Heaven in the Whitsundays

AMAZING.

This one word sums up a week-long trip to Airlie Beach with my family where we snorkeled 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 to Airlie Beach. Almost 600km away, Google Maps told us it would take around 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 located 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!). 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. It was 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 BBQ dinner and a few drinks on the deck. It was bliss.

Located on 26 acres of tropical gardens, Big4 Adventure Whitsunday has over 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 feel 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.

There were two televisions, so we weren't completed technology free, but aside from those there were no computer and no electronic gaming equipment of any sort.

It was fantastic. Like the kind of holiday I went on as a child. My girls got 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 which offers a kids club and toddler time.

The kids club runs on a Saturday morning during the school term, but during the holidays it's on three times a week, as well as other fun activities, like a mini golf tournament, scavenger hunt, outdoor movies at night and colouring-in competition.

You'll find the activities program for the upcoming June-July school holidays on their website now: www.adventurewhitsunday.com.au/shols/.

We hit the mini-golf course on 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 pedaling. 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 there were plenty of tourists enjoying the water and catching some sun by the lagoon.

In the main street of Airlie Beach there are lots of travel agencies and backpacker accommodation, as well as booking offices for the multitude of activities on offer.

While it is obviously a touristy- area, it still has a nice relaxed, beachside feel about it.

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 lay 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 worked on.

So, if you're looking for a great place to getaway and unwind these school holidays, give the Whitsundays a go.  It's amazing.

Liz Carson and her family were hosted by Big4 Adventure Whitsunday Resort (www.adventurewhitsunday.com.au).

Factbox - Top 10 things to do in Airlie Beach

  • 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 along the foreshore on the Esplanade.
  • Go sea kayaking.
  • Travel to Dingo Beach or Hydeaway Bay and explore some of the Whitsunday's hidden gems.
  • Explore Proserpine - including the Peter Faust Dam and the Historical Proserpine Museum.



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