Looking for beautiful boutique resort nestled in The Whitsundays? Welcome to Palm Bay Resort in Long Island. After we recently found out about this hidden gem near Airlie Beach in Queensland, we knew it would be the place to celebrate our honeymoon and my 40th birthday.
In this guide, we’re going to share with you how we found out about this Whitsundays Island in the Great Barrier Reef, and we’ll explain absolutely everything you need to know about visiting Palm Bay Resort.
Table of Contents
How did we find out about it?
It was only a couple of months ago that we first heard about Palm Bay Resort and Long Island purely because we watched a new movie called Ticket To Paradise with Julia Roberts and George Clooney.
Although the movie is based in Bali, it was mostly shot in The Whitsundays, and mostly at Palm Bay Resort because of the similarities to Bali itself. Now, I haven’t been to Bali yet, but I’m guessing the huts and palm lined beachfront would probably make you feel like you could be in Bali or even Thailand for that matter.
After we watched the movie, it inspired us to write a guide about 15 Hollywood Movies Filmed In Queensland and it made us realise that we don’t need to spend our holiday time sat on a flight for hours to go overseas when paradise does exist right here in Australia.
So, when we decided to spontaneously get married within a month, we knew Palm Bay Resort would make a good holiday destination for our honeymoon, which also co-insided with my 40th birthday. Plus, we couldn’t believe how affordable this Whitsunday island is.
What makes it special?
If you’re wondering what makes this Whitsunday resort special, I have to say, Palm Bay Resort totally and utterly exceeded our expectations. We’ve visited a lot of Queensland islands and sometimes we’ve seen a few that could totally do with a makeover but, not this one. It’s well looked after, clean and full of beautiful plants and landscaping with a beautiful vibe that you won’t want to leave.
Just an FYI, but Palm Bay Resort is an adults only resort, and it’s affordable. Our beachfront room was just under $300 a night, and meals were around $30 and cocktails were $20. We’ll talk more below about our total costs for staying here. The guests range from couples in their 20s to 60s (mainly 30-40 year olds) and from what we experienced, everyone is super nice and friendly.
Spend the day having a couple of cocktails by the pool and chatting to the other guests, but also go for a hike, a yoga session, or check out the tennis court.
Or you might like to spend the day on a sea plane exploring the Whitsunday passage and other islands. Best of all, get a decent sleep as the bar closes by 9pm. It’s honestly bliss.
Unsure what on earth we are talking about here? Palm Bay Resort is located on Long Island which is only a 30 minute ferry ride from Shute Harbour which is in Conway National Park, just a 15 minute taxi ride from the town centre of Airlie Beach. It’s also not far from Hamilton Island and Day Dream Island as well.
Getting to the resort
We tried to work out the logistics for getting here as it was so hard to work out as we also wanted to do the Reef Sleep experience where you sleep in a swag tent on top of a pontoon in the Great Barrier Reef.
If you are interested in the Reef Sleep too, just letting you know that the problem with trying to make it work is that you’ll need to stay in Airlie Beach when you get back from the Reef Sleep because it doesn’t get back until 6pm, then catch the 8am ferry to Palm Bay Resort the next morning with Island Transfers whom we mention below. We decided just to stay put at the resort instead of doing the Reef Sleep which we’ll save for another time.
It’s going to cost you to get to Palm Bay Resort, and you have two options. We struggled to work out the logistics because at the time of writing, the phone service process wasn’t great. If you try calling the resort, it directs you to a call centre which will tell you that someone will call you back. The problem is, we didn’t get call backs and I think it’s because of the limited resources there but also because I heard they had started using a brand new system that they were all still learning.
But don’t let this put you off. When you get to the resort, you’ll soon see that all the staff are super friendly and that they are just very busy.
So, fear not, we worked out the logistics in the end and will share what you need to do.
Go via Shute Harbour (aka Airlie Beach)
Phil at Island Transfers is awesome and he helped me massively as I tried to work out whether to fly to Hamilton Island or to Proserpine which is the Whitsundays airport on the mainland. We flew to Proserpine in the end to save ourselves $500. Here’s why.
Shute Harbour to Palm Bay Resort Ferry Times: 10:30am or 4:30pm. You must arrive 30 minutes before departure and it takes 30 minutes to get to the island.
