An Australian couple who spent their life savings building a resort on an idyllic Pacific island is giving their tropical oasis away - through a raffle.

Doug and Sally Beitz moved their young family from the Gold Coast to the Micronesian island of Kosrae in 1994 and have spent the past two decades developing a lucrative waterfront resort and scuba diving business there.

Now wanting to return to Australia to become "professional grandparents" to their young granddaughter, the Beitz plan to hand over their island empire to the lucky winner of a $US49 ($69) raffle ticket.

Doug and Sally Beitz, pictured here with their granddaughter, built a resort on a Micronesian island but is giving it away - through a raffle sale. Photo / David Clark
Doug and Sally Beitz, pictured here with their granddaughter, built a resort on a Micronesian island but is giving it away - through a raffle sale. Photo / David Clark

The prize includes the Beitz family's 16-room, fully staffed

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"We have done so much research into this and we can't find any evidence of something like this being done before," Doug Beitz told news.com.au from Kosrae.

"We look at ourselves as everyday people - we weren't highly educated people when we came here, just average, basic people - and we think, with the raffle, we can hopefully leave the island in the hands of someone who's not a millionaire, but in the hands of someone who's just like us."

Hopefuls from more than 100 countries have already snatched up an undisclosed number of tickets in the raffle, which will be drawn on July 26.

So, how did they get there, why are they giving it away - and what's the catch?

AN ISLAND PARADISE

The island of Kosrae, about 3800km from Brisbane, is part of the Federated States of Micronesia in the Pacific Ocean.

Home to about 6500 people, the 111 square kilometre, high volcanic island has an international airport, schools and a thriving business centre, as well as lush jungle and healthy coral reefs.

It's popular with surfers, paddle boarders, hikers, snorkellers and divers, and also boasts ancient ruins and remnants from its occupation by the Japanese during World War II.

"During the war there were 8000 Japanese troops living here, although there were never any battles here, but there are caves and all sorts of stuff from those days when they used to hide in the mountains. You can go hiking and explore those caves," Doug said.

"There are at least two sets of ancient ruins. One is right out my window now, about a 20 minute walk away, and they're the Lelu ruins, from the 14th century, and they're massive basalt rocks ... they're all stacked up in big walls, where the kings from hundreds and hundreds of years ago used to live.

"Further down in the centre of the island there is at least a thousand set of ruins in there made out of stone that was a spiritual centre of the island. There is lots of pretty interesting stuff."

Diving around World War II-era ships. Photo / Facebook, Kosrae Nautilus Resort
Diving around World War II-era ships. Photo / Facebook, Kosrae Nautilus Resort

A SEA CHANGE, AND THEN ANOTHER ONE

Doug, a former firefighter and Sally, a stay-at-home mum, moved with their young sons to the island in 1994 after growing fed up with the monotonies of nine-to-five life.

The couple were drawn to the Federated States of Micronesia after watching a documentary on TV.

"The people were one of the reasons we picked this island - they're so friendly, always smiling and accommodating of visitors," Doug said.

"We researched a few other islands and we felt this would be the easiest place by far to raise a young family."

Despite no experience in hospitality beyond "staying in a few hotels and eating at restaurants", the couple set about developing the waterfront resort while their sons settled into island life.

"I was seven years old when Mum and Dad first moved there and I was pulled out of school (in Australia) and suddenly I was on an island with my brother, Josh," one of the couple's now-adult sons, Adam, told news.com.au from his current home in Queensland.

"We did everything together, we went to the school and hang out with the local kids and met other kids from around the world.

"The island was our backyard. It was incredible what we got to do - going kayaking and scuba diving and discovering other, new little islands, and going into the mountains and finding waterfalls."

Fast forward 20 years, and following the arrival of their first grandchild, Doug and Sally began thinking it was time to say goodbye to the island and join the rest of the family back in Australia.

They broke the big news to their sons. It didn't go down too well.

"I honestly broke down in tears. I was hysterical," Adam said. "It was like a family member had died.

"But as time went on we got used to the idea, and of course we got excited about the idea of Mum and Dad coming home and us getting to see them all the time again."

Dolphins swim among the islands. Photo / Facebook, Kosrae Nautilus Resort
Dolphins swim among the islands. Photo / Facebook, Kosrae Nautilus Resort

It was Adam who came up with the idea to bypass the traditional method of selling the property and offload it through a raffle.

"One day I was at the beach (in Queensland) with my wife - I think we just visited a prize home in Coolangatta - and I thought, why not do this?" he said.

"I thought it would be pretty easy, it's doable, the world would love it."

Doug loved the idea. Sally needed a bit more convincing. But after 14 months of planning and working with solicitors and banks to ensure the handover was legally sound, the Beitz family launched their raffle to the world.

The family won't reveal how many tickets have been sold so far, but they said the majority of tickets have been sold in the United States. Australia is in second place, with Israel and Spain not far behind.

SO, THIS RAFFLE - WHAT'S THE CATCH?

Tickets are $69 and the winner walks away with a 100 per cent share of Kosrae Nautilus Resort Inc, which the Beitz family have run for 21 years and which went debt free in March last year.

The complex includes 18 hotel rooms, swimming pool, restaurants, rental vehicles and airport transfers, among other facilities.

The winner will also get the family's profitable Nautilus scuba diving operation, plus $US10,000 ($14,104) in cash. More terms and conditions are on the raffle's dedicated website.

"We're on three acres (1.2 hectares), right on the ocean facing east to watch the sun come up in the morning," Doug said.

"We've also got 16 long-term staff - half have been there for more than 10 years and know how to run the place.

"I'll be here for a month handing the place over as smoothly as we can. The staff here is life my family, and if the winner can take on some basic instructions on how to help the place I think it will be a change for the better for them."

The resort and business will be raffled off on July 26 if at least 50,000 tickets are sold - meaning the Beitz family stands to gain about $3.3 million, at the very least.

If fewer than 50,000 tickets are sold, a winner will still be drawn - but they'll get half of the money raised in the raffle. The Beitz will get the rest.

Once they're back on the Gold Coast, Doug and Sally plan to spend some serious time grandparenting before figuring out what's next.

"I'm hoping to come out of the raffle in a financial situation where I have choices, where I don't have to work and if I see someone who needs some help, I want to offer my help to them for a day, a week, a month, whatever they need. Just to help them," Doug said.

"Everything has been amazing for us and it's time to give back a bit, I think."

Adam, in the meantime, said Kosrae would always be home to the family.

"It is so exciting to give the opportunity to someone and all the hard work is done for them. Mum and Dad put in all the hard yards.

"And I'll always visit Micronesia. I'll take my kids over there."