| BNE March/April 2017
aroline Murray is accustomed to dealing with upset
guests – teary-eyed travellers, far from home, on Long
Island. Not Long Island, New York, amid opulent
mansions, vineyards and a population of close to eight million but Long
Island in Queensland’s Whitsundays, where the population never tips
60 and Balinese-style bures line a pristine, palm-fringed cove. Here,
rush-hour means more than one kayak on the beach.
“We often have guests crying when they leave because they just don’t
want to go!” says Caroline with a smile, her Scottish wit as sharp as the
full range of Pantone blues reflected in the surrounding Coral Sea.
Palm Bay Resort – once an exclusive all-service retreat in the heart of
the Great Barrier Reef – has become something of a welcome paradox,
offering five-star facilities without the premium price.
Sure, there are drool-worthy villas and bures (all with sweeping ocean
views, verandas and hammocks to collapse in), a day spa, tennis court,
pool and media room. However, in place of a restaurant or room service,
self-catering is the order of the day. Food is pre-ordered on the mainland
before departure or some provisions are available on the island. It’s
a concept embraced by guests who have free rein to access the well-
equipped kitchen day and night.
“Guests love it because it’s more sociable,” says Caroline. “People talk
to each other in the kitchen and they watch what others are cooking,
share ideas and favourite recipes … and many become life-long friends.”
That’s not all that’s different on this island. Palm Bay Resort’s seven
staff are helped by a vibrant and diverse group of volunteers – primarily
international travellers – sourced via websiteHelpX.net
, an online listing
of hotels, farm stays, ranches, B&Bs and even sailing boats that welcome
volunteer helpers to stay in exchange for food and accommodation. All
but two of Caroline’s permanent staff started as volunteers and loved the
experience so much they begged to stay and now work full-time.
“These travellers can be backpackers or those taking a year out at
any stage in their lives,” says Caroline, herself originally a traveller from
Glasgow, who fell in love with the Whitsundays and stayed. They work
for about four hours a day and we provide free accommodation and use
of the resort facilities the same as the guests.
“We have a minimum two weeks’ stay for a maximum group of eight
Long Island is a hidden
gem in the heart of the
Whitsundays, one of only
three inhabited islands
open to guests.