working with clay from the island under the tutelage of Kate, and alongside Marla and Linda (from *Easy Rider*). Although I love clay, I was too thrilled by the opportunity to sit in a comfy camp chair, in the kitchen of the treehouse with a view of the beach and a cup of tea in my hand – watching someone else adult my Smalls. *Heavenly.*

Middle Percy Island: Treehouse Pottery

One morning M went out early fishing with Bob (who is a bit of a fishing superhero). The Smalls and I floated Foamy on the very last of the tide and went over to Hinkeleys Shed. We borrowed 20L of rainwater and put it aside in the shade to take back to Bella Luna in the afternoon – then we began the walk to the homestead.

The Smalls and I walking the 'short track' to the homestead. Middle Percy Island.

The homestead, inhabited by Cate and John, is one of two or three houses on the island – 83% of which is national park. They are the leaseholders over the remainder. Cate’s cousin Andy was the previous longterm leaseholder who built the A-Frame for the use of sailors. I think he also built the treehouse – currently occupied by our new friends for minimal rent – in return they keep an eye on things at the A-Frame and have a hard, but seemingly idyllic life (except for the Summer months when the heat and the sandfiles are apparently intolerable – I don’t ever intend to personally verify this).

From the beach on West Bay there is the ‘long track’ (that Small Z and I walked part of to find mobile signal) and the short track – a few kilometres shorter, but a trifle more rugged. We chose the latter. Even so, it was a long way…but with helpful indicators that we were still on the track…

The Smalls and I walking the 'short track' to the homestead. Middle Percy Island.

The Smalls and I walking the 'short track' to the homestead. Middle Percy Island.

There were frequent rest stops, and the Smalls kept a keen eye out for green ants. We eventually reached the top of a ridge and assumed, wrongly, that there wasn’t too far to go. The Smalls were beginning to fade. Like a wondrous beacon, Bronte the Aged Homestead Labrador emerged from the bush. The Smalls were instantly energised…

“Show us where to go Bronte! Where’s home? Where’s home?”

They took off behind her and were soon out of sight. It was about another one and a half kilometres, but they obligingly kept up with Bronte the whole way. I eventually came in sight of them….

The Smalls and I walking the 'short track' to the homestead. Middle Percy Island.

The Smalls and I walking the 'short track' to the homestead. Middle Percy Island.

They had let Bronte in through the gate, but had thought it best to wait for me to catch up. The lovelies… The homestead was a balm to our sweaty selves. Bouganvillea was bursting out at a great heigh, passionfruit hung from vines, goats and chooks skittering about.

Homestead. Middle Percy Island.

Cate welcomed us into her home and on to her gorgeous upstairs enclosed verandah. She plied us with lemon water and passionfruit, while giving us a history lesson about the island and getting a splinter out of Small DB’s foot.

Lemon water and passionfruit. Homestead. Middle Percy Island.

Cate's kitchen. Homestead. Middle Percy Island.

The view from the above verandah…

View from the verandah. Homestead. Middle Percy Island.

I looked through old photo albums of island life and through a couple of books that I would like to get hold of: Living in the ‘Out Front’ of Australia and The History of ‘The Percy Isles, Past and Present.

Small Z put our details in the visitor’s book, and Cate let me use her phone to reassure the Mothership we were still alive and to say ‘Bon Voyage’ for her impending overseas trip – while I chatted, she and the Smalls went down to the garden and collected multiplicities of passionfruit from the ground.

[Me, telephoning the Mothership.] “Hi Mum, we’re still on the island – we’re going to be out of contact for maybe another week – DON’T SEND OUT SEARCH AND RESCUE!”

[Mothership:] “Oh – OK. Great – glad you’re all having a great time. What’s that island you’re on? I’ve never heard of it?!”

[Me, sighing a lanquid tropical island sigh…] “Ask google mum, google will tell you.”

Cate, goats, sunshine. Homestead. Middle Percy Island.

We were gifted basil, a strange fruit called a ‘soursop’ and Cate dug us some sweet potatoes. It was so wonderful that we did not care at all about carrying a bag of awesome free food all the way back! “Take the long track back,” she urged us. “It’s longer, but totally different – and an easy walk.”

Goat whispering at the start of the long walk back from the homestead. Middle Percy Island.

Happy snake. The Smalls and I walking the 'short track' to the homestead. Middle Percy Island.

We had left Bella Luna at about 9.30am. It had taken us about two hours to get to the homestead, where we remained for an hour or two. The long track back was truly bloody long – I had to walk at Small DB’s pace. Small Z eventually cracked it and walked on ahead… We didn’t arrive back at West Bay until about 4.30pm – and immediately all jumped into the sea…

The Smalls stayed in the water while I chatted on shore – and a drone went overhead – if you watch the footage you will see Bella Luna in the lagoon, and the Smalls here and there…

{–> thanks to Geoff from Island Home for the video!}

Zoe. Knitting and new hairwrap. On the front step of the treehouse. Middle Percy Island.

DB rocking her new hairwrap on the front step of the treehouse.

Our contribution to the A-Frame. Middle Percy Island.


  1. Cate Radclyffe

    . Scanning the magic word “Percy Island” brought me to your wonderful story of island adventures with your looat in lagoon vely children ‘the Smalls’ (adorable and interesting children I remeber. Sadly you were on a rushed trip …but anytime you want to House sit, please let us know. Exploring as the Islands ‘ 2,000 Ha in total is worth the effort with lots of day excursions!
    Was the Long Walk worth the effort or should I have let you go the shorter/familiar route for the Smalls at the end of a long morning? Sorry about that; Hoping to meet you all again one day love from Cate
    (I was originally looking for Steve Kenyons You tube of the Island History as he has posted a short for preview)

  2. Margaret hutt

    Hi Cate I visited Middle Percy Island in the 1970’s on a yacht named storm breaker.I walked up to the homestead and met Andy I found him to be a fascinating man and was very impressed with a beautiful bunch of roses he cut for me out of his garden. You are very lucky to live in such a beautiful place .i often think of that place and time and dream of returning one day.

  3. Barb

    Just read your article on Percy Island. Lovely. Reminds us of our home on bedarra island off mission beach. We can’t go there with the Covid restrictions in Victoria

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