Croc & Roll
It’s almost two years since the tropical paradise of the Whitsundays was devastated by Cyclone Debbie. The once lush and luxurious playground was decimated by a category IV cyclone as the eye of the storm passed directly over Airlie Beach leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. Unless you have lived through it, it would be hard to fathom the intensity of wind gusts in excess 260kph bellowing at the door.
In the spring of 2018, I made my maiden voyage to the Whitsundays, a group of 74 islands on the Great Barrier Reef off the northeast coast of Queensland, Australia. During my visit locals recounted stories of fear, survival, strength and determination. Families took shelter huddling in wardrobes, bedrooms and basements fearing their homes – and lives – would be torn apart.
When a fresh towel becomes your most coveted item, clean laundry becomes the catalyst for conversation and mental health first aid the local laundrieswere on hand to cleanse the storm and provide a token of comfort to the windswept. It takes courage and a community to restore and rebuild a village – and time and trust.
In the aftermath of nature’s furious freight train the tropical town of Airlie and regional surrounds are being transformed. From terror to triumph, tourism is on the rise, hotels and resorts have reopened and the hospitality is better than ever.
I had the pleasure of staying at Mantra Club Croc, the freshly renovated hotel on Shute Harbour Road, Canonvale. It was my first sojourn to this part of the world and happily it won’t be my last. Shute Harbour, Airlie Beach, Hamilton Island and the Whitsundays have been on my bucket list for decades but a visit has always eluded me. So when I was invited to present an informal, motivational talk on workplace wellness I could not get away fast enough.
At Mantra Club Croc a transformation has unfolded. The resort is ensconced in a traditional Queensland style building located on Shute Harbour Road. A short stroll to the ocean and a stunning coastal walk into nearby Airlie and the marina where you can stop for coffee, wine or Wi-Fi at one of the numerous cafes and restaurants along the way.
At the time of my visit the resort was a dilation of pupils as Schoolies hit town. While you might be cringing right now on my behalf, fear not! These were the most well-behaved kids on the block – a far cry from the wild ways of some Schoolies in my home town of Byron Bay. A bustling resort can often lead to slow service but on the contrary, service in all departments was excellent and delivered by fun staff eager to have a laugh or share a travel tip.
Poolside dining offers an easy-going breakfast buffet, the perfect pit stop or grab n go for a day out on the reef. At night it’s pizzas and cocktails a-plenty or you can choose from an extensive à la carte menu. Lots of treats for the kids too. With its recent renovation you’ll find yourself cozying up in comfortable rooms with a modern, natural style.
All amenities are available and conveniently you can take your coffee or perhaps a great pizza upstairs to enjoy at your leisure – ideal for the solo traveller or business trip. In the typically steamy climate you’ll find the aircon is mighty and a sound night’s sleep is assured. Dress light for sultry days and humid nights outdoors and don’t forget your light raincoat.
Conferencing & Events
At the invitation of Mantra Club Croc, I spoke to the staff about Wellness being an active process of becoming aware of and making choices towards a healthy and fulfilling life. The conferencing and banqueting departments of the hotel are complete with an array of opportunities from executive events to engagements and of course weddings. Ultimately, it’s a great place for a presentation or a party with all the Whitsundays have to offer at your doorstep.
Other places to visit
Surrounding destinations include dining at Northerlies Beach Bar and Grill – a vast and visually stunning restaurant situated within the Freedom Shores Resort on the shores of a bay in Woodwark. Here the focus is farm to the table showcasing an exceptional range of fine beef. From rump to rib eye there’s something for even the heartiest carnivore. The ubiquitous seafood menu naturally is also a highlight.
View from the restaurant below. Follow @northerliesbeachbarandgrill
We had a terrific shared platter style lunch on the beach at Cape Gloucester Resort an isolated piece of paradise that you might like to arrive at by yacht, seaplane or helicopter.
No trip to the area would be complete without a visit to Hamilton Island. My dear friend Lynnie and I had an absolute blast on our day trip and as I always say, ‘old mates are the best mates’. They’re the friends that you can simply pick up the chat from where you left off, no matter how broad the chasm of time. We set sail from the Port of Airlie and disembarked directly onto Hammo. Cocktails by the pool, a laid-back lunch by the beach below followed by a long swim out with the low tide. Heaven.
Airlie Beach, Whitsundays
240 Shute Harbour Road, Cannonvale, Airlie Beach QLD
Reservations 1300 987 604
The Virgin Australia flight departs from Brisbane into Proserpine. There were more flights and were slightly cheaper than flying into Hamilton Island, however I will fly into Hammo and stay a night or two next time. People rave about Hammo and now I know why.
I was a paid guest speaker at Mantra Club Croc and offered to write this blog review with gratitude for a great trip and more importantly, to help raise awareness that business is back and booming in the region.
The old man and the sea. Cape Gloucester Resort