Palm Bay Resort to Shute Harbour Ferry Times: 8am or 11am
If your times don’t match up, you can book a private ferry which is $200 total for the boat. His last transfer boat ride is at 4:30pm so you won’t be able to go later.
If you’re flying into Proserpine, you can book a shuttle, but be prepared, ours took literally 2 hours of dropping people off on the 30 minute journey. The shuttle costs $50 for two people or you can catch a cab which is about $100 instead (there are loads of cabs at the airport). We ended up going to Airlie Beach for a quick drink at The Airlie Beach Hotel before getting a taxi to Shute Harbour which cost us $30 for a 15 minute journey. Just an FYI but there’s no Ubers in Airlie Beach and you’ll need to book a cab.
Go via Hamilton Island
We were originally going to fly to Hamilton Island and catch a boat from there so we could enjoy the island as we’ve not been before. But, the problem with going via Hamilton Island is that it costs $350 each way to Palm Bay Resort as you have to book a private transfer. We met a lovely couple who did this and they nearly bowled over when we told them their $700 transfer could have cost $220 instead if they had come from Airlie Beach.
What to bring
Wondering what to bring to Palm Bay Resort? We were super confused about the self-catering option because the resort USED to be self-catering and now it’s not. So, you don’t need to bring any food with you as there’s a restaurant on site with a bar, and there’s a shop too. The shop just has water, and a couple of snacks as well as a few toiletries. If you bring food with you, you won’t be able to cook it as there’s no self-catering cooking facilities here.
They ask you not to bring alcohol as it is a liscenced resort, so please abide by their rules.
After visiting, I would have personally brought over a box of water you can pick up in Woolies just because we prefer to drink spring water and they only sell small bottles at the shop.
Obviously bring sunscreen with you, and bring your own beach towel like we did. They do supply beach towels but they aren’t that big, but that’s just our preference.
I read that mobile phone reception is limited but truth is, I saw everyone using their phones, including me. We are with Telstra and had no problems at all.
Clothes wise, you’ll live in your swimmers most of the time. I was going to bring a pair of heels but you won’t need them. There’s not a strict dress code which is nice for anyone wanting to live in flat sandals. You might want to bring your gym gear to work out, and also some trainers for the longer walks on the island.
What’s the restaurant like?
The Palm Bay Resort restaurant lives up to its reviews which are genuinely good. Some other islands we’ve visited in Queensland have had very hit or miss dining options but Palm Bay Resort offers up a simply but good menu.
Breakfast options includes for example granola with yoghurt, avo on toast or the big breakfast which we leaned towards most days which is excellent. The big breakfast is the most expensive item on the breakfast menu at $25.
Lunch is a combination of sandwiches, burgers, toasties and more. I enjoyed the fish & chips and nachos while we were there.
And for dinner, you really can’t go wrong with the chicken parmi, a classic favourite paired with potato rosti which costs $30. I heard the steak is good and the pork was pretty good as well.
The resort has a fully licensed bar but also don’t forget to check out the awesome little sunset bar on the beach, complete with fairy lights and half price cocktails during sunset hour. It was our favourite part of the day!
I thought we could book a table at the other resort on the island
Because I was celebrating my birthday, I thought it might be fun to book a table at the other resort on the island for dinner one night. The other island is an adults only luxury beautiful boutique resort nestled on the other side of the island called Elysian Retreat.
This is much more expensive and an inclusive resort at around $3000 per night but it’s definitely renowned as a foodie experience, with a chef catering three course meals for each meal setting of the day, right down to your dietary requirements. Because of this, they don’t cater for walk ins. Also, I didn’t realise before we arrived onto the island but it’s pretty big. If they did even offer this option, we would have had to organise a boat transfer to get there.
What are the other guests like?
Wondering what the other guests are like? As it’s just 24 rooms here, you’ll get to know and see the same guests during your stay. As soon as we arrived, we were handed a cocktail and sat down underneath the covered seating area to watch the sunset. We instantly met another couple and actually hit it off with them and hung out for the majority of our stay, which was awesome.
