Already unsure as to how this particular weekend could get any better, Tamara impressed me by taking us to one of the jewels in Hamilton Island‘s gleaming crown – Qualia – an ultra-exclusive, private retreat that offers guests ‘Qualia-only’ beachfront, dining and spa space. We were privileged to join an early morning yoga class overlooking the ocean (the epitome of Zen), followed by a delicious breakfast in Qualia’s long pavilion.
As I indulged in Eggs Benedict with a special touch of avocado and spicy tomato, I couldn’t help but gaze out at the ocean and mountain views thinking, “how on Earth did I end up here?”.
This continued to play on my mind as Linda and I wandered down to the guests’ private pool and beach-front (pictured below) to snap a few photos. Lucky patrons lazed on comfy sun beds, soothed by the lapping ocean and warm environment, no doubt admiring the view which included a whale playing in the inlet!
Next we were in for a real treat! The five of us, along with our belongings, were packed carefully on board an Air Whitsunday sea plane – destination: super exclusive, beautiful Hayman Island. Grinning like a 5-year-old I held on tight to my handbag as we took off across the ocean. Gliding over coral reefs and Whitsunday islands of all shapes and sizes, we stared in awe at the beauty that we, as Australians, so often take for granted. A highlight of the flight was the fly-by of spectacular Whitehaven Beach – a stunning and iconic Queensland location, popular for weddings and tourism photo shoots.
Take a 60-second flight with us:
The sea plane engines quietened as our pilot guided us down on to the water, and we gently sailed our way into Hayman’s ‘backyard’. I have always dreamed of visiting Hayman.
As a teen – a child of hard-working parents, doing their utmost to provide a decent education for their kids – I attended a private school brimming with ‘privileged families’, and I recall some of my classmates telling stories about Hayman. It sounded so flash, high-end, luxurious. Let me assure you, it is.
Serene, absolutely beautiful, and I now am the one who is privileged to have visited. Walking through the doors into my sensational pool-view apartment, I was overwhelmed by the now familiar, “how did I get here?” feeling. In fact, thanks to Hayman (and all of the Whitsundays, actually), my enthusiasm and delight for travelling ‘in my own backyard’ has been renewed. Hayman Island really is a paradise, second to nothing witnessed on the Travel Channel, anywhere in the world.
From the mouth-watering fine-dining menus, peaceful spa treatments, landscaped gardens, open air gym, tennis facilities and beaches to the water sport activities, island hopping adventures and reef diving, it’s all here (and more!) – indulgence and fun at your fingertips. Save your pennies people, this spot is worth it. Whether you’re in a beach villa, pool-side or lagoon-view apartment, it’s all luxury and five-star service. And why would you travel overseas to experience paradise when you can support local operations like this? Enough said.
Any Whitsundays experience will provide ample opportunities to do whatever you fancy – rest, relax, exercise, indulge. The Whitsunday Islands are sublime; everywhere we went the service was excellent and amenities certainly five-star. See you all again soon, with any luck ;-)
GREAT BARRIER REEF, KEY FACTS
The world’s largest coral reef system.
In 1981 was deemed a World Heritage Area.
Spans an area almost one and a half times that of the UK or roughly the area of Germany.
Comprises just over 2900 individual reefs; around 760 of these are fringing reefs, which can be found on sections of the mainland shores and islands.
The reef includes 900 islands, 600 of which are continental islands, such as those 74 in the Whitsundays; others are coral cays formed though build up of coral.
The GBR is home to 10% of the world’s fish species; includes 1625 species of fish, 400 species of hard coral, more than 150 species of soft coral, six of the world’s seven species of marine turtle, 30 species of whales and dolphins, 133 species of sharks and rays, 215 species of birds and approximately 1300 species of crustaceans.
