Qualia resort, Hamilton Island review: Life on the A-list

Our rating

4.5 out of 5

The place

Qualia, Hamilton Island

The location

Sitting on the northernmost tip of Hamilton Island in the Whitsundays, Qualia is one of Australia's most exclusive resorts, perfect as an escape for couples seeking a private escape. The property is designed to take advantage of its location, with spectacular views of the water and Whitsunday Island from many of the rooms and the resort's reception area. The experience begins as soon as you touch down at Hamilton Island's airport, where Qualia has its own check-in desk to receive guests, offering a seamless transfer to the resort.

The space

Wine mogul and sailing enthusiast Bob Oatley, who passed away at the weekend aged 87, created Qualia with the aim of creating a world-class resort. The property opened in 2007 amid much hype and at a reported cost of $75 million. The 60 luxury pavilions across the resort, split between the 'Leeward' and 'Windward' pavilions (the latter is the more luxurious option, though the Leeward pavilions are not short on luxury either).

The resort offers two restaurants, a large spa, a library, a fashion boutique, two pools (aside from the private plunge pools for some rooms – see below) as well as a private beach.

Oatley's efforts to create one of Australia's premiere resorts has paid off, with Qualia being named the best resort in the world by Conde Nast Traveler in 2012.

The room

My Windward Pavilion is an outstanding space – an enormous, long room divided into living, sleeping and bathroom sections. The floor-to-ceiling windows run the entire length of the room, which means there's a great view no matter what part of the room you're in.

There's also a private deck and plunge pool and, though it's slightly too cold during my winter visit to justify it, I can't resist taking a dip in the latter.

I particularly like the sound set-up that lets you hook up your player and individually adjust the volume in the different parts of the room. If you haven't brought your own music, there's an automatic 'house music' option that can fill the room with suitable chillout sounds.

The big-screen TV comes with 120 complimentary on-demand movies and can be rotated so it can be watched from the deck or plunge pool (but given the views, I don't even bother switching it on during my stay).

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There are a couple of minor service slip-ups for a hotel of this standard – there's a knock on the door before 9am to ask when we would like our room serviced (getting me out of bed) and during the servicing the used bathrobes are removed but not replaced.

The food

The resort's two restaurants deliver the quality you would expect from a property this luxurious. The Long Pavilion, located at one end of the resort's reception area, offers local produce to form tasting menus created by executive chef Alastair Waddell. There are four, six, eight or 10-course options.

A more casual option can be found at Pebble Beach, located on the resort's private beach space. Here there are terrific seafood options such as salt and pepper Moreton Bay bug tails or fresh, melt-in-the-mouth sashimi.

Stepping out

There are no cars on Hamilton Island, apart from a few official vehicles for guest transfers, but guests at Qualia are provided with their own golf buggy to drive around in. This is useful just for getting around the resort, but it's also a lot of fun to explore the island on and make one's way down to the island's main beach.

Of course, part of the joy of Qualia is not leaving the resort at all, but it's worth taking a helicopter flight over the Great Barrier Reef. The flights take off from the resort's own landing pad and there's no better way to appreciate how enormous and, indeed, great the resort really is. The flights also offer a chance to see the famous Heart Reef (in fact, the only way you can see this iconic sight is from the air).

The verdict

If you can afford the steep price tag, staying in a Windward Pavilion at Qualia is one of Australia's most luxurious and private resort experience. With its private plunge pools, vast rooms and stunning views, this is an Australian retreat that will make you feel like a member of Hollywood's A-list. And with its large, Jurassic Park-style entrance gate, you won't have to worry about anyone invading your privacy.

Essentials

Leeward Pavilions at Qualia start from $1050 per pavilion a night, with Windward Pavilions from $1675 (minimum two-night stay applies for both). See qualia.com.au.

Getting there

Qantas now flies direct to Hamilton Island from Melbourne, as well as Brisbane, Sydney and Cairns. See qantas.com.au.

The writer travelled as a guest of Qantas and Qualia.

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