Mum's the word on Hamilton Island
"The weather's awful," the captain says at the end of our two-hour flight to Hamilton Island.
"There is fog and rain and the temperature is 19 degrees."
"Who gives a hoot?" I think to myself.
Not even snow and blizzards could dampen my excitement about this holiday.
It's my mum's surprise 70th birthday getaway and my sister and I have rented a luxury home for four nights on Hamilton - one of the 74 Whitsunday Islands that sits at the southern limit of the Great Barrier Reef.
Never having thrown mum a birthday break, my excitement is bubbling over like an opened shook-up bottle of champagne.
I arrive several hours before the rest of the family - having taken a direct morning flight from Sydney - while my parents, sister and husband and their two children are catching an afternoon flight from Brisbane.
Wet and windswept after my tarmac walk, I'm greeted inside the terminal by Nathan and Sarah from Whitsunday Holidays - a company that rents privately owned, self-contained apartments and houses that range in price from $270 to $1400 per night.
I know I'm in for a relaxing holiday when Nathan whisks my suitcase out of my hand and Sarah escorts me to the six-seater golf buggy that comes with the house.
Soon we're putt-putting away from the airport, up over the hill and towards the northern point of the island where our house, Clearwater, sits in sublime isolation.
First impressions are excellent - a remote control gate opens to reveal an impressively large stone and wooden house that rests amid a tropical garden.
Sarah puts the key in the front door and it swings ajar to reveal a giant lounge room with bi-fold doors that open onto a sprawling sun deck.
On the deck there is a private infinity-edge plunge pool with jaw-dropping views of the Whitsunday Passage.
I breathe a sigh of relief - the place is perfect, we haven't done our dough and we would be hard pressed to find a more idyllic holiday location that is so close to both Brisbane and Sydney.
Upon further investigation I find four bright bedrooms - the master has an impressive ensuite bathroom with an egg-shaped spa, double shower and plenty of fluffy towels.
The kitchen is ultra modern, with a fancy stainless steel fridge that dispenses chilled water and ice.
Fruit is overflowing in the bowls on the kitchen bench and our other groceries have been put in the fridge.
We have pre-ordered our food over the internet from Coles at Airlie Beach on the mainland and to my surprise Nathan has picked them up from the delivery barge and Sarah has put them in the fridge.
Having food on hand will save us a small fortune.
The island, owned by a wealthy Australian family, the Oatleys, boasts a general grocery store, bakery, several cafes and plenty of good restaurants, but eating out here can be expensive.
While I try out the plunge pool, Sarah takes the buggy to the airport to pick up the family.
Ten minutes later they arrive back at the house.
Mum, who had no idea where she was going for her birthday until she stepped on the plane and the Virgin Blue staff gave her a bottle of champagne, walks inside the door, down the grand staircase and then sees the view.
"Oh my hat," she exclaims.
"You girls have done it this time."
She oscillates between verbal flurries of excitement and absolute speechlessness.
Suddenly, the children are inside the house, bedrooms are claimed, clothes are flung about the place and the plunge pool becomes standing room only.
The rest of the day is gobbled up in a frenzy of house-bound activity.
After a deep sleep on the first night, I wake to find the islands, that were floating in the Whitsunday Passage the day before, have disappeared.
"Have the islands sunk?" one of the children ask.
"No - they're just hidden by fog and rain," I explain.
Luckily, our snorkel cruise has not been cancelled.
We zoom off to the harbour to find our boat and soon we are chugging out past rows of super yachts and catamarans and into the open choppy water.
As we round the northern tip of the island, I get a glimpse of the recently built luxury resort, qualia, which consists of 60 private pavilions nestled within several acres of exotic vegetation.
Our luxury house is a similar design to qualia, but of course does not come with oodles of pools, chefs and massage therapists.
We soon arrive at a protected bay and don our "stinger" suits (jellyfish season runs from November to May).
I dive in and below the surface I'm dazzled by a huge spectrum of tropical fish, sea urchins, bright starfish and bizarre coral formations.
Back on the boat I'm pleased to find the staff have put out some platters - one fruit and the other cakes.
They also have ginger on hand for the sea sick, but it doesn't seem to help the poor Dutch girl who vomits the entire way back to Hamilton harbour.
That night we celebrate Mum's birthday by dining at Romano's - an Italian restaurant with stunning views of the harbour.
The food is of a high standard (the pear and pumpkin ravioli is divine), but portions are small and expensive.
Over the remaining two days we continue our program of absolute indulgence - long breakfasts, sunset boat cruises, cocktail guzzling and sleep-ins.
On the last day we wake to more fog and rain - an apt physical manifestation of the state of my mind, heavy with the thought of having to head home.
We pile into the buggy for our last whirl around the island and before I know it I'm at the airport boarding my plane for Sydney.
Back in the big smoke I find some sand in my suitcase - a sprinkling of magic dust that reminds me of birthday cakes, the giggles of children, colourful fish and paradise.
IF YOU GO
Whitsunday Holidays rents privately owned, self-contained apartments and houses that range in price from $270 to $1400 per night.
Clearwater, a luxury four bedroom home that sleeps eight, is $950 per night off peak for four nights. It comes with a private plunge pool and six seater buggy. There is also a separate Granny Flat that sleeps two available for an extra $250 per night.
Virgin Blue has direct, daily flights from Sydney to Hamilton Island starting from $169 per person one way.
Virgin Blue fares from Brisbane to Hamilton Island start from $88 per person one way.