My original plan for this final trip during my two-month long service leave was for a few days in the Queensland sun before returning to my daily routine in the Gippsland winter. When booking, I told Lauren at the travel agency that I just wanted to sit and read in the warm air, and take a swim as the mood took me.
I could still have done that and ignored the carnival atmosphere of Race Week, or embrace this unexpected opportunity. Beyond the splendid sight of large flotillas of yachts passing my 12th floor apartment window to their racing course, there were nightly outdoor concerts and other special events.
Day and night the central village area was abuzz with busy shops and cafes, and the restaurants were fully booked for evening meals. Seafood, Italian, Mexican… it was all here.
The race competitors were working hard for a placing in short course, passage and multihull events, in what I learned was a prestigious international event. Meanwhile the rest of us took boat trips, went skin diving or bushwalking, or simply relaxed in the town or by a beach.
Seated at tables outside a cafe was an adorable family of two young dads and two children, a girl and a boy, perhaps aged around four. One dad brought food and drinks out for his family, and they appeared to be enjoying themselves. Everyone is welcome at HI.
The free shuttle bus from the resort strip stops in the village at an ice cream shop. Upon alighting the bus on my second day, I headed straight in there for an iced coffee. I quizzed the young lady who served me about how a busy tourist island like this is serviced.
HI’s main connection with the mainland is a barge that runs between there and Airlie Beach – about a one hour trip. Food and other deliveries are made that way. The barge and boats also bring some workers over, like Narelle who drove my shuttle bus into town.
Many others who work in the island’s hospitality industry though, actually live on the island – like the girl without a name tag who served me my iced coffee.
There is also an airport that delivers holiday-makers from places like Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Cairns on daily schedules.
I didn’t explore much of the village on day one. My trip there was more to help me get my bearings, and to get some supplies from the supermarket. So it was on day two that I really got to know the town and marine area, which had all the basics for the locals and visitors.
There was a pharmacy, estate agent, the popular Bob’s Bakery and Popeye’s Fish & Chips, from where I got a small chips for $7, pineapple fritter for $2 and a can of drink for $4. It was more expensive than back home, but probably typical of what you’d expect to pay on a stand-alone resort island.
What you don’t see on HI is cars or other mainland vehicles. Everyone, locals and visitors alike, gets around in four-seat electric buggies, in which the driver sits on the left side. I did a double take when a brief glimpse while crossing the road seemed to reveal a buggy being driven by a three year old girl, sitting in what for any normal Australian vehicle would be the driver’s seat. The only motor vehicles are shuttle buses and essential service vehicles like rubbish trucks.
HI is a tourist island and hospitality is obviously everything. Even a recycling truck driver who was returning to his vehicle gave me a cheery greeting as we walked past each other.
I still got to enjoy some relaxed reading in the lovely 24 degree air but there was also plenty to get me off my butt and enjoy. When I first arrived I wasn’t sure if Race Week would interfere with my quiet reading holiday. However by the second day, I was glad of it.