The majority of people staying here are couples in their 30s-40s which was nice for us as we all ended up hanging out by the pool, drinking cocktails in the afternoon before casually going back to our rooms to get ready for dinner. We all loved it there and talked about how none of us wanted to leave. It’s not a party island in the slightest but more of a casual few quiet drinks with other guests while talking about travel and life together.
What’s the vibe like on Long Island?
One of the best things about travel is the anticipation before arriving to a destination. There’s a sense of hope that you’ve made the right decision and as soon as we were making our way to the resort just before sunset, we both looked at each other in awe when we saw the beachfront Palm Bay Resort in person.
It honestly feels like you’ve landed in paradise in this secluded private cove and certainly feels like you’ve hit the jackpot.
As soon as we were shown to the reception, we were both impressed with how well kept the resort really is. The landscaping is well maintained and the resort is located within beautiful lush gardens full of buddha statues.
We realised there and then that we had made the right decision to come to the Whitsundays Palm Bay Resort in Long Island.
A look at our room
We originally booked two nights here, thinking we would also do the Reef Sleep so when we made the rightful decision to stay another two nights at Palm Bay, we had to book a different room. Here are the two room types we booked in the end and what’s included in them.
We spent two nights in a Garden Room which cost us $650 for two nights. This room was quite big, and cool inside as we didn’t even need the air conditioning on during our stay. Expect a queen sized bedroom, fridge, kettle, two wine glasses, an iron and ironing board, towels and beach towels as well as a hammock and outdoor furniture. This room is slightly back from the beach so there’s no ocean frontage.
We then spent the other two nights in the beachfront villa room which was much smaller than the first room and cost us $580 for the two nights. We much preferred this room type with direct access to the beachfront and truly made us feel like we were travelling. We could go to sleep to the sound of the waves lapping against the shore and wake up in paradise with the incredible views in front of us.
We also loved the double hammock which was a great retreat after spending time at the outdoor pool. We put the air conditioning on in this room but I think the weather heated up on the day we put it on.
There’s also a spacious Balinese style two bedroom house, or even a house to fit six people for bigger groups.
Things to do on the island
Wondering if you’ll get bored sat on a sun lounger all day? We wondered that too. But we read a review from someone saying that they spent 10 days here and never got bored. We didn’t do nearly as much as we hoped during our stay so we do wish we booked for longer. Here’s the many Palm Bay Resort features to know about.
1. Book a romantic picnic or grazing platter
Steve booked us a grazing platter for my birthday lunch, so we picked up a bottle of champagne and our grazing platter and took it down to the beach to enjoy together. The grazing platter comes with a selection of cheeses, nuts, bread, meats and berries and is delicious. It was one of my favourite moments of my birthday.
2. Book a sunset dinner
In the evening, Steve booked a private sunset dinner for us at the brilliant sunset bar. It was beautifully laid out with a white linen table cloth and we enjoyed the after sunset glow lighting up the natural surroundings so beautifully all to ourselves. It costs around $160 to book this private dinner setting but is totally worth it and felt very special to us.
3. Check out the day spa
There’s a day spa at Palm Bay Resort so you can sit back and relax with a massage, facial or one of the many spa packages on offer.
4. Go for a game of tennis!
There’s a tennis court on the other side of the island which literally takes one minute to walk to from the beach side. We planned to play a game but we didn’t get around to it.
5. Check out the sunrise
Head over to the tennis court side to see the sunrise at the Whitsunday Palm Bay Resort. It’s beautiful and worth the morning wake up to sit on the swinging bench to appreciate every minute you’re there!
6. Morning yoga
The morning yoga class starts at 8:15am so you can enjoy a relaxing class before breakfast time. At the time of visiting, the yoga teacher actually taught at a gym I went to in Sunshine Coast and I can confirm she is excellent.
7. Work out in the gym
There’s a small gym oat the resort which was an unexpected find. You’ll find weights, a treadmill and a few other pieces of equipment to keep fit while you’re on holiday, just a stones throw from the swimming pool.
8. Spend the day by the swimming pool
If you’re visiting Palm Bay Resort between November – February, you might find the outdoor pool a bit more inviting than the ocean because of the stinger season. No problem though if you do want to swim in the ocean, simply grab a stinger suit from reception to swim safely.
