Beach Club, Hamilton Island resort review: Beached as

Our rating

4.5 out of 5

Forget sodden Sydney, the sun shines for Caroline Gladstone.

The red "Hello Sailor" sign high on One Tree Hill makes me laugh. It has a commanding, although temporary, position on the most accessible peak of Hamilton Island, where folks putter up in little golf buggies to snap away at the blue waters of the Whitsundays and casual diners eschew the fancy restaurants in favour of a pizza and beer as they watch yachts drift by.

Later that afternoon I discover a wallaby munching on the lawn outside my room, metres from the beach, and the next morning am almost blinded as sun streams through my louvred blinds, announcing a gorgeous sunrise over Cat's Eye Beach.

Back in Sydney all is wet and windswept, but here I bask in clear skies, sunshine and 24 degrees.

Maybe all the planets just happened to align during my visit, but to be in the Whitsundays' vibrant technicolour, after farewelling the monochrome of Sydney's torrential rain and constant cloud only hours earlier, does seem a little surreal.

I'd not been to Hamilton Island for some 13 years - long before the jaw-dropping $100 million Qualia was built, or the yacht club with its nautical design and the 18-hole golf course on nearby Dent Island opened in 2009.

In fact, my last visit was some time before winemaker and yachtsman Bob Oatley bought the island in 2003 for about $200 million.

Back then I hadn't appreciated the real pull of Hamilton Island - that being you board a plane in Sydney (sodden or otherwise) and 2½ hours later emerge in the tropics amid palm trees and soft sand, without passport or customs hassles to delay the holiday experience.

This time I am staying in the newly refurbished Beach Club, which opened 22 of its 57 rooms in early August after a multimillion-dollar renovation (the others will be upgraded mid-2015).

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The revamp is part of the $350 million the Oatley family has invested in the island; it certainly shows.

The low-rise Beach Club sits almost in the shadow of the towering Reef View apartments, generally considered a blot on the otherwise lovely landscape.

Yet my digs, on the ground floor of the one-storey building, are perfect with a revitalised look that is pared back, elegant and a little "beachy". The interior palette is white and cream with blond furniture, including American oak armchairs, those fabulous sliding plantation shutter doors, and splashes of blue and grey pillows and throws. The new bathroom is impressive, the centrepiece a big oval white stone bathtub, which would not look out of place in an art gallery. It's a treat to soak in something I imagine as a large dinosaur egg.

The exclusive Beach Club lounge and bar adds funky cane chairs, op art and driftwood sculptures to the white and beige canvass, all with an understated look that doesn't distract from the showstopper just beyond the doors.

It's possible to drink in the views of the palm-fringed beach and the iridescent blue water corralled by the hulking shapes of Whitsunday islands from many spots - the infinity pool, the restaurant, my lounge on my terrace and my big comfy bed.

I linger over breakfast, gazing out across the pool, Cat's Eye beach and beyond, watching the odd Hobie Cat flit by as I read the paper.

While my stay coincides with Race Week, the big event on the island's calendar, I hardly know there are partying yachties on 100 or so boats having fun into the wee hours. The Beach Club, along with the other island accommodation, is far enough away for serenity, but close enough for a quick walk down the hill to be part of the action.

Strolling along Front Street, the restaurant and boutique-lined thoroughfare by the marina, it strikes me that Hamilton Island has borrowed a couple of names from Bermuda. Surely that couldn't be coincidental? Years ago in Bermuda, I also strolled along a Front Street in the Atlantic island's small capital of Hamilton. It's a pleasing case of serendipity as I watch the yachts come into the marina after their hard day of racing. Over on that other Front Street, it's big cruise ships that tie up at the dock.

Another thing that dawns on me, is that on a small island you can witness the sun rise over the water and set on it as well. As Hamilton Island is a mere five kilometres square, it is easy to whip down to the marina to watch the sunset or take the buggy or free shuttle bus up to One Tree Hill to see them both in a day.

From that lofty lookout, the almost-360 degree view takes in a handful of the other 73 islands in the Whitsunday group. And during Race Week, there is plenty of action on show.

Beach Club guests have the services of an on-call private chauffeur to show them the sights, take them to restaurants and drop them off at the walking trails that traverse part of the island.

While there are a dozen or more restaurants and bars and more than 40 resorts and holiday home accommodation options, it's good to know that more than 70 per cent of the island is natural bushland and that more than 20 kilometres of walking trails lead to secluded beaches, lookouts and peaks.

While robust activities can beckon, Beach Club is a destination in itself and it's not hard to hole up all day in this adults-only enclave by the infinity pool, the shady lawn or on your own terrace.

The writer travelled as a guest of Hamilton Island.

TRIP NOTES

MORE INFORMATION

hamiltonisland.com.au.

GETTING THERE

Qantas, Virgin Australia and Jetstar have direct services to Hamilton Island from Sydney and east-coast capitals. Good deals are offered on Virgin and Jetstar, with fares from $165 one way between Sydney and the island. See www.jetstar.com, Qantas.com.au and Virginaustralia.com.au.

STAYING THERE

Beach Club has 57 rooms, 22 of which have been renovated and graded as "premium". The nightly rate for these is $650, while standard rooms are $570 a night. Price includes breakfast, Wi-Fi, private chauffeur transfers from the airport or marina, plus chauffeur services for the duration of the stay and the use of non-motorised sports' equipment, including paddleboards, surf skis, catamarans and snorkelling gear, along with gym entrance. See hamiltonisland.com.au/accommodation/beach-club-hotel-resort.

EVENTS

Audi Hamilton Island Race Week will be held from August 15-22, 2015. Beach Club recommends early bookings for this week as the resort fills up quickly.