A Pirongia couple caught in Cyclone Debbie describe their holiday on Hamilton Island as "catastrophic".

Talia and Craig Wilson arrived for a relaxing getaway on the Whitsunday Island in Queensland on Saturday, March 25.

They stayed at a Bella Vista West apartment with Mrs Wilson's two cousins, Kaye Ormsby and Simone Wood, and their husbands.

Holiday-makers Kaye Ormsby (left) and Simone Wood.
Holiday-makers Kaye Ormsby (left) and Simone Wood.

The group had plans to swim, snorkel, dine at top restaurants and enjoy a rare holiday without children.

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But Hamilton Island soon turned into a "war zone" when the category four cyclone hit on Monday, March 27, Mrs Wilson says.

The holiday-makers were confined to their apartment for three days and lived off food and water gathered before the cyclone hit.

"The hours seemed to crawl by," Mrs Wilson says.

"We watched debris, roof tiles and branches fly through the street."

"The palm trees were side on."

The apartment's ceiling caved in and water flowed in through the light fittings, she says.
Despite the weather, the group made the most of each other's company.

They played cards, drank beer, shared supplies with other holiday-makers and helped with the island clean up.

"If you can and you're able, why not help out?"

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On Thursday they drove golf buggies to the airport to try their luck catching a flight home.

But after waiting 13 hours they were unsuccessful and were put up in a hotel for the night.

On Friday the group managed to catch the second flight off the island to Brisbane.

"We just feel so lucky to be able to leave the damage behind, unlike the poor residents of hard-hit areas.

"We really feel for them."

Air New Zealand put them up in an Air New Zealand Lounge where they enjoyed hot showers and free meals before flying back to Auckland.

"It was a bittersweet return," she says.

"We are just so pleased to be home safe and sound.

"The experience was one that we'll never forget."