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| BNE March/April 2017

ESCAPE

C

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 website

HelpX.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.

Shelley

Thomas

discovers her

fantasy island

fantasy island

FOUND