This billionaire’s $20,000-a-night private Queensland island is now open to guests

Entrepreneurs

Computershare founder and Forbes Australia Rich Lister Chris Morris oversees a portfolio of ultra-luxurious resorts and experiences in Queensland. The 76-year-old billionaire opened Pelorus Private Island this year, giving visitors the kind of luxury experience they might find on a Mediterranean superyacht.

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Chris Morris, the billionaire founder of Computershare, recently opened a resort on Pelorus Private Island in Far North Queensland. Image Courtesy: The Morris Group.

The Oxford Dictionary defines Pelorus as a compass-like sighting device, usually on a ship or aircraft, used for taking the relative bearings of a distant object.

It is an apt description as I step into the penthouse apartment of billionaire Chris Morris, which sports jetliner views from the floor-to-ceiling windows looking over Main Beach near Surfers Paradise.

Morris tells me he moved here during Covid, as he welcomes me into his sun-drenched living room. He is dressed casually in shorts, a t-shirt, and no shoes.

The company founder has no plans to permanently return to his hometown of Melbourne where he started his entrepreneurial journey – growing and selling tomatoes at the Queen Victoria market.

Morris is soft-spoken, warm, and an unassuming fellow who immediately puts you at ease. You would never guess he is the owner of the Portsea Hotel, the summer playground of Melbourne’s affluent beach residents. Nor that he is the patron of Mount Mulligan, a deluxe lodge in Queensland, as well as the Orpheus Island Lodge – where $100,000 lets you and 27 friends call the island home for 3 nights.

Morris also oversees a fleet of helicopters, a revamped casino, Townsville’s first 5-star hotel, a Mediterranean superyacht that rents for $400,000 a week, multiple more superyachts in Port Douglas, and, yes, his own private jet.

Staying at Pelorus Private Island costs about $25,000 a night. Image Courtesy: The Morris Group.

Morris offers a taste of all these experiences to high-net-worth individuals through the Morris Group. Catering to the needs of the uber-wealthy in search of an exclusive, ultra-luxurious, yet quintessentially down-to-earth Aussie experience, is second nature to Morris. It is after all, how he travels himself.

That said, there are no airs or graces about the barefoot Morris. The key to giving the super-wealthy the experience they are looking for comes down to two things: privacy, and attention to detail, he tells me. For those two things, his clientele is more than willing to drop $25,000. Which is around what his newest venture, Pelorus Private Island 80 km northeast of Townsville, costs per night.

“We will fly caviar in from Russia. Lots of silly stuff like that. When people go to Pelorus they will say ‘this is what I want,’ and that is what we will do. The basic stuff is included, but if they want special things, we will do anything.”

Chris Morris

Accommodating guests looking for that level of service is a skill that Morris’ staff learnt while catering to clientele on the group’s Mediterranean superyacht.

“There they pay $400,000 and that just gets you the crew and the boat. They then pay for petrol, and the food, and the grog. And we are booked out,” says Morris.

Providing a similar service to that clientele in an alternate location, such as on an exclusive island in Far North Queensland, is a no-brainer he says.

“They are always looking for something different, and something private.”

Developing a Rolodex of high-net-worth individuals with deep pockets enables each of the Morris Group properties to refer customers from one to the other.

“Everything promotes each other,” says Morris. “A lot of our high rollers from the casino go over to Orpheus and they just love it. They love the helicopters. We always take a yacht down there during the season and they do tours around Magnetic Island. Everything links in together.”

It is not just big spenders from the Casino that have been guests of the Morris Group at Orpheus. He lets slip that Prince Alfred of Monaco, the Hemsworth brothers, Margot Robbie, and Elton John have spent time on the island too.

Up until now, the missing link in his super-luxe hospitality portfolio was a resort that could offer the same level of personalised service that those who have sailed on his yacht on the Med expect.

Queensland’s Pelorus resort is unique because no other guests will be on the private island. Image Courtesy: The Morris Group.

“The attention to detail that the people I have running my superyacht in the Med provide – you can’t do that at Orpheus or at Mount Mulligan. On a superyacht, as soon as you go up for breakfast, they make the beds. They roll down the beds at night,” says Morris.

Guests at Pelorus can experience similar personalised service because the island is private. There is just one 900 square meter residence that has five suites – each with a king-size bed, ensuite, and cathedral ceilings. A private chef attends to every meal and is on hand for whatever guests may need. A beachfront pool looks over the Great Barrier Reef, and there is unlimited use of a boat to venture to surrounding islands. Kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and water bikes are available and at the ready.

“We have all the toys,” says Morris. “I have private jet skis there to circumnavigate the island. There are these little caves you can go into which you can’t access in boats. You can have a guided tour and use sea bobs to go down into the water.”

For those who prefer to stay just above sea level, it is solitude that sets the Australian yachting experience apart from those on the European continent.

“I love my boat in the Med – you can go from Greece to Italy and different cultures and it’s fantastic. But you can’t catch one fish, and there are boats everywhere,” says Morris.

“I get on one of my boats out here and I go out to Orpheus or the back of Hinchinbrook Island, and nobody else is there. You can catch fish. People who pay so much money to come here say – ‘this is unbelievable.’ And word spreads.”

Getting to Pelorus is an adventure in and of itself. Morris provides a superyacht to deliver guests from the mainland to the secluded island in 30 minutes. Alternatively, they can chopper in from Townsville on one of Morris’ fleet of helicopters.

Now that he has the infrastructure set up to meet the elevated expectations of guests, the Morris Group has scope to offer other experiences that would be of interest to the ultrawealthy. The entrepreneur has his sights set on Double Island – 250km north of Pelorus, and just 2km east of the coastal town of Palm Cove.

A guest on a stand-up-paddleboard at Pelorus Private Island in Far North Queensland. Image courtesy: The Morris Group.

That island is currently leased by Hong Kong billionaire Benny Wu who signed an 88-year lease on it 12 years ago. Double Island is said to be in a state of disrepair and the local government is looking into whether Wu has met the lease conditions. Morris has his hand up and says he is ready to step in to restore Double Island to its former glory if it becomes available.

Having spent more than $400 million on property in Northern Queensland to date, Morris argues his commitment to the region is unparalleled. He sees great promise in returning Double Island to the luxurious enclave it once was and continuing to accelerate the hospitality industry that Queenslanders rely on for jobs.

Indeed, tourism is so important to the state that statistics released by Tourism and Queensland Events reveal that 1 in 15 Queenslanders are employed in the sector. Tourism contributed $22 billion to the economy in 2021-2022 and provides more jobs than mining, agriculture, forestry, and fishing combined according to the industry group.

There are already resorts designed to meet the demand from international tourists and residents in Southern states looking to escape the wintry weather. Morris says what he is creating at the Morris Group is different, as his focus is an ultra-wealthy clientele.

He says he has great respect for what the Oatley family created at Hamilton Island, particularly the $2000-a-night adults-only oasis ‘Qualia.’ What Pelorus has that Qualia doesn’t, Morris says, is privacy.

“Private islands are unique. I like Hamilton, and he [Oatley] has done a brilliant job there. But it is not what we do. Qualia is nice, but it is not private.”

Tapping into the coffers of the 1% of the 1% requires a different level of hospitality and discretion according to Morris.

“When you go to the Med you see the money over there – we haven’t even started here. There is just huge opportunity. But it has got to be top class.”

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