Arriving at Daydream Island Resort feels a bit surreal. I was last here over two years ago in March 2017, just two weeks before Cyclone Debbie arrived to ‘remodel’ the island. To say a lot has changed would be a significant understatement. The modern beach house chic makeover in the lobby is a far cry from the retina burning “oh so bright please give me my sunglasses” 90s color scheme of the old resort. With the rebuilding of Daydream taking more than 12 months and multiple millions of dollars, the new Daydream Island Resort is looking fantastic. Definitely a case of good things come to those who wait.
The stylish refresh has taken in the entire resort which means you only need your sunglasses while taking in the breathtaking view of the Whitsundays from the restaurants or your room. The original lurid tropical colour scheme of the old resort is all gone, removing the need to protect your eyes. There is a new Living Reef aquarium and the pool area, with its much-loved swim-up bar, has been given a facelift. The brightly painted fish in the old pool have made way for new tiles and clean lines, giving the original pool area a new lease of life. The stylish pool new furniture looks great too.
I dip my toe in the water, but as it’s mid-June not even this lovely pool is enough to tempt me to dive in. I might need a wetsuit to enjoy the pool but this doesn’t stop a couple of European guests from getting in (there is some squealing but nothing is going to keep them from that swim up bar). All of the 277 rooms have gone from daggy to designer with sleek Scandinavian-style decor featuring modern wooden floors, stylish furnishings, and a light blue and sand color palette. Stepping into my room, I can’t help but marvel at the transformation from daggy to chic.
I have a Deluxe Room with an ocean view on the ground level. It is bright, fresh, and spotlessly clean. It’s also got plenty of room for the rollaway for our teenage son. Sharing with a child is easy here. The room has a king bed, couch, work desk, small coffee table and two very comfy chairs. There is also a stocked mini bar, all-important coffee machine, and kettle plus some lovely bone china cups. A new walk-in rain shower area and separate bathtub completes the new look.
I am immediately drawn to my balcony area, as the water views have me captivated, but I am not expecting the welcoming committee that greets me as soon as I have stepped outside. On the grass in front of me is a mob of wallabies. A flock of cockatoos arrive a few seconds later. I would like to think the resort is trying to impress me with these highly entertaining wildlife ‘guest relations officers’ but, of course, they’re only here for the snacks. Which, of course, they’re not going to get. Don’t be tempted to feed these guys, it’s really not good for them.
With food on my mind (just like the native wildlife), I head to Inkstone Kitchen & Bar which is located on the island’s foreshore, giving diners a fantastic view of the Whitsunday Islands. There are plenty of great Whitsunday Island activities if you want to explore further afield. The menu here is modern Australian and features everything from burgers and steaks, to pizzas and locally sourced seafood. Inkstone is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. If you stay in a Deluxe Room or a Suite, breakfast at Inkstone is included in your stay.
Guests staying in the regular rooms can upgrade to breakfast here for an extra $15. Breakfast at Inkstone offers a (very) small continental buffet and delicious a la carte café-style menu. We enjoyed our breakfast at Inkstone and loved the view and the included specialty coffees. The more extensive selection of fruit, bircher muesli, yoghurt, pastry, and cereal selections and made to order eggs and pancakes at Graze is equally appealing. We felt this restaurant perhaps had the edge over Inkstone for breakfast due to the larger selection of continental and other items.
Graze is the regular breakfast restaurant and has an impressively large buffet. No Whitsunday Island views here but you do get to watch stingrays and sharks swimming past as the restaurant is located alongside the new Living Reef aquarium. Very cool (and a great way to keep the kids entertained). When it comes to lunch and dinner, Inkstone hits it out of the park. The huge Inkstone chicken burger, which came with loads of steak fries, cost $22 and was almost large enough to share. Morton Bay bug linguini was a modest $27 and so good we ordered this twice.
Overall the dining at Daydream was well-priced for a resort. As I was visiting in June, the occupancy was around 30% and not all of the restaurants were open each day. This saw us dining at Infinity, the more high-end dining option located above Inkstone Kitchen, on our second night. Infinity is an Asian fusion restaurant with a private teppanyaki area which diners can prebook for small groups. The menu has a focus on seafood and produce from the surrounding area. Our salmon, quail and lamb mains were all excellent, as were the dumplings we shared for entree.
