Port-a-cot... What the??? I hear you say.
I first visited the Whitsundays thirty years ago where I spent my 18th on the (then) party island of Daydream. 7glorious days (and probably only 7hours of them sober) of island hopping sundrenched beaches and floating above coral gardens.
Our last visit to the area was a long 7years ago when we welcomed in the new year of 2008 on Hamilton Island. We’ve been dying to get back.
As the plane descends towards the island’s airstrip the first thing that hits me is the colours – Blue.... the most amazing shades of blue – from the air, the water is a blending of indigo, turquoise and aquamarine that melds into the crisp celestial blues of the sky. These hues sparkle against the incandescent golden beaches that fringe the dense, lush greens of the islands forests. I’d almost forgotten how brilliantly vibrant the Whitsunday’s palette can be.
Peanut has traveled well, not a peep from her during the takeoff and landing and along with her parents, Big M and I proudly tell her what a good little baby she is as we disembark from the plane, amidst the wails of other babies and toddlers.
We’ve rented a private villa for the week and at the airport, we wait for the representative to meet us. Time ticks away and we watch excited holidaymakers jump onto cute little golf buggies and whiz off over the hill to their resort rooms and villas. Others board the large ferry cats and head off to the other island destinations – Long, Daydream and Hayman. Finally, almost an hour after touching down, our representative appears to collect our luggage and give us the keys to the golf buggy we will be using for the next week. She explains our villa is not quite ready yet – another hour or so she says and suggests we pop into the village for a bite to eat. We don’t need to be told twice, our tummies are having a bit of a growl (we’ve been up since 4am and breakfast was nothing more than service station fare) and besides we now have our own buggy and can whiz around the island to our hearts delight.
First stop is the village. Hugging the edge of the Marina, Hamilton Island’s village is the sweetest little cluster of buildings peppered with aromatic restaurants, boutiques, art galleries and all the necessary little stores required to make a holiday enjoyable, including a bakery, which we find, has the freshest mouthwatering croissants for an indulgent breakfast every morning. The bakery also has the most delicious panini’s which fills us up perfectly for lunch. We then take a buggy ramble around the island, happily re-discovering the steepness of the hills and the giggling excitement of almost sliding off the buggy’s back seat. It’s decided then and there that whoever has Peanut gets to ride in the front passengers seat.
Finally (a good two hours plus late!) we receive the call that our Villa is ready and we are delighted to find it has the most spectacular view. Facing the north west of the island, we over look the lush gardens of the six-star resort “qualia”.... yes, small q, it is that exclusive! and every evening we will be mesmerized by stunning sunsets over Whitsunday Island, Henning Island and a sweet little island named Plum Pudding. Our villa is beautiful. Four split levels, well appointed and luxuriously furnished it has everything possible going for it.... except for the management! Unfortunately, the cleaning of it is little more than a broom wave and tea towel wipe and we are to find hot water is sparse and using the expansive balcony at night will be by romantic torch beam, as the light doesn’t work.
Leaving Bud & GG to settle in and nestle down Peanut, Big M and I buggy off back to the airport to organise a ‘bucket list mustdo’ – a seaplane flight over Heart Reef and landing on Whitehaven Beach. This is something we’ve wanted to do for such a long time, but during other visits to the island, the cost and time constraints (but mainly cost) had been prohibitive. Now it is finally going to happen. Turns out this activity is very popular and is booked out 5days in advanced, no seats until our last full day on the island – Friday – so we promptly book into the morning session and find we’ve scored the last two spots.
Then with beaming smiles we head off to the Yacht Club for a sunset cocktail on its cantilevered terrace that stretches over the Marina. The building is stunning and has been referred to as the “Opera House of the North”. Built about three years ago, from the air it resembles a manta ray; the terrace its tail, the main building, the rays pectoral fins. From ocean level, at night lit up, it looks like a cruise ship and by day, the silhouette of a whale (just narrow the eyes a tad...) Big M and I sip our drinks and watch the first of what will be a week of spectacular sunsets. From this vantage point we watch the sun dip behind Dent Island (which ‘houses’ Hamilton Island’s amazing golf course) as it sets the sky aglow in a vibrant pink.
