Island Paradise © Mark Daffey
The Dreamy Destination of Queensland's Daydream Island
Mark Daffey and
family befriend fish
big and small at
Brutus is a menacing-looking fellow.
He’s forever brooding, skulking
around the shallows with his bottom
lip hanging. If he were human, I’d
liken him to an overtired child.
But Brutus isn’t human; he’s a barramundi –
a scaly ball of muscle with a ton of attitude.
And it’s that bad-boy demeanour that kids like
my son Finn seem to love so much.
When Finn tempts Brutus with a snack of
squid he’d earlier helped prepare, Brutus
snaps his jaws with lightning speed. Finn’s
lucky he doesn’t lose a finger and it frightens
the beejesus out of him. But he’s a sucker for
danger, repeating his feeding session again
and again just to watch the fish strike.
Plenty of fish in the sea
Brutus isn’t an obvious favourite, given there
are bigger fish lurking inside Daydream
Island’s Living Reef lagoons. The biggest of all
is Bruce, a sicklefin lemon shark. He’s two
metres long and 14 years old, with a rounded
snout and a mouthful of dagger-like teeth. He
has a taste for smaller, bottom-dwelling fish.
Not today though; he seems to be off his food.
Bruce isn’t the only shark in the pond. There
are two black-tip reef sharks, and wobbegongs
and epaulettes. And an army of banded
bamboo sharks – slender, catfish-like creatures
that shimmy up the shoreline and out of the
water to feed on the scraps the children
distribute. They’re a bit like puppies for they
seem to love being tickled. And, boy, do the
kids like to tickle them!
Then there’s Pikelet. He’s a 100-kilogram
pink ray. Plus Bill and Barb. And Ruby too;
she’s a shovelnose ray. There are bluespotted
maskrays and leopard rays, and you can feed
them all – prawns and worms, preferably –
during the resort’s Stingray Splash sessions. If
you’re game, the rays will even suck on your
fingers. There are clownfish like Nemo, and
blue tangs like Dory… the list simply goes on
and on. All up, 140 species of fish and 82
corals reside inside the Living Reef. Or if you
prefer, you could snorkel the natural reefs
around the island and see them then.
Tourism and Events Queensland
The island is your oyster
The 4.5-star Daydream Island Resort and
Spa is one of the Whitsunday region’s original
resorts, dating back to 1932 when six tin sheds
were erected as a crude form of holiday
accommodation. It has been updated and
changed hands several times since then, most
recently when a Chinese investment
consortium purchased it in March 2015.
A total of 296 rooms and suites are strung
out around the island’s northern tip. The island
itself measures just 1.6 kilometres long by 300
metres wide; you can walk around it in less
than half an hour. And that’s exactly what we
set out to do after dumping our bags in our
room. Finn, however, had other ideas.
When I initially broke the news to our
eight-year-old that we’d be going on a family
holiday to Daydream Island, and that there
were swimming pools, a mini-golf course, an
outdoor cinema and tennis courts there, he
practically buckled at the knees.
"I'm in love," he sighed, slumping against
the wall in barely contained excitement.
So a speedy orientation walk around the
island was never likely to happen. Finn wants to
know where he can swim and when we'll go
snorkelling; he pleads for us to have a go putt
putting and asks what movie is playing that
night. There's a playground to explore and
beaches to roam. And all over the island, rock
wallabies feed from his hand, munching pellets
from bags he'd been given on arrival. Our
hour-long walk takes closer to three.
© Mark Daffey
Next morning, while Finn is busy feeding and
petting fish in the lagoons - all part of the resort's Reef Ranger programme for kids - my
wife and I grab the chance for some self-indulgence,
booking in massages at the
Rejuvenation Spa. The silence and relaxation it
allows is time well spent, knowing it will last
only as long as Finn is occupied. Then in the
afternoon we do whatever else takes his fancy.
On our last full day we cruise out to the Great
Barrier Reef. It would be remiss of us to travel
to Queensland and not see it so our high-speed
Cruise Whitsundays catamaran
delivers us to a pontoon moored beside Hardy
Reef, 40 nautical miles off the mainland coast.
There, we don masks and snorkels so we
can drift over bait balls of hardy heads and
schools of yellow-tailed fusiliers and
surgeonfish. There’s a Queensland grouper
called George and two resident green turtles,
Chip and Chunky. Both have had pieces bitten
out of their shells, probably by sharks, and we
spot one from inside a semi-submersible. He’s
chomping on a jellyfish, his favourite food,
according to our guide.
During the cruise back, humpback whales
launch from the water, breaching like only
humpbacks can. They’re the first whales Finn’s
seen and he simply beams at me in joy.
“Dad?” he asks. “Why don’t they have
whales on Daydream Island?”
Now there’s an idea.
© Cruise Whitsundays
© Cruise Whitsundays
This article appeared in volume 49 of Holidays with Kids magazine.
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