The beautiful Whitsunday Islands in Queensland have always been a favourite of mine and I have been lucky enough to visit many times over the years. I was very fortunate to visit the magnificent qualia on Hamilton Island and the One&Only Hayman Island a couple of weeks ago for a few days and I am still in awe of the experience. I feel very fortunate to work in an industry which gives me the opportunity to travel, explore, learn and then communicate this to friends, customers, taxi drivers, people on the street who like to have a chat and well generally anyone who could bother listening really. I love what I do and hope you enjoy the next few paragraphs of me ranting on about one of the most beautiful places in this magnificent country (well maybe the planet really). Here are some highlights from the trip.
qualia (pronounced kwah-lee-ah) in Latin translates to “ of deeper sensory experience” and what an experience we had at this extraordinary property.
Access is really easy with just a 2-hour direct flight from Sydney to Hamilton Island. We were met by a qualia Host upon arrival and driven to the commanding ‘Jurassic Park’ gates on the northernmost tip of Hamilton Island (one of the 74 Whitsundays Islands situated off the Queensland coast and nestled in the beauty of the Great Barrier Reef). The gates opened and my mouth dropped open. Hotels (and resorts) really make me happy. We were escorted to the Long Pavillion where we were met with a lovely cool ice tea and a very personal check-in experience. There is an infinity pool for guests to use and a library as well for anyone needing a quick book to read during their stay. A quick buggy ride to our room (you can keep the buggy for your personal use during the duration of your stay) and we were in complete heaven. There are a mix of 60 elegant and private pavilions nestled amongst 30 acres of stunning tropical landscaped gardens at qualia.
This resort is mix of privacy, understated chic and complete rest and relaxation for couples and families (no kids permitted under 16 years). We were allocated a Winward Pavillion (north-facing) which is a one bedroom pavilion (with it’s own sundeck, private plunge pool, expansive Coral Sea and Whitsunday Island views. As I was sitting on the sundeck, it really hit me that the pavilions have been built in a way that you feel you are almost in a tree house sitting above the forest canopy and positioned perfectly to enjoy and appreciate the surroundings. The windows and doors can be opened and folded back to bring in as much air, sunshine and nature as you require.
The friendly Cockatoos also like to visit and say hello so remember to close your sundeck door before you leave the pavilion! It’s also so nice to be in a hotel that includes the minibar, Wi-Fi and movies on demand. Seems strange to me to pay for these when you are paying top dollar for 5 star luxury. The Aesop room amenities are a wonderful touch and really define the essence and bush smells of Australia. It didn’t take long to unwind, go for a quick dip and head to lunch and a swim down at Pebble Beach (a fun buggy ride as well I might add). There is a second infinity pool, a private beach with beautifully combed sand and manicured gardens, a fully-equipped gym and a lovely restaurant serving lunch and dinner (Australian modern cuisine and very good).
We also ate dinner one night at Pebble Beach which was delicious (best prawns I’ve had in a while). Meals can also be served by the pool by Pebble Beach and the staff made this area a lovely spot to hang for most of the day. Not only is the resort one of the most beautiful resorts I have ever stayed at (yep – big call but it’s true), however the team at qualia are also one of the most professional, friendly and service orientated hospitality staff I have ever experienced. We all know that in the past when comparing service in Australian luxury hotels and resorts to Asian, American or European competitors, Australia has (and sorry to say on occasion still) struggles. qualia has certainly broken the curse. The staff are simply extraordinary. I love the ‘ never say no ‘ concept that permeates throughout the whole property. When I experience hotels, I always try and see out of the eyes of our most discerning clients and so of course I had to put a few little challenges to the team at qualia. Not only did they step up and impress me ten-fold, it was also the constant positive reinforced replies of ‘of course I can do that for you’ and ‘ I can absolutely make that happen’. Incredible. Breakfast was served at the Long Pavillion (which was of course plentiful and beautifully presented) and it was just so nice to sit and enjoy the surroundings while sipping on my morning coffee and reading the paper. You can also choose to have breakfast served in your pavilion. All qualia packages include the buggy, access to exclusive guest facilities, VIP return Hamilton Island airport/marina to qualia transfers and use of the qualia catamarans, paddle skis, windsurfers and snorkelling equipment.
