Hop between islands to see best of beautiful Whitsundays
WINE in one hand, novel in the other and incredible silicon sand beaches ahead.
I think I could get used to this.
The thought repeats when the skipper emerges from the cabin of our yacht with arms full of fresh seafood, salads and cheese among other delicious snacks.
I quickly remind myself, this slice of opulence has come at the expense of a luxurious night sleep - but it's a sacrifice I am more than willing to make.
I am on a challenge - a five-day island hopping tour of the Whitsundays with an agenda to save and splurge.
It is a quandary I face each holiday.
To splurge on an extremely comfortable room and settle for free or lower-priced activities or opt for memorable experiences over somewhere pretty to lay my head at night?
The challenge to end these future internal debates starts with the launch pad for Queensland's island playground - Airlie Beach.
I spend the morning wandering around the quaint beachfront markets, where, once I find my way past some of the imported and overpriced goods, I find myself a fittingly tropical jar of coconut oil and some fresh pineapple to munch on.
The cheap thrills continue after I arrive at the family favourite Long Island Resort for an experience less likely to hurt the hip pocket but equally ensured to satisfy.
While most opt for kayaking, I stray from the conventional and take to stand up paddle boarding - $10 to hire but other activities are included in the accommodation cost.
Gliding across the still turquoise bay, I follow the rocky outcrops, floating over a ship wreck and playful fish along the way.
I have worked up a stomach rumble and my mouth is watering at the mere thought of what culinary delight lies ahead.
Although a line needs to be drawn somewhere within the splurge budget - and it's safe upward of $1000 a night is just that - I do splurge on a taste of Hamilton Island's crème de la crème - Qualia.
The exclusive resort at the island's northern tip is an opulent refuge for Miranda Kerr, Naomi Watts and the like and the restaurant is - unfortunately for everyone else - reserved for guests and invitees only.
I lunch on snapper and chorizo croquettes for an above average-sized entrée and a beetroot, pumpkin and blueberry salad, coupled with sauvignon blanc from a winery owned by the clan behind Hamilton Island - the Oatley Family.
The next sunrise - I balance out my dining splurge with a free and gratifying trek across the hillside, through untouched national park and finally up to Passage Peak, where I get a panoramic view to neighbouring islands.
Perfect weather has paved the way for unobstructed, clear views during my seaplane flight to the waters off the blissfully untouched Whitehaven Beach.
A four-bedroom Sun Sail yacht, with its own skipper for someone like me or sans skipper for the seasoned seaman, collects me from the beach and we embark on a half-day sail.
Away from my usual inner-city sounds, the silence is consuming and I find it paining to take my eyes off the flawless, island dotted surroundings.
I doze in the sea breeze with my book on my chest before we pull into the Hamilton Island Marina where I reluctantly disembark.
I offset my next night's splurge accommodation in a lavish lagoon-side suite - complete with chic timber interiors, a red-wine aided bath and any breakfast option one can dream of - at Hayman Island with a cheap bout of snorkeling.
Forty-dollars later we are dropped off at Blue Pearl Bay, where we snorkel above the vibrant clouds of coral, following rainbow fish and the resident dusty blue groper before resting on the dry coral shores.
I have spent five days experiencing the best the Whitsundays has to offer but gained the most from splurging on natural and culinary wonders.
* Reporter Ava Benny-Morrison was a guest of Tourism QueenslandSleep
- Reef View Hotel Hamilton Island - from $360 per night
- Hayman Island Resort - from $590 per night
- Long Island Resort - from $99 per person per night
- Whitsunday Provisioning - Catering for sailing trips - www.whitprov.com.au
- De Ja Vu Water's Edge Resort - www.dejavurestaurant.com.au
- Air Whitsundays - Whitehaven Beach trips - from $240 per adult
- Sun Sail - sailing boat adventures
- Island Escapades - Hayman Island - $45 pp