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Go Clubbing

by Sally Hammond

We arrive at Club Med Lindeman by ten-seater plane after a five-minute flight from Hamilton Island, off the Queensland coast. We could have come by boat ('half an hour and sometimes rough', we were told by some other guests later) but you get the feeling that the welcome would have been the same. Rapturous hellos, a swift transfer to the reception area via one of the island's many electric buses, a tropical welcome drink that looks like it should bear fruit of its own any moment, and a bunch of keys and cards and an info pack to help us settle in asap.

There are seventy steps to the dining area – and we breathe a sigh of relief that our accommodation is down here, at water level too. No strenuous post-dinner clamberings to our rooms, it seems, which suits me just fine as my agenda for the next few days includes little more than eating and sleeping.

Our view is of water and islands and yachts and wind surfers, so we do what is expected, and dig out the digital and snap a few pics. This seems to have been the response too of one of the first white people known to sight this jumbled group of wooded islands in 1770. There were no digital cameras in those days, so Sydney Parkinson, an artist on HMS Endeavour, sketched it as part of his official record of the voyage.

But it was a sub-lieutenant on board a much later voyage in 1868 - George Sidney Lindeman - who lent his name to the 600-plus hectare island. He was a nephew of Dr Henry John Lindeman, who founded the Lindeman Wine Company by establishing a vineyard in the Hunter Valley in the mid-1800s close to where Gresford now stands.

In 1990 the Paris-based Club Mediterranee purchased an existing resort on Lindeman Island. Eighty-five million dollars later, in late-1992, it re-opened as the first Australian Club Med.

As I look around at my fellow guests, I can see plenty who are ready for action. There are the Club Med's staff, to begin with - lithe, fit twenty-somethings who organise the races in the pool, the archery, the tennis and help mind the masses of ankle-biters for whom this holiday resort is made to order.

There is a circus school too. We share breakfast with a shy but pretty thirty-year-old from Auckland, travelling alone ("I chose Club Med because it would force me to mix," she confided) and terrified of heights. So she tried the trapeze at the school, and got as far as using the swing. "Did you jump?" we asked. No. But she had faced her fears and felt good about that.

On our flight to the island we'd shared the plane with an elderly woman who told us she had just been to Lindeman, two months earlier. "I came with my daughter and her daughter," she told us. "This time it's for me."

The staff seem to come from everywhere as well. Club Med has policies in place to allow movement between properties. A Mauritian GO (that's Club Med-ese for one of the staff - the guests are GMs) points me to the best, and highest, view on the island, a 360degree view of most of the 700 hectares of national park and six secluded bays and beaches from the 8th tee on the golf course. A GO from Lyons, France, shows me to a table in the dining room, and another from Melbourne takes my drink order in the bar.

The mix of guests here is broad. One day we share lunch at one of the large tables with a couple of Gold Coast professional people and their two preschoolers. They had carefully researched the options, looking for something for both themselves and their children, and felt they'd found the perfect combination.

Beside the pool, a rowdy group of senior execs from a major car brand, dressed in equally loud crimson T-shirts, seemed just as happy with the place.

As I go back for another plate of sushi and salad and spaghetti, I figured that maybe this is what gets people in. In ways it's one-size-fits-all, and it has its detractors for that.  But for others, there is – just like the endless buffet options – enough to keep almost anyone happy for the duration of their stay.


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