Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Paradise by the Whitsunday light

“Civilization is an enormous improvement on the lack thereof.” – P.J. O’Rourke

Point me to the person who invented island resorts with kids’ clubs on them and I will worship at his or her feet ‑ nay, even kiss an ass or two in gratitude - because we're ripe for a bit of adult time and it’s now being served up to us on a very generous plate.

We have driven south along the Queensland coast for hours, through never-ending cane fields and unremarkable towns en route to Airlie Beach, home to hordes of horny 20-year-old travellers (think Banff or Whistler, but with a pleasant breeze) and gateway to the magnificent Whitsunday Islands. There are 74 islands - just eight of which are inhabited – cradled in the calm blue waters of the Coral Sea, and they offer what surely must be the quintessential Aussie experience of sun, sea and fine white sand.

A 20-minute ferry from the mainland brings us to Long Island Resort, which of all the Whitsunday Islands is the one where families really belong. It’s also a budget-conscious choice, unlike some of the other, busier islands such as Hamilton and Daydream, and suited to anyone who wants a lot of things to do: get drunk and sing karaoke, enter ping pong and belly-flop competitions, spin around on kayaks or jet skis, go for a tube ride.

There’s a lovely stretch of beach, of course, with hammocks nestled among the palm trees, pools, a swim-up bar, tennis, mini-golf – in short, all the little things you’d expect from a resort even if, like us, you don’t really know what to expect. The rooms aren’t exactly luxurious but we couldn’t care less because anything, save a cockroach-infested jail cell, is luxury after all those nights battling the elements in a swamped tent. Perhaps this Long Island reward is all that much sweeter for all that it took to get here.

The biggest novelty, though, is the kids’ club. Millions of parents before me have discovered the joys of such a thing. Where have we been? Three sessions a day, every day, and our girls want to attend every single one. Who are we to argue?! They are thrilled to make a few friends and see a few new faces, and who could blame them for being a bit sick of mom and dad after all this constant togetherness?

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