Peter Phillips, more commonly known as “Trader Pete”, was born in Sydney. Peter possessed wonderful entrepreneurial skills which saw him create a successful chain of retail outlets in the Sydney area which he sold to American interests in the 1980’s. He then travelled the Queensland coast on his sail boat with his wife to be, Nikki. It was on this trip that Peter met Keith Williams. Peter immediately saw an opportunity and became involved in the establishment of Hamilton Island. Peter and Nikki opened the iconic landmark outlet on the island known as “Trader Pete’s” as well as several other lobby shops and clothing outlets.
Acting on the advice of his accountant and good friend, Graham Mazlin, Peter and Nikki looked to diversify their interests to include holdings on the main land. It was a lesson learned from the pilot strike in the late 1980’s which caused significant financial hardship to Peter and Nikki and all other business operators on Hamilton Island. Hence in the early 1990’s, Peter and Nikki acquired a sugar cane farm in Proserpine strategically situated immediately adjacent to the Bruce Highway turn off to Whitsunday Coast. This farm had been owned by the Ironside and Bishop families for a number of generations. It was regarded as a “blue-ribbon” farm.
Peter named the farm “Prosvegas Sugar Estates” which raised some eyebrows amongst the locals. He also employed Robert Telford as the first manager. Peter always envisioned that the farm could, in some way, become a tourism attraction. The logical development was a rum distillery. This was closely considered over a two or three year period. It became apparent however this would not be financially viable. The reason being that in order to be called “rum” the liquid needs to be stored for a number of years before it can be sold. This meant that there would be a significant delay between the initial capital expenditure of establishing a distillery and the generation of income from the initial sale of rum years after it was made.
Peter and Nikki travelled around the world to look at the different possibilities. Peter soon came to the conclusion that coffee would compliment the growing of sugar cane. Peter and Nikki made a number of trips to the United States and to Hawaii to look at various aspects of coffee production. Coincidently, the Whitsunday region is positioned at a similar latitude to Hawaii which is a successful coffee growing area.
Peter bought a planting implement from the Wilcox family in Bowen. He then sourced seeds, built green houses and grew tube stock of coffee and other plants that were intended to surround the coffee plantation style residence that Peter envisioned building. The coffee was planted and Peter’s dream was coming to reality. The coffee plantation was named “Whitsunday Gold Coffee Farm”. There was a lot to learn about growing, harvesting and roasting coffee. In a few short years the farm started to produce and sell various coffee related products. A small shop was opened to sell these products.
The project stalled when Peter became ill suffering from motor neuron disease. Peter passed away in March 2010. Nikki then had to contend with managing the retail outlets on Hamilton Island and the sugar cane farm/coffee plantation. The project was in a “holding pattern” for a few years.
Then in March 2017, cyclone Debbie ripped through the Whitsunday Region causing significant damage to the Whitsunday Gold Coffee Farm. In the wake of the cyclone, Nikki made the bold decision to further develop and rebuild the farm with the help of Rick Shelley. The end result is here today. It is a multi-faceted tourist facility, catering for the local community as well as tourists. It is envisioned that the farm will be further developed and expanded to become a true gateway to the Whitsunday Coast as was envisioned by Trader Pete when the farm was first purchased nearly 30 years ago.