Secret Whitsundays paradise: 48 hours on Long Island
PSA: Did you know it’s cheaper to stay on a tropical Queensland island than a standard hotel in Sydney’s CBD?
No, I’m not Pinocchio and this isn’t a fairytale. You can have a secluded island escape in the Whitsundays without the blow-the-budget-and-life-savings price tag.
What is this affordable paradise I speak of? Say hello to Long Island. A 9km beachcomber’s dream, home to two small resorts, 13km of graded hiking trails and fringing reef.
It’s the closest of the Whitsunday Islands to the mainland and is easy to access for a weekend to do as much or as little as you like.
If you’re short on money but long on time to kill chill, this 48-hour guide to an affordable island escape is for you.
8AM: SET YOUR WATCH TO LONG ISLAND TIME
Island Transfers whiz you from Proserpine Airport, Airlie Beach or Shute Harbour to the doorstep of Palm Bay Resort. This hideaway is just 20 minutes from the mainland, and I promise you, arriving is like walking barefoot into heaven.
Your eyes will be instantly drawn to the green oasis, embellished with pops of bougainvillaea, and sheltered beaches skirted by reef.
The resort is Balinese inspired, with only a handful of rooms (25 to be exact), meaning you can wander the island without seeing another soul if you don’t want to.
Accommodation ranges from Beachfront Villas and Bures fit for romance to a luxury Platinum Guest House ideal for family or group getaways.
I opted for a Beachfront Villa – basically a private beach house – and was not disappointed. I was greeted by a friendly neighbour (Charlie the cockatoo) and stellar views out across the Whitsundays passage. The Villa was equipped with a large bathroom, comfortable bed and a hammock strung across the balcony (which I admittingly had a lovely snooze in).
10AM: WATER YOU WAITIN’ FOR?
Put down the camera phone! The ‘Gram-able’ beauty will still be there to wreak follower-FOMO after a dive in that beckoning blue water.
Palm Bay Resort is nestled within a secluded cove, meaning you can snorkel your own private slice of the Great Barrier Reef.
At the doorstep of your room is the reef, teeming with marine life, including vibrant corals, fish and a friendly turtle or two.
Guests can collect free snorkels from reception. The sand is laden with kayaks which guests can use and take a self-led tour around the island.
12PM: OPTIONS, OPTIONS
If relaxation and refuge are what you’re craving, pop your feet up by the pool with a paperback. There’s a well-stocked library of pre-loved and lost reads in the reception area to borrow or swap.
Got energy to burn? Hit the court for a stroke of tennis, though the courtside view of the Coral Sea and beyond is an easy distraction.
Then, duck into the Resort’s Palm Blue Day Spa for some extra R&R – their aptly-named ‘Island Getaway’ signature spa ritual includes a 60-minute full body massage and a 30-minute rejuvenating facial. *instant zen*
If sightseeing is your cup of tea, a bird’s-eye view of the Whitsundays’ 74 islands and the infamous Heart Reef is a MUST!
Air Whitsundays can fly from Long Island, over the Whitsunday Passage, Whitehaven Beach, the Outer Reef and Heart Reef all in an afternoon. They offer return trips from Palm Bay Resort on all of their tours for an additional fee.
7PM: HAVE YOUR STEAK AND EAT IT TOO
What really sets this place apart is that Palm Bay Resort is self-catering, meaning you can bring as much of your favourite treats as you like, guilt-free. Salt and vinegar chips are my weakness…
Holidays are for fuss-free feeds and Whitsundays Provisioning knows just that. They offer food packages to suit guests’ holiday needs if you don’t have time to grocery shop.
A ‘Silver Package’ for the budget-conscious includes a continental breakfast each day, snacks and an assortment of lunch and dinner options like a ploughman’s lunch, meat and salad rolls, barbequed rump steak with baked potato and salad, or spaghetti bolognese. Or you can upgrade to the ‘Premium Package’, with bacon and eggs, a locally-baked quiche or fresh seafood for lunch, and prime eye fillet steak with pepper sauce and sides, or pork fillets with stir fry veggies for dinner.
Those who favour a home-cooked meal can use the purpose-built guest kitchen, equipped with all utensils and crockery required. Not to mention condiments galore.
The best part? There’ll be no fighting over the dishes as resort staff will take care of them.
9AM: BLUE SUEDE CRUISE
A day on the water with Ocean Rafting Whitsundays is a day well spent, visiting the iconic Whitehaven Beach, with a guided bush walk up to Hill Inlet, and snorkelling at Border Island, Dumbell Island or one of their secret snorkel spots.
Ocean Rafting has won gold two years running at the Australian, Queensland AND Whitsundays Tourism Awards, for best Major Tour and Transport Operator. Yes, you may have to clear the stardust from your eyes, but once you do, book ahead to secure your spot on their Southern Lights tour.
Tours depart from the mainland at 10am, returning at 4.30pm. But don’t fret – you can book return transfers from Long Island for a little extra $$.
5:30PM: WINE DOWN
Grab a beer, wine, spirit, cider or cocktail from the well-stocked resort bar. Sit on the beachfront deck and watch the fairy floss sky transition through a palette of orange, pinks and purples.
Grab a board game from reception and relax in the outdoor lounge area, overlooking the Whitsunday Passage. The soothing sea breeze coupled with a fresh-made wood-fired pizza (available Wednesday to Sunday) really hits the spot.
AM: SWEET SUNRISE
Rise with the sun and follow one of the island’s bushwalking tracks. Long Island is also a Rainforest National Park and home to an abundance of wildlife like wallabies, goannas, and curlews.
A popular quick-fix is the Round Hill Circuit – a 1.5km return journey taking around 30 minutes, starting at Palm Bay.
Or get sweaty on the Sandy Bay trail – a 5.8km return trip. It’ll take around three hours and has a gentle climb, later descending to a secluded beach lined with mangroves.
11AM: FAREWELL, FRIEND
Island Transfers will pick you up from Long Island at 11am. We recommend hopping over to another Whitsunday Island because everyone needs an extended stay in paradise!
From late 2018, Daydream Island will be welcoming guests to their $65 million revamped resort and we can’t wait to check it out!
Craving another island escape? Check out these 13 Queensland islands you can easily visit for the weekend.