Daydream Island Resort in the Whitsundays reopened in April 2019 after an extensive redevelopment.
There has been a lot of travel industry chatter about the new Daydream Island and its family-friendly and eco credentials. So last month, while holidaying on Hamilton Island, my husband (Adam) and baby daughter (Evie) and I headed over for a day trip to check out the re-vamped resort.
Each day, a number of the guests staying at Daydream Island Resort leave the island on day trips. They head off to explore the Whitsundays, snorkel the Great Barrier Reef, visit Whitehaven Beach or play a round of golf on Dent Island. This means that Daydream Island can allow day trippers without the risk of overcrowding.
Cruise Whitsundays offers ferry transfers to Daydream Island from Airlie Beach and Hamilton Island. We boarded the ferry at Hamilton Island airport at 10am and Daydream Island was the first stop, 30 minutes later.
Evie was napping in her stroller as we arrived and we were very happy to find that we could wheel her from the ferry deck, along the wharf, through the transit lounge and into the light and airy resort lobby. As far as first impressions go, Daydream Island was winning.
For many family-friendly, tropical island resorts the pool is the main attraction. And whist the pool on Daydream is lovely, it’s pipped to the post by the Living Reef.
Prior to the redevelopment Daydream had a coral lagoon. But resort’s new Living Reef is bigger, more eco-friendly and educational than ever before. And while Adam sat with our sleeping baby, I was taken on a tour by the Living Reef manager, Johnny Gaskell.
All of the interactive experiences start in the Reef Exploration Centre. It’s where the in-house marine biologists have created a number of educational displays and a touch pool. And they are currently working on a display that demonstrates the impact that climate change is having on the coral of the Great Barrier Reef.
After the Reef Exploration Centre, Johnny showed me the underwater observatory where you descend below ground to look through a large acrylic window at a typical reef system with living coral. While I was mesmerised by a large stingray gliding past, Johnny pointed out a rabbit fish having its gills cleaned by a blue streak cleaner wrass.
What I wish I’d had time for, was doing a yoga class in the underwater observatory, but unfortunately the timings didn’t work out this visit.
Other guided experiences that day trippers and guests can do are, a 90 minute snorkel tour (available to those 10 years and over), guided fish feeding (available to those over 3 years old), and the stingray splash, where anyone aged 6 and over can get into Living Reef with the baby stingrays.
As we walked back from the baby stingray pool, Johnny showed me where he and the team are working on creating a coral propagation, restoration and education program funded by the Queensland and Australian Governments. Once it’s up and running, raw water will be pumped in from the ocean to allow coral, selected from the wild, to grow and propagate in the hope that it can be replanted back into cyclone damaged sites to regenerate areas in need. If all goes to plan, this technique of coral restoration will be the first of its kind in the Whitsundays.
After an hour learning about the Great Barrier Reef ecosystem with Johnny, I re-joined Adam and Evie who were relaxing in a cabana by the pool.
Despite the pool not being heated in the middle of winter, Adam happily handed over baby minding duty and went for a swim before lunch. It was too cold for me, so I wandered across the bridges and through the palms that line the edges of the pool, taking the wimps way to the swim up bar.
The Barefoot Bar has an extensive cocktail menu and at lunch time a burger buffet. For $20 you can make your own beef, chicken or veggie burger and wash it down with a soft drink.
Having had burgers the day before, we decided to lunch at Inkstone Kitchen & Bar. We found a table with a great view of the pool and gardens that kept us all happy – me in the sun, Adam in the shade and Evie’s stroller in a cool, quiet corner out of the way.
The lunch menu offered modern Australian meals, gourmet salads and wood fired pizza. For us, the light and perfectly seasoned salt and pepper calamari was the highlight.
After lunch it was time for us to catch the ferry back to Hamilton Island.
As we cruised across the azure blue waters of the Whitsundays back to our extended family, Adam and I agreed that when Evie was a bit older we would bring her back to Daydream Island. The island is great for families with babies, but we know she would get so much more out of the experience if she were a few years older. And next time we’d stay for much longer than one day.
Janeece Keller is the founder and editor of Family Travel. She mostly travels with her husband and two young kids. She has a large blended family that lives in Australia and Europe. She has visited 52 countries and lived on 3 continents. From camping to luxury resorts Janeece tries to make sure her family has diverse holiday experiences each year. She is an avid hiker and ocean swimmer who loves good food, margaritas and heading off the beaten path.