Mermaids, mermen and merbabies: splash your tails in the direction of Daydream Island in the Whitsundays, which dishes up an array of aquatic adventures for all ages. Your multiple cues to come here include a vast living reef with an underwater observatory and exploration centre, a fleet of expert marine biologists, free activities galore and plenty of parent-pleasing extras, including a trio of family-friendly restaurants, an excellent kids club and a pampering spa. There’s even an on-site wedding chapel, should the matrimonial mood strike.
Double rooms from £159.66 (AU$315), including tax at 10 per cent.
Rates usually include breakfast (pick from buffet and à la carte options), WiFi and a choice of 20-plus island activities.
At the hotel
Living reef with an underwater observatory and exploration centre; resident marine biologists; greenery galore; onsite wedding chapel; kids club. In rooms: TV, WiFi, desk, air-conditioning, alarm clock, minibar, kettle, tea and coffee kit.
Our favourite rooms
We love the Serenity Suites for their uninterrupted views of Lovers Cove, and the Deluxe Rooms for their terrace and prime position within the exclusive Driftwood Wing.
There are two family-friendly pools, both outdoors and all graced with enviable Coral Sea views.
The blissful Elita Day Spa dishes up deep-tissue massages, facials, wraps, mani pedis, spray tans and an indulgent two-hour couples’ treatment. Take advantage of the resort’s babysitting service and get booked in.
Bring swimwear as bold and beautiful as the tropical fish.
Public and communal areas are suitable for wheelchair users; the hotel also has some disabled-access rooms with bigger bathrooms.
All ages are very welcome. There’s a kids club and a babysitting service (from $30 an hour; minimum three-hour booking applies).
Very: Daydream Island uses bamboo straws, chemical-free bath products and menus made from cornstarch materials. The restaurant champions organic, locally sourced produce and seafood.
The super exclusive, cooked-in-front-of-you teppanyaki table at Infinity is hot property.
Island icon: flowing linen layers; pearl, wood and gold accents.
The hotel has a trio of tempting dining options, all suitable for families. Enjoy casual meals at Inkstone Kitchen & Bar, overlooking the ocean, which serves surf and turf classics in a relaxed space decorated with striking black furniture. Dress to impress at the more formal Infinity restaurant, which is dark and masculine with moody lighting; enjoy Asian-fusion fine dining dishes here. Graze is housed in the Atrium, with views of the Living Reef; pick from a modern international buffet of hot and cold dishes, with a focus on prime Queensland produce.
Chill out poolside at Barefoot Bar, or enjoy flawless gin and tonics at Tonic Bar, housed within the Atrium.
Dinner is served until 9pm at all three restaurants. Enjoy breakfast until 10am at Graze and Inkstone Kitchen & Bar.
Daydream Island is one of the Molle islands, a subgroup of the Whitsunday Islands, in tropical Queensland.
Hamilton Island Airport – aka the Great Barrier Reef Airport – has direct flights from Cairns, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. From there, it’s just a 30-minute ferry transfer to Daydream. Alternatively, fly into Proserpine Airport, also known as the Whitsunday Coast Airport. From there, it’s a scenic 40km drive to Port of Airlie, where you can take a 30-minute ferry transfer to Daydream.
Hop here by boat from Port Airlie and Hamilton Island with help from Cruise Whitsundays (https://cruisewhitsundays.com/).
Worth getting out of bed for
Whether on dry land or underwater, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to things to do here. Aquatic adventures take centre stage and there’s plenty to please all ages. Start with a healthy session of poolside lounging, spa treatments, gourmet meals at the restaurant and delicious drinks at Barefoot Bar by the pool or Tonic Bar in the Atrium. Plenty of activities on the island are included for free: guided rainforest walks, outdoor fitness classes, yoga and meditation, sunrise stretch sessions, snorkelling lessons, beach sports, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, public fish feeding shows and more. Beginner scuba-dives can be arranged, and certified sorts can head underwater with one of the Dive Masters, who'll guide you to the more noteworthy/further-from-the-surface parts of the reef.
You can hardly miss the hotel’s eco-friendly and educational Living Reef: it wraps 200 metres around the central building and holds an impressive 1.5 million litres of water, after all. Spot starfish and sea cucumbers, shake fins with a baby stingray, admire crabs up close and discover more than 100 unique species of marine fish. Get the inside scoop on all things aquatic via group tours, the underwater observatory and hands-on experiences with the resident marine biologists.
If you want to explore further afield, take to the waters and discover the Whitsundays by jet-ski (staff can arrange jet-ski hire or tours), or embark on a scenic helicopter tour. Explore South Molle Island on a guided eco walk or try watersports on nearby Catseye Beach: hire a private charter or catch a ride via Cruise Whitsundays. Don’t miss the eye-wateringly beautiful Whitehaven Beach, which regularly tops ‘world’s best beaches’ lists.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this sun-soaked hotel in Queensland and unpacked their underwater cameras and itty-bitty swimwear, a full account of their island getaway will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Daydream Island in the Great Barrier Reef…
If you’re desperately seeking a tropical seaside idyll for Smiths of all ages, look no further than Daydream Island, which woos all adventurers great and small. This private-island getaway in the dazzling Whitsundays delivers a generous dose of sun, sea, sand and the life aquatic, thanks in part to its fascinating Living Reef and expert marine biologists. Days here unwind in a salt-splashed haze of rainforest walks, snorkelling, beach sports, jet-ski adventures, chopper and charter expeditions and beachside yoga. Naturally, you’ll want to spend a generous chunk of time familiarising yourselves with the trio of excellent restaurants and double-act of thirst-quenching bars, too. Within easy reach, some of the world’s most seductive stretches of sand – and crystalline waters – beckon. With help from its excellent kids club, nothing-is-too-much-trouble staff and handy babysitting service, Daydream Island proves there’s plenty of room in paradise for ankle-biters, too…
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