An affordable tropical island holiday? You can do it!

If you think that an Australian tropical island holiday is out of reach, think again.

daydream island top image

Leon’s search for the perfect Indian Pale Ale means he’s sampled some of the finest frothies from all over the globe. Although he feels he’s come close to finding the holy grail of beers, he hopes he never does – so that his quest continues in perpetuity.

If you think that an Australian tropical island holiday is out of reach, think again. Today, Leon shares just how affordable (and how much fun) a stay on Daydream Island can be.

We’re approaching Hamilton Island airport and I look out the window to catch a glimpse of the tropical paradise beneath me. I’ve always dreamt of a tropical island holiday. Today that dream becomes reality.

We touchdown at the tiny airport. The hatch opens and I am shirtfronted by stifling heat and humidity. Mind you, I’d flown from Melbourne where, only four hours prior, I was wearing a puffer vest and long sleeves. Our luggage is picked up by porters and moved to the launch we’ll take to Daydream Island.

A quick switch to shorts and T-shirt and the heat no longer seems so, well, hot. Within 30 minutes we’re on our launch threading through the Whitsunday Islands well on our way to living the dream. For five nights, anyway.

We alight the launch and traipse off the pier onto the boardwalk and are greeted by a ukulele player and the smiling faces of the staff at Daydream Island Resort. A beautiful shell necklace ‘lei’ is placed over our heads, we are welcomed with a fruity mocktail and introduced to the facilities, told that the cockatoos will steal things from our rooms and led to the front desk to check in.

daydream island welcome 

With all formalities aside, we enter our ‘Garden View’ room, which is large, bright, airy and, most importantly, cool. So far, Daydream has typified the ideal tropical island experience.

Now in more resort-type attire, we do a quick walkabout of the island. Accommodation is situated at the north end of the island, while the south end houses entertainment, water sports, mini golf and the island staff. The pools are a feature of the island and we waste little time acquainting ourselves with them. 

daydream island pool cocktails selfie

Admittedly, prior to setting foot on the island, the quality of food was a concern for me. Those concerns were allayed after the first night. The island has many eating options. There are themed buffets at Waterfalls, fancier dining at Mermaids, a bakery and a cruisier pub-styled restaurant called Fish Bowl. You can even call and collect meals to eat in your room or al fresco. There are also quite a few bars, both in pool and out, that serve food during the day.

I am a beer-lover, so to say there was a decent beer list would be a stretch. In fact, it was average to say the least. But beer was also the least of my worries and most of the others were washed away once I set foot in the brilliant blue Whitsunday water.

We’re spending six days on the island and although there’s an array of activities available both on the island and off, I was pretty keen to get my feet up, sit beach or poolside with a good book and just enjoy the sun and sea breezes.

relaxing in the pools at daydream island

It’s the first week of November and, by all accounts, this is the best time of the year to visit. I must say, there is a lot of island to people ratio. Although it’s a tiny island, there’s plenty of space for us to spend quiet, intimate time together.

I will say, the breakfast buffet is amazing. We sit alongside the living reef, which, as it suggests, is a living reef packed with coral fish, rays and sharks. While we feed our faces, we watch children feeding bamboo sharks and barramundi. Each day I’ve eaten so much that I need to sit poolside for an hour afterwards just to digest. But, as it’s included in our accommodation costs, it’s a great way to save money on lunch!

selfie at whitehaven beach

Another highlight is the day-long snorkelling tour we take with the boys at Ocean Rafting. We’re sped out on a converted rescue craft to Whitehaven Beach, which really does live up to the hype. We hike up to Hill Inlet and get some sensational selfies overlooking one of the world’s most beautiful beaches. Then we head out to some spectacular fringe reefs, swimming and snorkelling amidst a rainbow of reefs and fish. It’s definitely worth the spend and, for the best reef experience, I can’t recommend these guys highly enough.

Over five fabulous nights we eat, drink, snorkel, sail, swim and generally frolic about. Time flies when you’re unwinding on a deckchair on Lover’s Cove looking at the sun with a margarita in one hand and Cormac McCarthy in the other.

And to think we have all this for under $2000 for the two of us. We have to pay for dinner and our own drinks, which, if you stock up at breakfast, really isn’t as expensive as you would think. And hey, it’s a tropical holiday just off the coast of Australia. The people are friendly, the staff are super and the facilities, which would have been top notch in the eighties, have been well-looked after and are still high quality to this day.