As we walked down to the village centre (a coffee from Marina Cafe was #1 on the list to do) we receive a phone call from a chap we’d met on the plane up. “I.S” has the dream job; he manages, maintains and sails beautiful sleek yacht cruisers to wherever in world for a handful of clients.... and he loves books. That is how we came chatting. He and Big M had organised to swap books and so “I.S” met up with us. As we approached his buggy he indicated for us to jump in and took us for a personal tour of the island, giving us a peek at quaila (a by appointment only resort) and pointing out the homes of the who’s who, including the former home of George Harrison.
Later that day as we lounged by the Bougainvillea Pool we received a call asking us if we’d be interested in ‘tagging’ along on one of the cruisers to Turtle Bay, a cove on Whitsunday Island. How delighted we were, only to become crestfallen when we were told it would be on Friday.... the day of our sea plane trip.
As we lounged and sun-bathed and debated about whether we should take a hike to Coral Cove and check out the views of Lindeman Island, Bud and GG got active and undertook a swing at a few balls at the golf driving range and then dashed off on a helicopter hot-lap of the Island. Then it was time for sunset viewing at One Tree Hill followed by christmas light oohing and arhing along the Great Northern Freeway.
The next day calls for a bit more activity so Big M and I decided to grab a catamaran and whip across the warm coral waters. Unfortunately, my desire to boat the azure blue is not matched by my bravery.... or should I say, my complete lack of gumption. Mind you, the signs dotting the beaches also don’t help one iota! Beware of stingers they warn. Actually, they scream : Irukandji !!! then tell you to limit your swimming to the Islands pools during the summer months, which one can safely say, January is smack middle of ! So for the hour of our hire, I spend it screaming at the top of my lungs for Big M to not let the Catamaran tip and to not sail it so fast. Unfortunately, his weight along with force of wind does not bode well with my smaller frame and most of my time is spent hugging the bow for dear life with the hull flying high out of the water. It becomes a very quick hour as the cat is whizzed across the waves, turned around and deposited back to shore... all within fifteen minutes. Big M then returns to the villa and I, to the Marina foreshore where I will spend the next couple of (long) hours drinking coffee, staring at beautiful watercraft and wishing I am on one.
However, the visual beauty of Hamilton Island is like soothing music to the soul and one cannot remain annoyed for long, and so Big M returns with the buggy chariot and we trundle up to One Tree Hill to join the hordes of sunset cocktailers and cuddle under a fluorescent sky.
And just as well we’ve made up, for tonight is New Years Eve - my favourite festive day of the year. I am not a Christmas girl. I find no joy in decorating trees with tinsel and wrapping boxes of ‘stuff’ that will most probably collect dust in forgotten corners of cupboards. I adore the welcoming in of new beginnings and sharing the beat of dancing feet to joyous music. Hamilton Island is one of the great New Years Eve spots in Australia – with music vibes playing in various locations around the island, inviting you to tap away. And topping it off with two lots of fireworks displays.
We all gather early in the eve to enjoy a delicious meal at the Manta Ray Cafe – pizza and pasta that’s just too delightful! Unfortunately, in the busyness of the restaurant our drinks order gets a tad lost on the way to the table and our 'here's to the new years' cheers are toasted with a number of carafes of water
Afterwards we wander down to the foreshore to listen to music and await the first round of fireworks. At 9pm they explode - on the other side of the Island and although we can hear them popping off with incredibly loud bangs we can’t see a thing. We rush for the buggy (as fast as can be possible with a babe in arms) and buggy along at top speed -10kms per hour - to the lookout over the resort. The smoke is clearing just as we arrive and a constant flow of buggy lights flash our eyes as they pass us on the way back down the hill. I console myself with the anticipation of the midnight fireworks, but for Bud and GG, they are new parents and take Peanut home for slumber.
Big M and I head down to the main street where a rocking street party is underway and we get swept up in the sax and trumpet beats of the My Ty’s, a funky ska/reggae outfit that was a Triple J Unearthed band. They go off! At midnight the countdown is celebrated with a 15minute lightshow of fireworks over the marina, lighting up the boats and setting colour to the yacht club.
Welcome 2014.... it’s going to be a bonza year!