Daydream Island has been a Whitsundays classic since the first resort opened here almost 90 years ago. The only resort on the one-kilometre-long island of the same name, Daydream Island has been shut since Cyclone Debbie swept through in 2017, with the owners undertaking a massive $100 million renovation. The property re-opened its doors in mid-April.
Daydream Island is a 30-minute ferry ride from either Airlie Beach or Hamilton Island. The peak at the centre of the island – accessible via a walking trail – is home to a tropical rainforest, while wallaroos graze on the resort lawns in the morning. The island's three beaches are looking somewhat the worse for wear, with much of the sand washed away in the cyclone.
Superior King room. Photo: DAYDREAM ISLAND
Just behind the jetty sits the transit lounge, where new arrivals are greeted with a welcome drink. From here it is a short walk to the Atrium, a soaring space that is home not only to the reception and activities desk, but also Graze restaurant and Tonic bar. The wall of hanging plants and the decorative plantation shutters add character. The accommodation is spread across a number of separate buildings.
I am staying in the top room category, the Deluxe Oceanfront with Terrace. The generously-sized room has a king bed, a couch and two armchairs, as well as a good size terrace with outdoor seating, and a bathroom equipped with a walk-in shower. The fit-out is sophisticated, with furnishings done in neutral tones, but the sound of people walking around in the room above wakes me up one night.
Cocktail, anyone? Tonic is the bar at Daydream. Photo: DAYDREAM ISLAND
When I visit the resort in its first week of operations, the buffet restaurant, Graze, is only open for breakfast. However, both Inkstone Kitchen and Bar, and Infinity restaurant are firing on all burners. Guests in deluxe rooms can opt for breakfast at Inkstone, where the menu includes everything from eggs Florentine to grilled haloumi served with poached eggs, sourdough toast and tomato relish.
For lunch and dinner, expect light bites such as Caesar salad, pizzas and tapas, as well as heartier meals such as vegetable cassoulet and a lavish seafood tower for two. Lunch is also available at the poolside Barefoot Bar and at Infinity, which serves up Izakaya-style snacks including tempura prawns and wagyu tataki.
Infinity really comes into its own at dinner, with a menu of elegantly-plated Asian dishes from braised potato and crab okonomiyaki to Massaman lamb rump and a whole crispy-skinned baby snapper. Families will love the fact that children under 12 eat free on the island.
Daydream has always been family-friendly; with that audience in mind, the resort has drastically expanded its centrepiece Living Reef, a coral lagoon fed by ocean water. The lagoon, which holds 1.5 million litres of water, now wends its way for 200 metres through the resort. The marine life – sourced under the supervision of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park authority – includes rays, cod, surgeon fish, bream and butterfly fish as well as colourful corals, and guests can take part in everything from fish feeding to guided snorkelling tours.
There is also an Exploration Centre where guests can learn more about the reef. Other activities include outdoor fitness classes from aquarobics to yoga, as well as kayaking and beach sports. More activities are coming online, including the return of the outdoor cinema, and of course guests can arrange excursions to Whitehaven Beach or the reef.
Daydream Island knows what families want, offering plenty of activities for the younger members alongside sophisticated dining experiences for the grown-ups.
Rates from $396 including breakfast for a standard room, equipped with king bed or two queen beds. Interconnecting rooms are available for families. Children under 12 eat free. See daydreamisland.com
For those who aren't comfortable in the open water, the Living Reef is a good way to get a taste of the Great Barrier Reef.
The noise filtering through from neighbouring rooms may disturb some guests.
Ute Junker was a guest of Daydream Island and Tourism Whitsundays.