[Sources: Great Barrier Marine Park Authority (GRMPBA), UNESCO, Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM), Great Barrier Reef Foundation]
I grew up in Far North Queensland, right on the doorstep of the Great Barrier Reef, but never before have I ever seen it as I did on the weekend, in all its spectacular glory. I was invited on a Whitsundays experience and flew down the coast from Cairns to Hamilton Island this past Saturday.
Visibility was pretty much perfect, as you can see from the photos! Usually airline passengers will only view the deep blue below, but over the weekend the reef was showing off, and looked entirely magical from above.
I waited a short while at Hamilton Island airport before boarding the ferry to Airlie Beach, a pretty, hilly ocean-side paradise set within the Whitsunday Islands.
While, like Cairns, Airlie Beach offers fun for party-goers and backpackers, there is also a luxurious resort culture here that presents a playground for adults (without the noise or crowds at the bar).
Resorts are built into the hills around Airlie Beach, overlooking the ocean, and we stayed at Pinnacles Resort & Spa which I’d highly recommend for its large, lush rooms, views as far as the eye can see, and easy proximity to everything in town. Room number 6 is the way to go, although I’m told by all our group that every room was divine (and HUGE). Particular highlights are the vast balconies that include a yummy spa bath and views of the Whitsundays.
We indulged in a fabulous dinner at Capers at the Beach Bar & Grill with none other than the Executive Chef, Tim Whitehorn. The divine set menu we sampled was enough to ensure we understood why the likes of Nicole Kidman, Matthew McConaughey and Hugh Jackman have also enjoyed a meal or two here.
A highlight? the Twice cooked pork belly, prawn, chorizo sausage, scallops, cauliflower cream & crispy prosciutto main, only to be matched by a dessert of strawberries and passionfruit with mango sorbet.
Interesting to note – place five gals with iPhones together in front of beautifully presented cuisine, then check out Instagram for live streaming of foodie pics.
It seems ‘food porn’ is the new favourite pastime of anyone with a camera and an eye for colour; and really, what better to photograph then food that looks like this…?
A peaceful sleep and beautiful sunrise later, it was time for brekky. Capers was so good that we returned again the next morning.
After guzzling as many pancakes, strawberries, delicious pork topped with pineapple, fresh fruits (locally grown, of course) and muesli, we wandered around the corner to Airlie Day Spa & Hair Studio for a bit of pampering.
This lovely establishment is conveniently located in the centre of town and caters to any and all beauty needs – both in-salon or by appointment to your room! Toes (Linda), manicure (me), and a couple of facials (Felicity and Meren) later, we bid farewell to the friendly team at Airlie Day Spa and went to meet our Whitsundays media familiarisation (‘famil’ in journalist speak) guide, Tamara, who was taking us on our next adventure to Hamilton Island.
We ferried across the channel keeping a keen eye open for whales splashing about in the sparkling blue.
A number of excited Japanese tourists raced outside in the breeze and indicated there were sightings to be had, but no such luck by the time we got to the deck.
It didn’t matter too much because in no time we had arrived at Hamilton and were distracted by the island’s many charming attributes.
Following check-in at the fabulous Reef View Hotel, we toured the famous Whitsundays holiday destination by electric buggy (no vehicles allowed here) before settling in for a divine relaxation massage at Spa Wumurdaylin.
We were all fairly sleepy by the time we finished ‘work’ on Sunday, but Linda and I powered on and ventured into the village for an evening ice-cream and martini (it was important to us to ensure our meal contained all essential nutrients required for a healthy diet).
74 Islands including Hayman Island, Daydream Island, Hamilton Island, Whitsunday Island (and Whitehaven Beach), Long Island and North & South Molle Islands.
Getting there: Fly or drive to Proserpine (Whitsunday Coast Airport), Airlie Beach or Hamilton Island (airport).
Things to do: Snorkel, dive, sail, eat, relax, hike, explore, camp, golf, dine, swim, jetski, shop, party, indulge.
60-second PREVIEW: We take a sea plane to Hayman Island!
Featured image by Paul Benjamin, creative commons
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