9. Check out the Happy Bay walk and deserted resort
There are a couple of Long Island walks to check out during your stay! We asked all the staff which hikes are the best and they all recommended going to Happy Bay which is a 1.3km walk down to the long beach and deserted resort. It’s worth checking out as the walk is easy to follow, and takes about 25 minutes. We just wore out thongs and we were fine, although you don’t need to take the detours off the track as they aren’t that exciting.
If you’re lucky, you might meet the caretaker of the old resort here who lives in one of the rooms. There’s also a hammock and rope swing on the beach as well.
10. Kayak or SUP round the private beach area
You also get free access to the kayaks and SUPs at Palm Bay Resort which is a relaxing activity to while away the day along the crystal clear water.
11. Go snorkelling around the island
Bring your snorkel gear with you to snorkel around the island paradise but just be aware that if you’re visiting between November – February, you’ll need to wear a stinger suit.
12. End the day at the sunset bar
We just loved the sunset bar and enjoyed having a half price cocktail during the sunset hour. Make sure you stay about 30 minutes after the sunset to see the sky turn pink. It’s absolutely stunning as you look out to the iconic islands in the Great Barrier Reef.
13. Take a photo on the swings
Feel like you’re in paradise on the swings in the water and have a pinch me moment, because it really is just stunning here.
14. Go on one of the day trips
Fancy checking out more of The Whitsundays during your stay? There are only a couple of tours you again go on from here which include:
The award winning Ocean Rafting day tour to Whitehaven Beach (we wrote this review last time we visited)
A Scenic Flight over the Whitsunday Islands in the panorama seaplane tour
Salty Dog Sea Kayaking around The Whitsundays
SeaLink Whitehaven Beach day tour
Airlie Beach day trip
Daydream Island day trip
We actually did the super famous 1 hour Seaplane Tour over Whitehaven Beach and Heart Reef at the very end of our stay as they picked us up in Airlie Beach and took us to the airport for the seaplane ride. This meant we didn’t have to pay for a taxi or shuttle to fly out of Proserpine Airport on the way home. I can confirm the seaplane ride is 100% worth it!
How much our trip cost us
Wondering how much it’s all going to cost to visit this Whitsunday Island? We were pleasantly surprised when we got our bill at the end of our holiday as we were expecting it to be much more. The great thing about staying on an island is there’s no shops to go into and spend money, no extra food costs, and no extra transport costs too.
Here’s our breakdown:
$1370 on 2 return flights from Brisbane to Proserpine (you can get flights MUCH cheaper but currently market is crazy at the time of writing).
Accommodation, food & drinks: $2730
$580 – for two nights in the absolute beachfront room
$650 – for two nights in the garden villa room
$1500 – all drinks and food at Palm Bay Resort (we drank a lot of cocktails and champagne that we would never usually do, plus we had a private sunset dinner and grazing platter as well)
$220 – return ferry transfers from Shute Harbour to Palm Bay Resort
$50 – shuttle bus for 2 from Proserpine Airport to Airlie Beach (we could have gone to Shute Harbour instead)
$30 – taxi from Airlie Beach to Shute Harbour
Total $3030 for 5 days at Palm Bay Resort for two peopleexcluding flight costs!
Still wondering if Palm Bay Resort is worth visiting? It’s just beautiful and totally worth it!
We both said this is our new favourite place in Australia to go on holiday.
Hope you enjoy it as much as we did! Book your stay through booking.com just like we did.
Looking for more Queensland islands to visit?
If you’re looking for more Great Barrier Reef Islands to visit, we 100% recommend checking out the adult’s only island called Wilson Island in the Southern Great Barrier Reef. It is absolutely amazing and such a bucket list place to visit which you can get to from Gladstone.
Looking for more family friendly Great Barrier Reef resorts? Check out the incredible Lady Elliot Island which you can get to from Hervey Bay, Bundaberg and Gold Coast. It’s got the best snorkelling and diving in Australia by a mile!
We also love Great Keppel Island near Rockhampton for a cheap and cheerful day trip to some of the best beaches in Australia. And let’s not forget about the amazing Moreton Island, just a hop skip away from Brisbane. This island blew us away for the many awesome activities. Top tip – do not come to this island without doing the quad biking or snorkelling the Tangalooma Wrecks with Tangalooma Resort, both are amazing!