A man clad in a Hawaiian shirt, arms full of shell necklaces, greeted us on the dock. “Welcome to Daydream Island!” he said enthusiastically. We happily accepted the necklaces, feeling the relaxing vibe of the island start to sink in instantly.
We would have been forgiven for thinking that we had arrived on a small island in the Pacific, far away from everyday life and all the worries that go along with it. Instead, we were in Queensland’s Whitsundays after only having taken a 1.5 hour flight — one that was direct from Brisbane and was purchased for the bargain price of $59 each — and a short ferry ride from Hamilton Island.
That feeling of remoteness, of being far away from all of our cares, was a constant throughout our three-day stay on Daydream Island. Only having a few set plans meant that we could take advantage of any opportunity that we liked the sound of — and there were quite a few of them.
On our first afternoon on the island, we decided we wanted to go for a sneaky snorkel before the sun set. No boats were required; instead, we walked five minutes across the island to the secluded — but very popular — Lover’s Cove. Many other island guests were there, adjusting their masks and kicking dead coral in front of them as they tried to maneuver their flippers into the water. Donning our wetsuits (but not our stinger suits because it was out of jellyfish season), we joined them, not sure what we’d even be able to see so close to shore.
We were amazed. As soon as our heads hit the water, schools of fish surrounded us. Many of the rocks were coated in colourful corals, some of them waving at us in the light current. It was fortunate that there was plenty to look at because my mom was a bit apprehensive, having never snorkelled before. After a few false starts, she too was excitedly pointing at the fish as they swam past and examining the diverse shapes of the coral below.
Even though our other plans on Daydream Island (not including the thoroughly enjoyable sailing day trip we took on the Camira, which picked us up from the island) were pipped by 30 knot winds and white caps on the water, we were never left wondering what we would do. Instead, we:
- Went on a rainforest walk through the forests in the centre of the island, while taking in stunning views across to mainland Australia,
- Played mini-golf on an Australian-themed golf course, which included courses that crossed the Sydney Harbour Bridge and went around ex-Prime Ministers heads (Bob Hawke and John Howard, to be exact),
- Went shopping for a few minutes and found a brand name swimsuit for less than half price, which I never thought I’d find on a resort island,
- Lounged next to a pool that perfectly reflected the palm trees and the hilly landscape of the mainland,
- Took advantage of coupons we were given on check-in and took part in the “Stingray Splash,” where we got to stand in the “Living Reef” and hold sea cucumbers and pet stingrays while being taught all about the wildlife of the Barrier Reef
- Watched the sun set from the lounge chairs at Lover’s Cove after going for another snorkel
- Gave ice to the growling (yes, growling) bush stone curlews that stood just behind us while we ate dinner. We could have sworn they were cats from the sound of them, not birds!
- Watched Avatar in the outdoor cinema until we started dozing off. The projector wasn’t doing so well with blue so it gave us a whole new view of a bright green Pandora instead.
Of those, the thing that really surprised me was the Living Reef. I expected it to be a silly attempt at trying to make the resort guests feel like they were on the Barrier Reef even when they were just walking to breakfast. Instead, it was a fascinating miniature eco-system managed by very knowledgeable marine biologists. Aside from the weird experience of being able to pet a stingray, the Living Reef — one of the largest man-made coral reefs in the world — gave us the chance to see reef life that we may not have been able to see otherwise, like the family of clown fish living in its anemone and even a few sharks!
So what should you expect on a visit to Daydream Island?
First and foremost, relaxation. No matter how much we squeezed in, we never felt stressed and we left the island feeling rejuvenated.
Second of all, expect to be surprised. I had high expectations for the trip, and it exceeded them in ways I would never have guessed. Who would have thought that I would come back telling people about the birds when I’d only expected to be admiring wildlife under the water?
And lastly, expect to get a lot closer to nature, whether it’s been transplanted into a man-made lagoon or in the wild off the island’s coast. The island is but a small part of the Barrier Reef, but it is a fantastic place to immerse yourself in it!