Long Island is one of 74 islands in the Whitsundays, and it’s home to one of the most affordable beachfront villa resorts on the tropical coastline. It’s only accessible by boat and comes with its own private cove where guests spend their days snorkelling or kayaking along the undisturbed coral. It’s an unusual find, and that’s because the owners of Palm Bay Resort have transformed the space after a devastating cyclone destroyed two five-star resorts that used to have exclusive access to the island. The shell of one former hotel is still visible on the island’s coastline, but on the site of the former Peppers resort is now a row of Balinese-style beach huts that hits the sweet spot between ‘budget’ and ‘boutique’. Palm Bay Resort operates like a hostel, with guests bringing their own food and cooking at the barbecues by the pool, but the beach-front villas offer the same seclusion and postcard-views as the five-star accommodation on the neighbouring islands. Self-catering on a private island does take some planning, though. Make sure you order a grocery drop off from Whitsunday Provisioning in advance. You’ll also need to arrange for a water taxi to get you there: Mars Charters charges $50 for the transfer from Hamilton Island. But once you’re there, the resort has kayaks and snorkels for hire, tennis courts and a spa, plus there’s a six-kilometre bush walk where you’ll encounter rock wallabies, goannas, Cunningham’s skinks and bush stone-curlews. In fact, many guests at Palm Bay Resort chose to never leave, instead becoming part of the volunteer staff; former travellers help out in exchange for accommodation on the island – they’re also the people who’ll wash your dishes after dinner (you’re on holiday, after all). Beachfront villas are $229 per night.
Did you know there are 1,000 weddings a year on Hamilton Island? It’s easy to see why: Instagram-worthy landmarks like Heart Reef and secluded, long white stretches are very romantic. But you don’t need to fork out for honeymoon-priced hotel rooms to enjoy a tropical weekend getaway to the world-famous islands of the Great Barrier Reef. The Whitsundays are a two-and-a-half-hour flight from Sydney, and with a little planning you can jet off for an adventure-filled weekend that’ll cost you less than a flight to Bali.