The snorkelling on the island is fantastic. Seriously. You walk into one foot of water and you’re swarmed by fish of all colours. Oh, and when they say the ‘stingers’ are out, don’t do what we did and swim about for four days without a stinger suit. Those things can kill you.

fish at lovers cove off daydream isalnd

If you want to visit Daydream Island, I recommend doing so in November (apart from the second week – unless you want to hang out with the schoolies crowd), or in March and April. The weather is perfect – not too hot or rainy – and the place isn’t packed, so you don’t have to smell the person sitting next to you at breakfast or dinner.

With regular special offers, such as stay 5 pay 4 deals and packages, such as the one we purchased, which included return flights from Melbourne, room upgrade, daily buffet breakfast and ferry transfers all for under $2000, Daydream Island is one of the more affordable Australian tropical island destinations and one you should consider if you’ve ever wanted to kick back, relax and enjoy Australia’s most famous reef island.

portrait with cockatoos

Have you stayed at Daydream Island? What did you think?



    To make a comment, please register or login
    14th Jan 2017
    Oh yeh like we all just have $2000 sitting in the bank. I'm a solo traveller so even if it were half this for me, (& it wont be!) -$1000 or $2000 can be hard to find for most people, esp when you have a motgage, etc. Sounds awesome tho, I'd be content to just stop at Hamilton island if I could afford it (save on transfers maybe?)
    Occasional Traveller
    14th Jan 2017
    Well Cheezil61 I'm curious as to what would your take be on an affordable tropical holiday? I think if you consider the airfare costs plus the accommodation that includes breakfast, it would be considered by many as being of reasonable value.
    14th Jan 2017
    I visited the island for a few hours (part of a day trip) - whilst the island looked ok at the time I thought it was dated. It was nice to read this review from someone who has actually stayed at the resort. Money wise, if the budget was tight I'd most probably grab a cheaper unit on the mainland close to the beach, where you could self cater.
    14th Jan 2017
    Hi OT: I'm working hard to pay off my mortgage (as my job is in jeopardy at moment) & I'm 55 so can't get my super or claim pension for many years yet so no spare money, living from pay to pay for the next 4 or 5 years minimum. Maybe things will be different then. Whilst it might be reasonable value, but who has $2000 or even $1000 in bank, not me unfortunately! I would do some research on putting together my own holiday anywhere before I were to take such a package holiday anyway to see if it really is the best value.
    Chris B T
    14th Jan 2017
    When we stayed in 2010 seemed tired than, needed a good polish so to speak.
    If ordering a hamper/pinic basket open it in front of staff to make sure you have everything.
    No good going off and finding no utensils, no wine, cork opener, no plastic plates, wrong package etc.
    This happen to us and others over the same 7 day holiday period.
    Buy a holiday package deal otherwise overrated at full price.
    14th Jan 2017
    I ran the boats for Daydream for a bit over a year, also for South Molle, Happy Bay on Long Island, & mainland based boats, all up for about 10 years.

    Daydream is a great island for singles or couples, Happy bay & Palm bay are better choices for families, with more family things to do at the resort. South Mole has a kids club, giving parents a bit of free time.

    Everyone should go to the Whitsundays at least once, as it is really a bit special. It is expensive, but everyone should do a reef trip to the outer reef. Until you do, you have no idea what the Great Barrier Reef is like. We took 500 to 1000 people a week in peak season out to the reef. I'm sure the cost was a bit of a struggle financially for some, particularly with a few kids, but I never heard anyone complain it had not been worth it on the way back.

    Staying on the mainland is not a bad idea CindyLou. The flavour of an island changes quite a bit depending on who is there each week. It can be strikingly different so what may be great for you this week may not suit you next week. The mainland is a bit like a quieter Surfers, with the coral added, but there should always be a night spot to suit you.

    Be a bit careful of off season visits. Cyclone season is maintenance season, so some attractions will be shut down.

    14th Jan 2017
    had a great time staying at the island, found the dining superb, the scenery is even better and for somebody to call it dated, I call it heaven on earth, some will never be satisfied unless they got their mobile phone in one hand so they can check their e-mails, etc and think $ 2000.00 is a king's randsom, yet will pay $1000 sts more to live as they live now, they may as well stay home, it will cost them the same but they can walk down the street having their phone glued to their ear and think of how important they look, as for being a solo traveller, welcome to the club, I agree with hasbeen, visit the whitsundays at least once, you be hooked because the beauty of the place
    15th Jan 2017
    I called daydream island dated as the amenities etc looked old and tired. That's ok as far as I'm concerned, as long as they are clean. However, if I'm going to stay on an island resort I most probably want a bit of glitz and glamour because it's not a cheap holiday when you factor in air fares, lunch, dinner and drinks, tours - all extras on top of accommodation.

    Whitsundays is lovely but so are lots of other places in this beautiful country - we are so lucky.