BIG4 Adventure Whitsunday Resort has a range of accommodation options, from studios and villas to two and three bedroom cabins. Prices are seasonal but start from AUD$175 per night for a family of four in a 2 bedroom cottage. carrying my son in a carrier or worrying he’ll jump overboard). Like every tour operator in the area, Cruise Whitsundays also does the main Great Barrier Reef daytrips, but those are a much longer day out.
Still, Whitehaven is a success: its world-famous soft white sand manages to impress, despite the fact that we spend our two hours just 50m from where Cruise Whitsundays drops us. There are seven kilometres of beach to explore, but I leave that for when my son is older and (theoretically) willing to walk back when required.
Our next ‘off’ day is spent exploring home base: Airlie Beach. The town is a famous backpacker stop but as we’re staying out of town, I’ve seen nay one until now. In fact, I don’t stumble across any backpackers until lunchtime, because we spend the first part of the day local style. First, we jump on a local bus for the five-minute ride and short stroll to Big Frog Cafe at Cannonvale Beach. The healthy and delicious meals (and the water view) impress all ages, but so does the café’s kids play area. (An old fashioned typewriter! I’m in love).
“… IN JUST fiVE NIGHTS, BIG4 HAS BECOME HOME - MY RESORT AWAY FROM THE RESORTS – AND I SUSPECT THAT, LIKE THE MAJORITY OF THEIR GUESTS, I’LL BE BACK.”
Next up is a 2.5km stroll into Airlie proper via the flat, mostly boardwalked, path through parks, a marina and view of the stunningly clear waters. Our destination is not the bar-packed town, but Airlie Lagoon: an expansive, fabulous (free) outdoor pool that keeps my toddler (and me) lazily entertained for most of the afternoon.
Sadly, home beckons, but we’ve opted to fly in and out of Hamilton Island, a one-hour ferry ride away, and I use the chance to see what I’ve missed by staying on the mainland! It’s nice, and if you had a large group then the luxury villas for eight would be a surprisingly cost-effective option (there are all sorts of room configurations). Hamilton Island ticks the boxes for an easy escape: there’s a decent mix of food options; we pass a fun morning at the island’s main swimming pool (which all visitors can use) and my toddler is particularly enthralled by the golf buggies which are the island’s main mode of transport (you can strap a car seat to one for young kids). But I realise that in just five nights, BIG4 has become home - my resort away from the resorts - and I suspect that, like the majority of their guests, I’ll be back.
Living Reef tour on Daydream island