, Paradise Bay
This lodge was designed to show off the Whitsundays' natural beauty. Tucked in a cove under towering hoop pines and palms, it is an environmentally sensitive establishment on a national park island. It appeals to people who want to explore the wilderness in comfort, without the crowds, noisy watersports, or artificial atmosphere of a resort. It's also a great place to meet other travelers. A maximum of 16 guests stay in simple but smart cabins facing the sea, each with a double bed, modern bathroom, and private deck facing the sea. Solar power rules, so there is no air-conditioning or TVs, hair dryers, irons, or other appliances. There is one public phone. Social life centers on an open-sided gazebo by the beach, equipped with a natural-history library and CDs, where everyone dines together at slab tables under the Milky Way on fabulous buffet-style campfire meals. Access is only by a short but stunning helicopter flight from Hamilton Island.
Daily excursions include sailing away on the lodge's gleaming 10m (33-ft.) catamaran, a helicopter flight to the Outer Reef and Whitehaven Beach, sea kayaking the mangroves to spot giant green sea turtles (which are common around the lodge), snorkeling the fringing reef on uninhabited islands, or bushwalking to a magical milkwood grove no one else knows about. Or you may prefer to just laze in a hammock or head off with a free sea kayak and snorkel gear. The beach is more tidal flat than sand, but clean and firm enough to sunbathe on. Wildlife abounds, including Myrtle, the lodge's pet kangaroo. Those who stay on this 1,215-hectare (3,001-acre) island consider it a plus that no ferries or cruise boats stop here and that the lodge is inaccessible to day-trippers.