Let’s face it no matter how much we like coats, boots and open fires; there comes a point when you’re over winter. As the temperatures plummet, thoughts turn to carefree holidays soaking up the sun. With easy access, a beautiful year-round climate, affordability and a large range of resorts pitched at the family market, it’s little wonder that Queensland is such a popular holiday destination. Here’s my pick to shake off the winter blues.
If money is no object for a family holiday, this is your place in the sun. Hayman Island is one of the few luxury five star resorts in Australia that not only allows children but throws out the welcome mat too. Hayman was named Australasia's Leading Family Resort last year in the World Travel Awards, and Best Family Resort in the 2012 Luxury Travel and Style magazine Gold List. That says something.
There are direct flights from Melbourne and Sydney, with any luggage including prams; strollers transferred straight from the plane onto the luxury Hayman launch – or in our case the seaplane - making it a breeze for parents. Within hours of leaving winter back home you can be sipping a glass of wine while whale spotting on the way to the island, or marveling at the fabulous views of the Whitsunday Islands from the air. And with check-in completed onboard, or before your flight, you will find yourselves soaking up the sun on a lovely curve of beach framed by coconut trees – moments after stepping ashore.
The Pool rooms, which overlook the famous Hayman Pool (seven times the Olympic size), and the elegant Lagoon Suites, with separate bedroom and fantastic views over the Coral Sea, are popular choices with families. Hayman also offers a collection of eight new Beach Villas, designed by architect Kerry Hill, but these aren’t for families – unless you put the nanny or granny and kids up in the nearby Retreat rooms redesigned by Jamie Durie.
Young guests love Hayman’s Kids Club; a cute cottage surrounded by lush gardens that is home to Kids Club (5-12 year olds) and Crèche (six weeks to five years). Ella visited twice, once as a nine-week-old, and again when she was two. The resort has also introduced a Ranger program for the older children in Australian school holidays and offers fun activities like the Butterfly Trail and PADI Bubble Maker program for eight to 12-year-olds. Baby-sitting is also available and all sitters hold a Positive Notice blue card for Child Related Employment.
The Hayman Junior Chef program runs in the school holidays and covers juice making and pizza making, but one suspects the visit to Hayman’s Chocolate Room at the end is the real drawcard. Once they have finished making and tasting chocolate with a chef, the kids collect their pizza boxes and return to the kids club for a feast.
Also popular are the children’s menus available in all food outlets, which feature items such as buckets of chips, Starfish Bread and Green Turtle Tea with fizzy lime lemonade and ice cream. The only downside is the cost so unless you want a massive tab pack some of their favourite foods, snacks and drinks – especially for littlies.
With the kids in good hands, mum and dad can take time out at the Hayman Spa, have a hit of tennis, take a scenic bushwalk to Blue Pearl Bay, sip on the world’s largest cocktail while overlooking the gorgeous Hayman Beach, or have a romantic dinner for two in the Oriental Restaurant.
To book phone 1800 075 175 toll free or see or www.hayman.com.au
There’s a reason why Hamilton Island is the busiest, most inhabited Whitsundays island. For families the accommodation choice is the refurbished, high-rise Reef View Hotel with its wet edge pool and Coral Sea views, or the Whitsunday Holiday Apartments. Closer to ground level there are the Palm Bungalows currently being refurbished to Premium Palm Bungalows, offering families a little more luxury while retaining the pared back simplicity of a ‘back to nature’ retreat, or there are literally hundreds of self-contained properties to choose from in the Hamilton Island Holiday Homes portfolio. And if you book any of these options, kids under 12 stay and eat free as long as mum and dad dine at the same restaurant too.
For families looking for a luxurious getaway, the generous sized four-bedroom, four-bathroom Yacht Club Villas are the ideal option, boasting views over the picturesque Dent Passage, Hamilton Island Marina and surrounding Whitsunday islands, plus your own buggy, personal concierge and more.
While families can’t stay at adults-only properties the Beach Club or the acclaimed Qualia, parents can access some of the facilities. Book the kids in for a session at the wonderful Clownfish Club (priced from $45 for three hours) while mum gets pampered at Spa Wumurdaylin or Spa Qualia, and dad enjoys a round of golf at Hamilton Island Golf Club, located on neighboring Dent Island. Meet up for barramundi and chips and a glass of wine on the balcony of the Club House with its sensational views, before taking the kids to meet the cuddly natives at the Wild Life Park. You can book a babysitter through the Clownfish Club ($65 for the first three hours) and enjoy a superb meal with a wonderful view at Bommie Restaurant (the Deck is the best spot for coffee) in the new Hamilton Island Yacht Club, which has been dubbed the ‘Opera House of Queensland’ with its billowing sail shaped copper roof.
