March 2, 2013
Whitsundays: which island?
One's choice of island(s) will be largely dependent on three things: how much time you have; how much money you have; and which activities take your fancy.
Accommodation is a bit trickier. There are exclusive resorts that are fabulous but may well break the bank, on Hamilton and Hayman islands. There used to be a Club Med on Lindeman Island but it closed back in January 2012. At the other end of the spectrum are Hook Island Wilderness Resort, which is temporarily closed, and South Molle Island Resort. I suggest you read reviews on TripAdvisor if you're considering the latter. Probably midway on the scale is Daydream Island Resort & Spa. This large resort practically fills the small island but is pleasant enough and more family orientated. There are other hotels/resorts on Hamilton which didn't appeal to me online because of their size and/or price. I realised how good my instincts had been when we buggied over to Catseye Bay on our first afternoon (and viewed from the sea, below).
And what do you do while you're in the Whitsundays? There are lots of action-packed opportunities as well as sightseeing trips. Think of any water sport, and you'll almost certainly be able to do it. On land, on Hamilton, there are quad-bikes (for adults and children), go-karts and target sports. There are spas for pampering, bush-walking trails and a wildlife park – in effect, a zoo. (If you're a golfie, I'm pleased to say you'll have to go over to Dent Island.) You can tour by boat, sea-plane and helicopter, but, surprisingly, the possibilities are not endless (see below and Whitehaven hype, to follow).
As with the accommodation, I found hamiltonisland.com.au steered me in very limited directions – even when I called them. Only when I was on the island did I find H2O Sportz, which offers a much better option for seeing Whitehaven as I wanted to see it. Their trips are only half-day, however, and don't include other islands. I think in another life I'd like one of these, please.
• some cafes and shops only take cash*. Westpac have cleaned up on the holes-in-the-wall, so take plenty of cash with you if you don't bank with them and want to avoid transaction fees
• not all buggies have roll-down waterproof panels, which is another reason to take a lightweight mac if visiting during the wet
• eating out on Hamilton is expensive, even by Brisbane standards. Expect to pay upwards of $38 for a main course. I can, however, highly recommend barramundi and chips from Popeye's (on Front Street by the marina), a bottle of sauvignon blanc from the bottle shop a few doors along, and a deck overlooking Dent Passage at sunset
• beware sandflies: you won't spot them easily and their bites are almost as irksome as mozzies'
• especially if you're visiting in summer and you intend to spend a lot of time on the water, apply sunscreen regularly and liberally. A hat is essential, and preferably one that stays on in gusty wind
• the ubiquitous Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, while charming, are allegedly able to chew through fly screens if you leave doors and windows open.
The Whitsundays had long been on my list. Whenever I'd previously chosen a Queensland island to visit – Magnetic, Heron, Dunk – the Whitsundays always lurked in the background; somewhere I knew I would have to go sooner or later. A long time had passed in which to form impressions and jump to conclusions. My preconceived ideas were mostly wrong, I'm pleased to say. These islands sprung many delightful surprises.
if you are staying in the one of the resorts, however, you can charge purchases to your room