The Original Reef House was built in 1958 by a Cairns bookmaker who lived there with his family. According to an article in a 1972 issue of ‘The Bulletin’, a swimming pool proprietor was allegedly heavily indebted to the bookmaker. He managed to repay his debt by offering to build the ‘best swimming pool in North Queensland’. He kept his word.
In 1970 the house was purchased by a syndicate and opened as a restaurant with limited accommodation of three suites in the garden. In 1972, Brigadier, The Hon. David Thomson, MC, RL (later Federal Minister for Science & Technology), acquired the property and operated ‘Reef House’ as a private residence where visitors were treated as personal guests.
The ‘Reef House’ guests list in the Brigadier’s days could often read like an excerpt from ‘Who’s Who’ and included the Prime Minister, various other ministers and celebrities from around Australia and overseas.
Guests helped themselves to drinks form the bar and in the true tradition of an officer’s mess, signed chits on an honesty charge back system. There was also a gathering at the end of the day for lively conversation and the Brigadier’s rum punch. Carrying on this tradition, today’s Reef House offers a Brigadier honesty Bar during the day and at twilight guests gather for punch and canapes hosted by the General Manager.