AMAZING. This one word sums up a week-long trip to Airlie Beach with my family where we snorkelled on the Great Barrier Reef, got up close with crocodiles in the wild and spent some good old-fashioned family time together.
We started our journey early on a Sunday morning to begin the drive north to Airlie. Almost 600km away, Google Maps told us the trip would take about seven hours.
I think we did it in that time, but that was with a stop for breakfast in Rockhampton and a toilet break and petrol top-up in Mackay. Not bad going for a car trip with four children aged between four and 11.
We arrived at our destination - Big4 Adventure Whitsunday Resort - in the early afternoon, checked in and found our poolview cabin, which was conveniently set just across from the playground - somewhere the girls would spend a lot of their holiday.
The three-bedroom cabin which sleeps eight people was just amazing (there's that word again!).
It was big enough for a family of six and we still had a room left over after the girls saw the bunk beds.
There is something about bunk beds that kids just love and once they saw them, there was no way we could persuade anyone to sleep in the other bedroom.
As soon as we arrived, the kids were off to check out the playground, the jumping pillow and the pool.
They were all literally across the road from our cabin and we could even see the kids from the deck.
The first night there, we relaxed with a barbecue dinner and a few drinks on the deck. Bliss.
On 10.5ha of tropical gardens, Big4 Adventure Whitsunday has more than 40 self-contained cabins and 120 caravan and camping sites.
The resort recently completed the first stage of a full refurbishment program on the two-bedroom villas and cottages, working again with interior designer Suzie Beirne, from Maison Jardin.
Bright colours and furnishings give the cabins a fresh, clean feel that adds to the tropical atmosphere of the resort.
Our cabin had everything a family needs for a stay away from home - washing machine and dryer, dishwasher, microwave, full-sized stove and fridge.
We had two televisions, so we weren't completely technology free, but aside from those, no computers or electronic gaming equipment were in sight.
It was fantastic, like the kind of holiday I went on as a child.
My girls were able to expend their energy at the playground, which meant they crashed early each night (bonus!) and they used their imaginations to create games and kept themselves entertained for hours.
Big4 Adventure Whitsunday has an array of activities on site including an 18-hole mini golf course, pedal karts, tennis court, basketball, volleyball, badminton, bocce and table tennis, as well as the playground and jumping pillow.
It is also the only resort on the mainland at Airlie Beach to offer a kids' club and toddler time.
The kids' club runs on Saturday mornings during the school term, but during the holidays, that grows to three times a week. Other fun activities such as mini golf tournaments, scavenger hunts, outdoor movies at night and colouring-in competitions also are held.
You'll find the activities program for these June-July school holidays on their website at adventurewhitsunday.com.au/shols/.
We hit the mini-golf course one morning with varying degrees of success. It probably took us a good couple of hours for all six of us to work our way through the 18 holes.
Another day, the kids had a go on the double pedal karts, which were heaps of fun. They tore around the resort (with helmets) and took turns driving and pedalling. The passenger controlled the hand-brake which had varying success, especially when my four-year-old was trying to stop my 11-year-old in her tracks.
During our stay at Airlie Beach, we checked out the boardwalk and man-made lagoon, which is right on the water.
The time of year we were there was a bit chilly for us to go swimming in the lagoon, but plenty of tourists enjoyed the water and caught some sun.
The main street of Airlie Beach has plenty of travel agencies and backpacker accommodation, as well as booking offices for the multitude of activities on offer.
While obviously a touristy area, it still has a nice relaxed, beachside feel.
On Saturday, the girls went to the kids club at the resort while I had a massage by the pool, from Intuitive Massage.
It was lovely to just lie there for an hour and be pampered and not have to worry about what the girls were doing, as I knew they were in safe hands.
Too soon, it was time to pack up the car and head back to Gladstone.
Again, we were up early to beat the traffic and travelling on a Sunday was great as none of the roadworks were being done.
So, if you're looking for a great place to get away and unwind these school holidays, give the Whitsundays a go. It's amazing.
10 things to do
- Snorkel the Great Barrier Reef
- Go sailing
- Take the bicentennial boardwalk from Airlie Beach Lagoon right around to the Cannonvale Foreshore
- Visit Whitehaven Beach
- Check out the national park walks Coral Beach and Mt Rooper at Shute Harbour and the Kingfisher Track
- Take a scenic flight over the islands and the outer Great Barrier Reef
- Visit the Airlie Beach markets every Saturday morning all along the Esplanade
- Go sea kayaking
- Travel to Dingo Beach or Hydeaway Bay and explore some of the Whitsundays' hidden gems
- Explore Proserpine - including the Peter Faust Dam and the Proserpine Museum.