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Kamalame Cay, a private island in the Bahamas. (Sarah MacWhirter/The Globe and Mail/Sarah MacWhirter/The Globe and Mail)
Kamalame Cay, a private island in the Bahamas. (Sarah MacWhirter/The Globe and Mail/Sarah MacWhirter/The Globe and Mail)

Bahamas two ways: frantic in Atlantis, conked out in Kamalame Cay Add to ...

Hot sun, a light breeze and a hammock at the edge of the beach with only the waves as background noise.

That's a mom's dream.

But my 12-year-old daughter was picturing daredevil waterslides, a see-and-be-seen teen club and poolside chaises with music pounding through the loudspeakers.

Mother-daughter relationships are complicated enough, fraught with tension one moment, burbling with girlish happiness the next. Add a vacation into the mix, with wildly different dreams, and I couldn't help but wonder: Were we doomed to have a holiday from hell?

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This would be the first island escape for both of us, so we decided to compromise: She'd get her adrenalin-spiking theme park, I'd get a quintessential flake-out. Bahamas, here we come!

The law of diminishing returns

First stop, Atlantis.

About a year before our visit to this megaresort, the talk was non-stop: about the club, the amazing rides, the cool scene that no tween could live without. Secretly, I was dreading it, but can that many people be wrong?

Atlantis is everything you expect: a completely manufactured experience. You have to be in the mood. It's a gigantic waterpark with few but fantastic rides, big prices and ridiculously long lineups everywhere you go (the slides, the poolside bars and all the restaurants, even to get a locker for your bag when all the chaises longues are used up).

You may be inclined to dislike Atlantis, especially after seeing Crush, the teen dance and gaming club that encourages your offspring to act like college hotties ordering mocktails through tabletop computer screens (they're not old enough to drink real cocktails, so let's pay to let them pretend!).

But you can't sidestep the fact that waterslides are fun. Especially when they start with a view over turquoise waters edged with sparkling white beach.

My advice: Start your day as early as possible, score a lounge chair for your bag (everyone leaves their stuff lying around) and get as many slides in as possible before the lines get too long. It's the law of diminishing returns. Then, when the length of the lines outweighs the enjoyment of the slides, slather the suntan lotion once again, get a pina colada (for mom) and float down the Lazy River. Have an early dinner (remember to make a reservation the night before – or head to Bimini Road restaurant at the marina for a lively dinner punctuated with loud song, steel drums and shakers) and get ready to do it all again.

Late on the afternoon before we left, I noticed we still hadn't felt the sand between our toes. I asked Alyanna if she wanted to walk on the beach. “No, Mum, let's wait till we get to the real Bahamas.”

The law of attraction

Second stop, Kamalame Cay.

For the mom part of the journey, we unpacked our bags at Kamalame Cay on Andros Island. From the back veranda of Driftwood, our two-bedroom villa, it was 40 steps to the hammock (strung up between two palm trees), 60 steps to the chaise longue on the sand, 110 steps to feel the water lapping at your toes.

This was the Bahamas I needed.

When the weather was cool, Alyanna and I walked the beach, had hot tea and fresh cookies on the veranda, and bundled in a blanket in the hammock for a read.

On Sunday morning, the sun emerged and the waters calmed – perfect for snorkelling – but Alyanna was under the weather. We decided to go anyway, as Bahamas' Blue Holes are legendary in diving circles. I donned a mask, Aly took over photography duties from the boat, and I took the plunge.

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