There is also an occasional ‘Talk and Taste’ afternoon food and wine classes (cheese and wine, champagne and oysters, sake and sashimi) which is loads of fun in the Long Pavillion to help ease you from your lazy sun drenched afternoon to evening. Guests can also experience their award-winning spa, enjoy morning yoga, take wonderful walks around the resort (there are some lovely seated areas to meditate scattered throughout) and enjoy many activities the island has to offer. I love mingling with guests when we travel and it was nice to see that most of them had booked via a Virtuoso affiliated agency (we are proudly one). All Goldman Group clients will receive:
- Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability to a premium positioned Pavilion, within the same Pavilion category type. Please see Terms and Conditions for all restrictions.
- Colours of Sunset Cruise – includes a tour of the Whitsundays for 1 & 1/2 hours on a luxury cruiser including canapés and selected alcoholic beverages for two adults, once during stay.
- Please note: The Sunset Cruise only operates on Tue, Fri & Sun. A suitable alternate amenity will be arranged for Goldman clients staying outside these days.
- Daily full breakfast, for up to two in room guests
- Early check-in/late check-out subject to availability.
Beautiful qualia. So understated and low key that the ‘q’ in qualia doesn’t even need to be ‘Q’.
It really is Australian luxury at its finest. Make sure to visit soon.
One&Only Hayman Island | Great Barrier Reef
I was so excited to finally experience my first One&Only Resort. Hayman Island re-opened 10 months ago after a massive facelift thanks to One&Only Reorts (welcome to Australia!) and I was keen to see how the island had changed. I am delighted to say that Hayman is back and she’s looking mighty fine. We were collected by luxury launch from Hamilton Island whisked over in fine style (around 50 mins) to Hayman, which sits on the most northerly island of the Whitsundays in the Great Barrier Reef. There are also private helicopter rides if you need a quick transfer or not a fan of sea voyages.
There are now in total 160 rooms at Hayman (rooms, suites, Penthouses, Villas and Beach House) that has views of the beach and sea, pools or gardens located in three distinct areas: Beach Wing, Pool Wing and One&Only Hayman Wing. All rooms have a private balcony or terrace and are designed for two adults, have great interconnecting options for families and also cots and sofa beds for extended families. My first thoughts on inspection on arrival were the impressive staff to hotel guest ratio (500:320), cleanliness and really the overall presentation. Hayman is shining and ready for action. We were given a stunning 1-Bedroom Direct Pool Access Suite, which was absolutely beautiful. These rooms have a terrace with direct swim-out access to Hayman Pool, separate bedroom, dressing room, lounge areas, open-plan bathroom with separate shower and bath, private double balcony and pretty much everything one would expect from a top luxury resort. All suites, Penthouses and Villas are allocated a personal butler (thanks Callum for all your fantastic assistance during our stay) who is at your service for the duration of your visit.
The butler experience (while not new to other luxury hotels around the world) is new to Australia and one that I feel will take a while for Aussie’s to indulge in. It’s just not really part of our culture however Hayman’s Butlers are ready to assist and I recommend using all their tips and recommendations to further enhance your stay. We experienced some great dining options at Hayman including Aquazure (great beachfront, poolside dining with a great kids menu) where we went for our daily breakfast. Dinner was also a treat at Amici (great Italian) and Bamboo (Asian fusion). We also visited Bar Fifty for some fun cocktails and treats prior to dinner. There are some great activities to do while visiting Hayman and we experienced two which I need to tell you about. The first is ‘The Spa’ where I booked a wonderful massage to wind down and massage out a few muscle knots . They also have a great fitness studio next to the Spa which encompasses ‘Bodyism’, a concept where you challenge yourself at any level of performance (using gravity and your body weight to get a great workout!). A great way to work off the delicious breakfast muffins at Aquazure.
The other highlight for me was the hike my wife and I did over to Blue Pearl Bay on the other side of the island. It took us about two hours round-trip however it was really worth it as we experienced spectacular views, masses of blue butterflies (almost like being in a serene Disney movie) and some quality time to breathe, reconnect and learn. Loved it. Highly recommended when visting Hayman. One of the standout areas for me about One&Only Hayman Island is the kids club or ‘KidsOnly’ concept on the property. This club offers complimentary activities to keep all young guests entertained (even the teens!). They have island scavenger hunts where kids have to find items from the natural landscape (flowers, bark and feathers etc) while learning about the tropical environment surrounding them. I love this another reason why a visit to Hayman is recommended for families who are visiting the Whitsundays and wanting luxury surroundings. Hayman really does cater for all travellers however and it’s great to see it shining in the Australian hotel luxury scene. All Goldman Group guests receive:
- Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
- Daily Buffet breakfast, for up to two in room guests
- One Island Escapade per person, per stay. (includes a boat drop off to a nearby island, mask and snorkel)
- Early check-in/late check-out subject to availability.