Thoughts On A Visionary

Keith Williams

The late Keith Williams - A Hamilton Island Visionary

I had the pleasure of meeting Keith Williams recently, as he visited Hamilton Island during the 2011 Audi Hamilton Island Race Week.  During his stay he visited the Hamilton Island State School in honour of its 25th birthday.

Mr Williams was the original developer of Hamilton Island, along with Sea World on Queensland’s Gold Coast and many other tourism developments.  He spent nearly an hour with the students of the school he founded, telling stories and answering questions.

When asked by a student what inspired the idea of developing Hamilton Island, he replied that he had been out in a boat with a mate, cruising through the Whitsundays when he came across Hamilton Island.  He pulled into Catseye Beach and was met by a gentleman who was living there, who mentioned during the course of the conversation that he was selling up in order to relocate to the mainland for his daughter’s schooling.

The rest, as they say, is history.  Williams constructed the current Hamilton Island Resort Centre (twice due to a fire in the 80’s), Reefview Hotel and the Great Barrier Reef Airport, along with much of the infrastructure that we enjoy today.

Mr Williams was asked by another student about his favourite new development on Hamilton Island, to which he replied that he was delighted with the growth of the island and that his favourite new development was the Hamilton Island Yacht Club.  The students were also thrilled to hear stories of Speedy and Buttons, the dolphins that lived in the pool at the Resort Centre on the island for a period in the 1980’s before being returned to Sea World.

My own interest in meeting Mr Williams stems from my participation in the Hamilton Cup Outrigger Regatta.  Keith Williams is one of the pioneers of outrigger canoeing in Australia, and the first Hamilton Island Cup was held in 1983 with a race between Williams’ Sea World crew and the ‘Max Christmas Gold Coast’ crew.  In 2008, the 25th anniversary of the regatta saw 2000 paddlers from around Australia and the Pacific spend four days racing (and playing) on Hamilton Island.  It is recognised throughout the paddling world as one of the best on the calendar, and in the top 5 biggest regattas in the paddling world.

I read this morning that Keith Williams passed away overnight at the age of 82.  My thoughts and the thoughts of many long time Hamilton Island visitors and residents are with his family.  He was a visionary.