Hanging up the backpack has converted Stuart Condie to the feared 'package' holiday and he couldn't be happier.

A sea as calm as an infinity pool and a beach to myself. No sound other than the gentlest lapping of waves and a cooling breeze brushing the palms. Distant breakers over a reef on the horizon and only the trees, a hammock and white sand behind me.

Fiji's Castaway Island should have been my idea of hell.

Travel used to be when I did things: exploring cities, backpacking across continents, criss-crossing Europe to watch soccer or trekking to whatever's-just-over-there. My wife was the same.

But then came parenthood, and suddenly we were already doing something every single exhilarating, grinding, glorious, exhausting minute. The idea of doing not very much on holiday started to become strangely alluring.

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So, after three years, we found ourselves contemplating the dreaded P-word.

You know the one. Package.

The word was enough to induce a shiver, conjuring visions of entrapment in an overcrowded resort, elbowing through slow-moving clusters of near-naked package veterans for even a glimpse of the congealing breakfast buffet, awkwardly avoiding the forced fun of organised activities.

If we were going to lose our P-plates, so to speak, we wanted to do it properly.

Always adventurous, we suddenly became enormously conservative. Rather than maintaining our do-it-yourself ethic, we paid as much as we could afford in the hope of a smooth ride.

We chose wisely.

A 70ha forested speck in the Mamanuca archipelago, Qalito Island is a little more than an hour by boat from Nadi and home to the four-star Castaway Island resort.

Getting there took close to a full day, but the journey was pretty much seamless, and stepping off the boat to be greeted with a cocktail and a group singalong was refreshing.

Even better was the news that, in the lull between school holidays and Chinese New Year, my wife, my 3-year-old daughter and I were among just 12 guests at the 200-capacity resort.

Okay, we got lucky with the low occupancy, but the resort is such that you're unlikely to feel crowded even at the busiest of times. On the west of the island, Castaway boasts four restaurants, two pools and an unbroken stretch of beach curved lovingly around it on two sides.

Our beachfront bure was seconds from the water and just far enough from its neighbours to ensure minimal noise. The hammock slung between two trees out front was a hit with the whole family, perfect for a child to swing like a loon or an adult to catch up on some reading.

Speaking of which, I know of few things more pleasurable than laying in a hammock with a Fiji Bitter in one hand and a Philip Roth novel in the other while knowing our daughter was having fun in the kids' club.

The club runs daily for 13 hours from 9am with just a short break for dinner, although we used it for only a couple of hours in the morning. Much as our daughter was more than happy drawing, painting, reading, singing and playing on the beach with the caring staff, we were keen for our family holiday to be just that.

After all, she'll be embarrassed and bored by me soon enough. We want to spend time with her while she can't do anything about it.

With that in mind and in dogged pursuit of the sleep that has eluded us since our daughter was born, we were also happy to eschew the babysitters and crash for the night at the same time as her.

That did mean we weren't able to linger over dinner, which was a shame because the food from head chef Lance Seeto warrants attention. Lance is the culinary ambassador for Fiji Airways so it was pretty special, especially once we discovered a vegetarian menu containing a glorious variety of curries, pickles and dips.

Mustard, cumin, ginger and chilli were all to the fore, those punchy flavours having been brought to Fiji when the British drafted Indian labourers to the sugar plantations in the late 19th century.

We loved it. And our daughter was just as thrilled with her grilled fish and rice, her lunchtime grilled cheese sandwich and chips at the Water's Edge restaurant, and the sushi served at the family pool.

Going for a package deal that included all meals was a winner, since the variety on offer could have left us with a swiftly mounting bill had we chosen to go accommodation only.

We had been looking forward to trying Lance's 1808 menu at the Lali Sandbar, but the one downside of the low occupancy was that not every restaurant was open.

Next time, maybe.

There was a bit more to Castaway than just lazing and eating. The highlight was probably hiring a boat to take us out to see dozens of dolphins diving and pirouetting in the azure waters, although the shoals of flying fish that accompanied us as we kayaked around the island comes close.

Snorkelling in the coral reefs that keep the water on the resort's northwest side mirror-smooth was also pretty special.

A boat trip to Shell Village on nearby Malolo Island gave us an opportunity to buy souvenirs, but we found another way to support the local community. About $20 is enough to pay for a child to attend the Malolo District School for an entire year. It's worth knowing that the reception at Castaway, which employs a large number of people from the village, will also pass on donations to the school if you feel more comfortable helping out that way.

One week of swimming, snorkelling, sleeping and solipsism on Castaway, and I'm no longer afraid of the P-word.

CHECKLIST
Getting there: Air New Zealand flies daily from Auckland to Nadi.

Accommodation: Doing it alone, bures at Castaway Island containing a king-size bed and two singles start from about $610 a night. Beachfront accommodation and larger bures cost more.

Further information: A two-hour dolphin safari costs just $25 a person; island-hopping, outer reef snorkelling, parasailing and more available at extra cost. Use of snorkelling equipment, catamarans, kayaks, windsurfers, a glass-bottom boat and stand up paddle boards are included, as is the tennis court.

- AAP