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Epic Heads to the Whitsundays

Qualia and One&Only Hayman Island
Aug 27 2014 Written by: Kait Daly

Reported by Kait Daly, Digital Marketing Manager, Epic Private Journeys

Beaches are my thing. I grew up in a beach town in New Jersey and when I was a kid I was fortunate enough to travel to several Caribbean islands with my family. I have travelled pretty extensively the past few years (a perk of my previous job) to several incredible beaches from Central America to the French West Indies, but never Australia.

I picked up and moved to Brisbane five months ago with many goals and dreams, one of course being to visit the Great Barrier Reef. You can imagine my excitement when I found out we would be visiting Hayman and Hamilton Island on my very first Epic Familiarization trip!

Our first stop was Hamilton Island, only an hour and 15-minute direct flight from Brisbane. The flight itself was thrilling for me, with views of Australia’s white-sand beaches and aqua water stretching on for miles and miles. When we landed in Hamilton I was surprised, I was not expecting the Whitsundays to be so mountainous and green! My first impression was that Hamilton was almost the best of both worlds— the piny feel of Banff combined with the crystal clear water of St. Barths…

Hamilton is luxurious, but also laidback.  Families hang out in the marina by the super-yachts, licking ice cream cones in their bathing suits and bare feet.  The golf buggies add to the relaxed feel, as virtually every Hamilton guest has one. The tropical atmosphere combined with the overall friendliness of the island creates the perfect destination for families, friends and couples. Fortunately, there is an accommodation for every type of traveller, taste and budget including the Reef View Hotel, the Palm Bungalows, Beach Club, Yacht Club Villas, and the “7-star” resort, Qualia.

Qualia is a quiet (adult only) resort home to 60 private accommodations situated on the cliff sides of the island, and is guaranteed to blow you away.  Each pavilion is surrounded by lush vegetation with panoramic sea views from every angle, including the view from the tub!  The luxurious accommodations feature lots of timber, stainless steel, sandstone and glass, which give off a very natural feel. Once you are set up in your own private pavilion, every activity is at your disposal including scenic drives and hikes, scuba diving and snorkelling, kayaking, a koala sanctuary, golfing, water sports, shopping, spa-ing, yachting. While these are available to all guests of the island, Qualia goes above and beyond to make your experience on Hamilton a memorable one.

One of my favorite memories on Hamilton was the sunset cruise on Qualia’s yacht, the Atomic. As we watched the sun set over the water with our glass of champagne in hand, we spotted two whales breeching in the distance.  I can’t describe how perfect this experience was, almost as if the whales were orchestrated just for us!

Another Hamilton highlight for me was our private flight over the Whitsundays, (courtesy of HTI Island Air). As a first-timer, there is no better way to experience the Whitsundays than via helicopter. No Google image search or first-hand testimonials can prepare you for the magnificent view of the islands from above.

After two nights on Hamilton we were off to Hayman Island.  Our one-hour boat transfer on the stunning 60 ft cruiser, Ocean Free was an experience itself. I planted myself on a beanbag chair on the bow of the yacht and watched the frolicking whales as they passed by.

As soon as you pull up to Hayman Island you know that you are arriving somewhere glamorous. Upon arrival we were individually greeted by a member of staff and escorted to our rooms (a nice touch that does require mentioning!).

It is easy to be in touch with nature on Hayman as there are no other buildings on the 1.5 sq. mile island except for the resort and its surrounding environment. The landscaping is impressive, boasting 33,000 plants and 327 new plant species manicured by 40 full time landscapers. The 150 rooms feature a contemporary and chic design, but manage to blend in with the surrounding nature. Accommodation is located in three distinct areas of the resort, each different in style and ambiance, and each designed to take advantage of the island views.

I felt very spoiled as soon as I walked in to my suite in the new Pool Wing, appropriately named for its swim-out access into the famous Hayman pool.  The view was capped off with a personalized greeting on my TV screen complimented by a big bottle of champagne, chocolates and huge soaking tub.

As I would discover, it’s all in the details at Hayman. Over dinner I casually mentioned to the manager that I had recently started practicing yoga.  When I arrived back at my suite, I was surprised to find a new top of the line yoga mat propped up next to my door. It was a small gesture that made a big impact.

Hayman is different to Hamilton in almost every way, from the general makeup of the island to the accommodations and the ambiance. I can see why the resort is extremely popular with honeymooners as it caters to a very romantic atmosphere, but the resort is a nice option for families too. Renovations and additions have been made to accommodate children including a One&Only Kids club as well as the overall layout of the facilities. Private foyers allow rooms to interconnect in the Hayman Wing and there are separate quarters for extended family members (or nannies) in the Beach Villas. The eight Beach Villas are the ultimate beachside luxury, featuring an open-air private pool, a stunning bathroom with a massive bath and separate indoor and outdoor showers. It’s easy to see why some guests never leave their villa!

Just like Hamilton, there is no shortage of activities. One afternoon we snorkelled in Blue Pearl Bay, an area known for its coral and fishlife including a resident Maori Wrasse the size of  a small child. The biodiversity of sea life can be experienced only a few meters off the beach, which is great for newbie snorkelers like me. I think I swallowed about a gallon of water from giggling because I couldn’t contain my excitement. I could literally reach out and touch the hundreds of florescent tropical fish and hear them nibbling on the coral.

My last morning at Hayman, I woke up early to squeeze out a few more hours in paradise. I sat outside on my hand-delivered yoga mat, on my private pool deck overlooking the ocean and the mountains, and watched the sun rise. I reflected on my last three days and began to feel overwhelmed with gratefulness, this is a part of the world that many can only dream of visiting.

In all, Hamilton and Hayman are two islands that I would definitely recommend to anyone looking to explore the Great Barrier Reef. I know I found a little slice of heaven in the Whitsundays and I cannot wait to get back!