Infinity is more expensive than Inkstone and good for a treat or a special night out. Meals take longer to arrive here than they do at Inkstone, making it a good choice for couples and those travelling with older children. Graze also opens for dinner and features a buffet with live cooking stations and loads of food variety. With all the sea creatures swimming past your table, you should probably hide your meal from them if you order fish.
During the day the Barefoot Bar located adjacent the swim up bar dishes up burgers, snacks, shakes, and cocktails with a view. If you’re after an evening drink, Tonic Bar is located off the main lobby. This bar specialises in gin and is worthy of a pre-dinner drink or late night cocktail. Perhaps the most significant change to Daydream Island Resort is the Living Reef aquarium, the brainchild of resident marine biologist Johnny Gaskell. This open-air aquarium is home to 100 species of marine life and holds 1.5 million litres of filtered seawater.
It’s a huge step up from the original Daydream living reef which consisted of shallow pools surrounding the main building. These pools are still there and currently housing fish and rays which don’t play nicely with others in the new aquarium. The new Living Reef is more like a swimming pool with a fantastic viewing area and underground lounge that is perfect for fish and ray watching. This is free to enter and enjoy and also used for FREE guest activities such as yoga and meditation run by a qualified instructor. Yep, that’s right, free.
You get to stretch and find your zen with your new fishy friends on some very comfy yoga mats and cushions with or without attempting an uncomfortable (oops, did I say uncomfortable? I meant relaxing) yoga pose. We skipped yoga in favour of a guided meditatation session which we did as a family. This was so good we ended up doing it every day of our short stay and would have attended again if we had time. We were told there are plans to also use this unique area as a “pop up suite” for guests seeking an exceptional view and unique accommodation experience for the night. If this ends up being added, don’t miss it!
After a great night of dining and a very relaxing sleep, followed by breakfast with a fishy view at Graze, we were off to explore the Living Reef with one of Daydream’s resident marine biologists. As we are visiting in June and I’m from Queensland, I need two wetsuits for this snorkel and a hoody as I have no hair. Yes, I was a bit cold but it was worth it.
We start the snorkel of the Living Reef with a briefing about do’s and don’ts. Primarily, these are don’t touch the coral, it’s highly fragile, and do touch the ray named Louanne during the feeding session as she is highly lovable. Louanne is really friendly and behaves a bit like a puppy. We spent an hour swimming with the fish, including a private feeding session with Louanne. If you sign up for the $100 Living Reef experience, you’ll be doing it with no more than six people. This is one of Daydream’s more expensive experiences but we felt it offered excellent value.
If you are travelling with kids under 10, you can do the cheaper Stingray Splash or another marine based activity, as little ones aren’t allowed in the tank to snorkel. We weren’t sure what to expect with the Living Reef as at first glance it seemed as if it would be like ‘snorkelling in an aquarium’ and maybe not that exciting. However, the overall experience was terrific, not least because you get to see all the cool stuff: stingrays, corals, clown fish, starfish, huge parrot fish and many more amazing marine creatrues.
There was no disappointment like we’ve had on previous snorkels where the fish were playing hard to get and we didn’t see much (or everyone else saw rays and large fish, and we saw nothing). It’s also educational with a ‘touch & talk’ session in the middle of the one hour snorkel. After plenty of time to swim with the fish and the touch & talk session with a sea cucumber and starfish, we sat down in a shallow section of the tank ready to meet Louanne who swims up to the group to be fed. As we fed her fish and stroked her, and she gave our knees a soft stingray massage with her body, we got to learn all about stingrays and spend time getting to know one of Daydream’s most photographed residents.
The spa area at Daydream was still under construction so I didn’t get to try this relaxing option or see the new pool which is being built in the same area. I expect it will be opening soon. Daydream Island Resort has always been a big hit with families and there were lots of happy kids at the resort (and happy parents as Daydream has a kids under 12 stay and eat free deal). This is a terrific drawcard for young families but perhaps a brickbat for couples seeking a romantic getaway. Overall, Daydream is a fantastic island resort with plenty of unique features and great food. With a good choice of rooms, dining and activities, it’s well worth a stay here, especially in the warmer summer months when you don’t need two wetsuits to swim (or perhaps that’s just me!).
Disclosure: The writers stayed as guests of Daydream Island Resort and miss their favourite stingray Louanne.