Gary Allen checks into qualia, one of Australia’s most celebrated resorts, where natural splendours and unmatched serenity await
As I pull up my eye mask and dig out my ear plugs, I am greeted with panoramic views of the Whitsunday Islands and wonder why, exactly, I was trying to block out such beauty at all. Yet, with help from those sleep aids, I am well rested and quickly decide this vista is too good to pass up with any more down time. I make a coffee and return to my nest, taking in the caffeine and the pristine surroundings, both with great satisfaction.
I am cosied up in a Windward Pavilion at qualia, one of the country’s premium resorts, and it wouldn’t be hard to stay put. For the day, for the week, for eternity. But I am not a lounger by nature and so I decide to hit the gym. After all, I can’t fathom the idea of breakfast. The previous evening’s dinner – a culinary adventure at Long Pavilion, one of two in-house dining options – is still front of mind.
One of the Luxury Lodges of Australia, adults-only qualia typifies serenity and calm. In Latin, qualia means “a collection of deeper sensory experiences” and the name could hardly be more fitting. Qualia is located on the sun-drenched northern-most tip of Hamilton Island, one of the 74 islands that make up the Whitsunday archipelago in the Great Barrier Reef National Park. It is a picture-perfect destination, which is why it has been recognised countless times through industry awards and ‘best-of’ lists.
Glistening views and a soft, warm breeze shape my introduction to qualia, and the welcome is just as warm. Efficient, too. My luggage is taken care of from the airport and in my room before I am. Meanwhile, I am en route within five minutes of leaving the plane and, at the resort, my carriage awaits. I am escorted to my room in a four-seater electric buggy, which will be with me for exclusive use throughout my stay.
In this instance particularly, ‘room’ is just a figure of speech. Modern and expansive with floor-to-ceiling windows, my room is indeed a pavilion and it blends beautifully in natural tones of timber, stone and glass. The light-filled bathroom is almost as big as the bedroom with a bathtub that surely lures even the most active traveller. The large lounge room leads to a private deck with a huge comfortable daybed, plunge pool and a couple of lounge chairs.
All 60 of the resort’s ‘rooms’ promise peace and relaxation in genuine privacy. They all have water views and are surrounded by lush native bushland, making the resort as tranquil for the wildlife as it is for guests. The ‘cockies’ don’t always surrender to the tranquillity, though. These large cockatiels are prepared for even the slightest opening in search of snacks so don’t forget to close your doors when you leave.
Golf enthusiast are in luck, thanks to the vision and commitment of qualia’s owners, the Oatley family. The Oatleys own and run Hamilton Island, and purchased neighbouring Dent Island for the sole purpose of installing a golf course.
And what a golf course. Designed by five-time British Open winner Peter Thomson, the Hamilton Island Gold Club is Australia’s only championship island course and a quick private ferry ride will put you on the green.
Pebble Beach is the resort’s private beach, although the branding is slightly off the mark. The ‘pebbles’ are more like rocks as far as my feet are concerned. It’s not a beach for going barefoot.
For the genuine beach experience, a visit to Whitehaven Beach will satisfy the craving. This slice of paradise is well-renowned, so you will be among plenty of other sand and sun worshippers, but it’s a beautiful spot with clear, calm water and fine-as-powder sand. A private helicopter will whisk you there in minutes.
Closer to home, the resort’s slick infinity pool overlooking the sparkling Coral Sea will have to do. You’ll even get some sand between your toes with the poolside set-up, complete with sand and lounge chairs. And for guests staying between June and September, the possibility of spotting migrating whales from this position is a very real one.
During a stay as luxurious as this, pampering beckons and Spa qualia is every bit the indulgence you would expect. You’ll find Australian brands Sodashi and LaGaia Unedited on the shelves and a comprehensive menu of treatments including holistic and wellbeing therapies.
For signature experiences of a different kind, the Sake and Sashimi tasting is informative and delicious. This is one of three Epicurean Food Experiences on offer, along with Champagne and Oysters, and Wine and Cheese. Three perfect pairings.
The private buggy proves helpful throughout my stay, particularly with the hilly terrain, both on site and beyond. A trip to town takes just 10 minutes and it’s a collegial drive, given the only vehicles on Hamilton Island are resort-owned. It’s lovely to have a little cruise to town for a bite or spot of shopping. Be careful of the mobile breathalyser traps along the way. Only kidding! I wonder if you can get caught driving under the influence here. I might be curious, but I don’t plan to find out first-hand.
As I was privy to immediately on arrival, service at the resort is second to none. All of the employees I cross paths with are eager to please and interested to chat, if you are that way inclined. Travelling solo, I am that way inclined and enjoy many conversations with staff from all over the world and in various stages of hospitality careers. But I never got to speak with the ‘turn down fairies’, who arrive each evening when I head out for dinner. I wish I did. I would have thanked them for the daily Zokoko artisan chocolates and the small gifts, such as a Maison Balzac candle.
It’s lovely to have these physical mementos of such a magnificent stay, but I leave with so much more. As I am walking out of my oasis for the last time, I linger a moment to catch that view once more. The brief pause triggers a telling exhale. ‘I’m gonna miss this,’ it seemed to whisper. And I do miss it… very much.