Hamilton has a lively feel, given it’s home to more than 1200 residents and staff, along with hoards of happy holidaymakers. There are 20 plus restaurants and bars, its own marina village with an active yachting community, shops, pools, a choice of bushwalks, 60 different activities and a gorgeous swimming beach. Fun golf buggies are the mode of transport (bring a baby seat for infants) or utilise the free shuttle service. There are cocktails at sunset at One Tree Hill Lookout, tours leave daily for the Great Barrier Reef or famous Whitehaven Beach or try a sailing charter, sea kayak or dinghy hire for private island exploration.
Contact Details: 137333; +61 2 94330444, www.hamiltonisland.com.au
Big 4 Airlie Beach
Dust off your resort wear, load up the caravan and head north. BIG4 Adventure Whitsunday is more like an island resort than a caravan park. It’s based on the mainland at Airlie Beach with terrific access to the Whitsunday Islands and Great Barrier Reef. This 4.5 star caravan park set in 26 acres of lush tropical gardens offers the only Kid’s Club in Airlie Beach (during school holidays or Saturdays year round). Mum and dad can have a massage by the pool, while the nippers participate in ‘Froggy Olympics’, burn down the water slide or enjoy face painting, sand sculpting or hair braiding in the kid’s club. On Tuesdays, the park offers Toddler Time giving parents a precious hour to themselves for just $10 for one hour.
During school holidays there are discos, pizza nights and outdoor movies while young guests can burn off energy with basketball, volleyball, badminton, bocce and table tennis during the day. With a high percent of return guests, this multi award winning resort-style caravan park offers 40 tastefully decorated, self-contained cabins (so there’s no need to pull a caravan all that way after all), 120 caravan and camping sites, plus massive lagoon style swimming pool, 18 hole mini-golf course, full size tennis court and an adventure playground. Owner Naomi McKinnon says their goal is to create a social atmosphere where people make new friends and can take away holiday memories which last a lifetime.
To book phone 1800 640 587 or see www.adventurewhitsunday.com.au.
Grand Mercure Rockford and Novotel Palm Cove Resort
There’s something instantly calming about Palm Cove. Within moments of arriving from chilly weather down south, you’ve slipped into thongs, a cool summer’s dress and are taking a stroll along the waterfront lined with swaying coconut trees and shaded by mighty Melalucas. All of Palm Cove is low rise, which ensures this exclusive seaside address retains a chic resort feel. And it’s a terrific spot for families.
There are many self-contained apartment complexes and stylish resorts along the beachfront strip that cater to those with a brood in tow, but a great pick is the Grand Mercure Rockford Apartments and sister property the Novotel Palm Cove Resort which has a fabulous KidZone. The Novotel property now offers fun activities like snorkeling lessons, sand sculpture, pirate treasure hunts, parachute play and more for kids four-12. The resorts’ pool also offers the incredibly fun crocodile slide. The Novotel offers a mix of apartments, rooms and suites while the Mercure’s self-contained apartments feature a separate area off the main bedroom that houses a large day bed, ideal for children to sleep and large enough for a portacot too (although if you close it off you shut off the air conditioning to that space too). The lagoon pool is lovely, shaded by towering Melalucas.
This is a BYO kind of place so before you arrive stock up on staples like bread, milk, juice and eggs or better still go on a family shopping expedition to the famous Ruffy’s Markets in Cairns. There are also great BBQ facilities along the beachfront. A must however for mum and dad is dinner at the legendary Nu Nu’s restaurant. Book a blue-card-carrying sitter from Executive Babysitting Services, take a stroll in the balmy evening air and kick off a memorable night with a coconut and lychee martini. The food is exceptional – mod Oz cuisine with a dashing Asian/tropical twist - and so is the coffee so return with the kids for breakfast (Nu Nu’s also operates a great café/gelato bar in the Grand Mercure complex).
Another terrific thing to experience nearby is Paradise Palms Resort and Country Club’s Pelicans in Paradise adventure park, comprising 2000 sq metres of adventure playground, swimming and mini-golf. It’s free if you’re staying there, or kids can access the park for a small fee while mum or dad enjoy a round of golf.
Call 1800 788 155 or check www.rockfordhotels.com.au for specials. For more information on Pelicans in Paradise see www.paradisepalms.com.au.
