Island tourism legend dead at 84
A Queensland tourism legend dubbed 'the barefoot tycoon' has died on the Gold Coast.
Sid Melksham, who pioneered tourism on Fraser Island, passed away on Friday, his partner Angela Burger said. He was 84.
Mr Melksham developed Eurong Beach Resort and Fraser Island's ferry service, later selling the business for a reputed $35 million and buying entrepreneur Alan Bond's superyacht, Southern Cross II, that was used as the mother ship during Australia's historic 1983 America's Cup win.
The larger-than-life Mr Melksham blazed a tourism trail to the world's largest sand island in 1959 when he bought and raised a small boat that had sunk in the Mary River in his home town of Maryborough and fitted it out to carry eight passengers to Fraser.
"To get them across to the surf beach, the big attraction for a Maryborough lad who had never seen surf before, he made bench seats from driftwood across the back of a second hand ute," Ms Burger said.
"When he retired in 2002 he had developed Eurong Beach Resort on the surf beachfront, had five vehicle and passenger ferries running to the island and some 40 tour buses.
"His perseverance was legendary. When a cyclone blew in on Fraser in February 1971 with
little warning, Sid had just tacked new roofing iron on to a second hand building he had
erected. To save his roof he had himself strapped spread-eagled on to it and there he
stayed for 15 hours through pouring rain and high wind."
Ms Burger said her partner had little education because as a young lad, he had to work from early morning to night on his stepfather's farm.
But when he wanted to learn to fly to make travel between Fraser and Maryborough on the mainland faster, he shut himself in a little room every night for six months teaching himself to read and write well enough to pass his flying exams.
He progressed from a small single engined plane to a twin engine and then to a jet helicopter.
"His first little boat was replaced by a bigger one which he fitted out after he found it high
and dry in a bad state of repair on the banks of the Burnett River in Bundaberg," Ms Burger said.
"He turned to ferries in 1982 when he had the Fraser Venture built to take 200 passengers
and 20 vehicles from Hervey Bay to the west coast of Fraser.
"To make the crossing faster, and cater for the large numbers which flocked to the island in holiday periods, he worked for months to get Queensland Government approval to dredge a channel through 600m of mudflats.
"More ferries followed and then two large catamarans for whale watching in Hervey Bay.
Sid sold his tourism business to Kingfisher Bay Resort in December 2002, bought Alan Bond's former a super yacht, Southern Cross 11 in the United States and cruised around the
Americas for three years."
Ms Burger wrote a 2008 book about Mr Melksham called 'The Last of the Barefoot Tycoons'.
The couple previously lived in one of the Gold Coast's most luxurious homes, a 10-bedroom mega-mansion on Hope Island.
Originally published as QLD Tourism legend dead at 84