Weekend In: qualia, Hamilton Island.
Trip duration: 72 hours
How to get there: qualia is located on the northernmost tip of Hamilton Island; one of the 74 islands that make up the Whistsundays, off the coast of Queensland. Direct flights operate from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Cairns to Hamilton Island. A charming chauffeur greets you at Hamilton Island Airport, whisking you away to qualia in less than ten minutes.
The resort: qualia (pronounced kwah-lee-ah) in a Latin term meaning ‘a collection of deeper sensory experiences’, and the resort certainly lives up to its promise. On arrival, guests are met by the breezy Long Pavilion, which offers breathtaking views of coral seas. A blissful sense of tranquillity – deeply enhanced by a welcome glass of champagne – takes over when you walk through qualia’s doors and it stayed with us through the entire weekend.
qualia is a private adults-only resort that was created by the late Bob Oatley, who was also known for Australia’s famous Oatley wines. Together with architect Chris Beckingham the Oatley family have created a world-class holiday destination that is a unique expression of Australian luxury. The space makes the most of truly stunning natural surrounds. Manicured tropical gardens are coupled with native Eucalyptus trees, making for Instagram-worthy shots, particularly when combined with the stunning backdrop of neighbouring Whitsunday islands. The resort is a favourite destination for international celebrities and plays regular host to some of Australia’s most famous names.
Our Windward Pavilion room was a beautiful retreat from the main resort, accessible via a fun drive in our qualia club buggy. Built with natural local timber and stone, the architecture and furnishings bring the outside inside in an elegant but relaxed fashion. There are three types of rooms at qualia. All are indulgent in their spacious design and boast plush king beds, freestanding stone baths, lounge and deck areas. With floor-to-ceiling, seemingly invisible windows, we enjoyed looking out to the water and watching the boats sail past.
How I spent my days: The ethos at qualia is to do as much, or as little, as you like. Each night guests are presented with the next day’s activity options. Some aren’t time specific and can be enjoyed at leisure, including the beach activities; catamarans, paddle boards, kayaks and snorkelling. Other amusements need to be booked in advance, such as exclusive charters or seaplanes to Whitehaven beach, Great Barrier Reef snorkelling and island jet ski tours.
We enjoyed a relaxing and restorative yoga class in Spa qualia’s divine yoga and meditation pavilion. Spa qualia offers a luxurious and very Australian journey though contemporary and indigenous spa treatments and rituals. Our aromatherapy relaxation massages were heavenly. With a sauna, vichy outdoor shower and lounges overlooking the tropical gardens, you could easily enjoy a whole day in spa bliss if you so fancied.
Relaxing by the main infinity pool at Pebble Beach was definitely one of our stay highlights. The pool is set against backdrop of tropical gardens and manicured lawns. The sunbeds are perfectly positioned to observe the sparkling blue waters of the pool and the sea that lies beyond. There are friendly and attentive staff catering to your every need.
What I ate: Dining at qualia is incomparable. Executive Chef Mark Jensen has created a truly special menu, embracing his hatted chef experience (Marco Polo, Spicers Peak Lodge and Lizard Island) and passion for fresh local produce. Breakfast of fresh tropical fruits delicately cut and served with mini smoothies are as much of a visual treat as they are delicious. The main breakfast menu has a wide range of options from traditional Australian to poached egg and salmon poke bowls. Lunch can be taken at the Pebble Beach poolside or the restaurant overlooking the glistening water. The local section of seafood from reef fish, Whitsunday bugs and prawns are suitably indulgent whilst being light enough to leave room for some of the signature truffle fries.
For dinner, you cannot go past qualia’s six course tasting menu. Sitting by candle light, looking out to the ocean, with the sound of gentle waves lapping in the warm tropical weather, was a treat in itself. Jensen’s menu was presented to us in a wax candle sealed envelope, with the option to opened upfront or be taken through a surprise gastronomic journey. There is also the option to pair the meal with wines chosen by an expert sommelier. Each dish was an exquisite visual creation and a wonderful play of flavours. Dishes ranged from Kingish sashimi with picked cucumber and yuzu; marron with miso, carrot and squid ink; scallops paired with parsnip froi gras, porcini and truffle and wagu with buckwheat, fermented onion and malt. The rye bread ice-cream with whisky, chocolate and wild rice also went down a treat.
Where to spend cocktail hour: You are spoiled for choice in this regard. The exclusive talk and taste events in the Long Pavilion start at 4pm and once a week there are management sunset drinks at Pebble Beach. Not to be missed is a sunset cruise on one of qualia’s yachts, taking in the island and resort from the water while enjoying the resort’s champagne of choice and snacking on seafood treats.
Best moments of our stay: The one time we did leave the blissful bubble of the resort was a true bucket list experience. Our helicopter tour to the Great Barrier Reef was a magnificent way to view the beauty of qualia and Hamilton Island from the air. Arranged by the concierge and departing from the resort’s private helipad, we flew out over Whitehaven Beach. True to its name, the beach has the whitest sand you’ve ever seen – made up of 98% silica. We even glimpsed a view of the island’s resident sting rays. Seeing the Great Barrier Reef from the air, including the famous heart shaped reef was magical ‘pinch myself’ moment.
Why I’ll be back: I left qualia feeling rejuvenated; as if I’d had a week-long holiday rather than a mere few days. It was the perfect combination of luxurious design, stunning views and a mouth-watering array of food options. The visit was a treat for the senses and amazing for the soul. The service was meticulous and most of the qualia team I spoke to had been there for several years and spoke extremely fondly of their time on the island.
Stays at Qualia start from $1,400 a night including a la carte breakfast, non-alcoholic beverages, use of an electric golf buggy, airport transfer and chauffeur service around the island. For more information or bookings visit qualia.com.au.
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