Seaworld Resort and Water Park, Main Beach
Australia’s only theme park resort is a kid’s dream come true. Located next door to Seaworld with free monorail access, everything here is geared towards ensuring a great family holiday. There are 405 spacious, contemporary rooms with either pool, garden or Broadwater views, three fantastic lagoon pools including a fun aqua playground with a giant water-filled tipping bucket and the water park with flume slides and a mammoth plunge. There’s also a kid’s playground, restaurants with children’s meals, a poolside café with great milkshakes and the chance to meet characters from Sesame Street in the lobby each morning.
Nearby is the long stretch of Main Beach, Marina Mirage shopping village, or Tedder Avenue with cafes and restaurants. Get the resort to book a babysitter through Heaven Sent Help and dine at the gorgeous Chill on Tedder. The resort also runs a popular evening kid’s club for children aged 4½ to 12 years with supervised activities plus dinner and ice cream from 5.30-9pm nightly. Make sure to see the fantastic new Imagine Dolphin Show, check out the superb Shark Bay with its underwater viewing windows and unleash the kids at the resort’s free water park. Hire a shady cabana for a bit of extra pampering for the whole clan.
Phone 1800 074 448 for more information or to book and check the website www.seaworldresort.myfun.com.au for regular specials including accommodation and ticket packages to Seaworld, Movie World and Wet n Wild.
Mantra Sierra Grand, Broadbeach
This chic 30-story apartment resort is smack bang in the middle of Broadbeach within strolling distance to gorgeous beaches, sidewalk cafes (try No Name Lane), boutique and specialty shops and Jupiter’s Casino. There are spacious one, two and three bedroom apartments and penthouses with all the mod cons including air conditioning, fully equipped kitchens with dishwasher and microwave, wide balconies with ocean or hinterland views, cable TV, in-house movies, Wi-Fi and more. Resort facilities include a terrific gym, sauna and steam room, heated indoor lap pool and spa, an outdoor pool, full tennis court, in-house 20 seat theatre, tour desk and free undercover parking. Beach towels are supplied but stock up on basics like milk, bread, butter and cereal, washing powder nearby at Woolworths. After taking the kids to the patrolled beach (where there is a great children’s playground) and for a stroll along the Broadbeach walkway which stretches a couple of kilometers in both directions, fire up the barbecue by the pool and soak up the balmy Gold Coast vibe or book a sitter and head out for dinner for two at Black Coffee Lyrics in Surfers Paradise.
To book phone 13 15 17 or see www.mantra.com.au/sierragrand
RACV Noosa Resort
This fantastic resort on Noosa Sounds is geared to the family market with 80 luxurious and spacious two and three bedroom self contained apartments overlooking a protected conservation sanctuary. All apartments are equipped with full kitchens with European appliances and laundry so you can self cater. Alternatively make use of the full resort facilities which include an outdoor lagoon pool with man made beach, cocktail bar, flood lit tennis court, One Spa and more. There are also plenty of activities kids can enjoy with parents such as tennis, bicycle hire and eco walking track while the onsite restaurant offers a kid’s menu. There is also babysitting available so parents can enjoy a night out at Noosa’s excellent restaurants.
Auto club members receive a discount on accommodation. For further information call 13 15 15 or see www.racv.com.au.
Paradise Resort, Gold Coast
A short distance from Surfers Paradise, this multi-award winning property has been voted Australia’s favorite family resort time and time again – and this is largely because of its firm ‘kid’s first’ philosophy. Set on five acres close to beaches and attractions, as one TripAdvisor guest put it: “this resort is built for kids”. Sure there are more luxurious places, with more contemporary rooms and there’s no doubt the resort needed its latest refurbishment of its king and junior bunkhouse rooms, but the smile on small guests’ faces means this pales into insignificance. And at the end of the day happy kids mean happy parents. Featuring 358 guest rooms, the Zone 4 Kids Club (which operates 8am-8pm) and a giant new Zone 4 Kid’s Waterpark – one of the biggest in the southern hemisphere, the resort caters for babies and toddlers right through to 12-year-olds.
Accommodation comprises colorful, newly refurbished king and junior bunkhouses with free in-room Sony Playstation, DVD players, kitchenettes and more. Resort family rooms and connecting rooms are available for larger families. Onsite you’ll also find economically priced eateries, a supermarket, tour desk, entertainment crew, playground and family friendly movies screened on Saturday nights with mobile popcorn, fairy floss and hotdog sellers. It’s good old-fashioned family fun at its best. 1800 074 111, www.paradiseresort.com.au.
Sheriden Rhodes is a travel writer and photographer who travels the globe with her ‘frequent small flyer’, Ella. You can follow their adventures and pick up family travel tips on the Frequent Small Flyer Facebook page.
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