We’ll be back.
I uttered these three simple words in enthusiastic passing to the general manager of Qualia Resort on Hamilton Island as we stepped into the silver mini van which whisked us to the airport for our homeward flight.
And just a few hours later we WERE back. Those seemingly benign words turning unbelievably and wonderfully prophetic.
Even Matthew Taverner – the aforementioned GM – did a double take when he saw us clutching a fresh glass of Charles Heidsieck Champagne while we were re-seated in the welcome lounge of the resort’s Long Pavilion.
Our flight home had been cancelled due to a sick crew member, which left us with the arduous task of reacquainting ourselves with the resort we’d fallen in love with just 24 hours earlier.
Our three-night stay in Queensland’s Whitsundays suddenly became a four-night dream that felt like we’d actually been away for a week – or longer.
Each hour played out in gorgeously rich, colour-saturated slow-mo.
It was my second time visiting this part of the world – and Mr SY’s first.
You can read post from my last visit here.
In this post I’m going to share with you seven more reasons that The Whitsundays should be your next mini-break or holiday destination.
7 more reasons to love the Whitsundays
It’s all very lovely to look out at a water view but nothing really compares to actually being out on that water. My sailing experience is limited to one trip on a friend’s dad’s yacht when I was 15 and one Tin Can Bay to Hervey Bay sailing race in the late 1980s when more attention was paid to how stocked the esky was rather than any actual sailing manoeuvres.
My crew for these two nights – Mr SY, Baby-Mac and her husband Rob – had a similar sailing CV so it was with immense gratitude that our charter boat for the weekend came with a captain. Charlie, not only has a solid boating resume he is also part-owner in the charter company we were sailing with – Cumberland Charter Yachts.
Our four queen berth boat could be hired without a skipper – if you’ve had sailing experience – for about $1000 a night but the option for non-sea folk like ourselves was very comforting. The boat was big. Not as big as Mr Hamilton Island – Bob Oatley’s – huge cruiser, Vegas, which was moored near us at Hamilton Marina but it was spacious for our party of five. Each of the four cabins had a queen-size bed and because there was a spare one, Beth and I got to establish a dressing room. There were two bathrooms with showers and a pump toilet. I did my usual over-packing trick and if we had just been spending time on the boat I’d definitely have packed less – and popped it all in a soft overnight case.
The beauty of seeing the Whitsundays this way is that the day’s itinerary is yours. It’s sea and wind condition dependent but there is a very real opportunity to find some secluded spots away from the tourist boats. The wind was easterly the first full day of our sail. It made for some bumps on the open waters but it was still possible to find spots out of the wind for lunch and snorkelling.
Food on board our trip was supplied by Whitsundays Provisions – a company set up to really make it easy for a boat escape – or even if you were staying in a self-contained apartment. Our lunch of Moreton Bay Bugs and prawns while anchored in Tongue Bay (behind Whitehaven Beach) will long be remembered.
There is nothing like a sunset sail to put you immediately in a holiday frame of mind. G&Ts served up on deck, tunes playing through the Bose SoundLink Bluetooth speaker Beth and Rob had bought on board, a light breeze and a slowly sinking sun over the water behind the hilly islands made for magic memories. Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, two pods of whales appeared … out for a late Friday arvo frolic.
As we were moored the first night at Hamilton, we pre-booked dinner at Coca Chu – the newest restaurant on the island and one I’ll be making sure to re-visit on our return. It’s perched right on the main beach at Hamilton – only a 10-minute walk over the hill from the marina – and through the resort’s main reception and pool area. We lucked a balcony table (book ahead would be my advice for all the restaurants) and sat down to the kind of menu concept I love – sharing. No chance of menu envy … from our table at least. Just quietly, I’m still dreaming of the pork crackling with pickled chilli peanuts, ginger and sweet fish sauce.
Technically I’ve already listed Whitehaven in last year’s post as something not to miss in the Whitsundays but between you and I this is one technicality that needs to be overlooked. Why? Because it doesn’t matter when – or how often – you visit this amazing corner of the universe it will look different from the last time thanks to the changing sands around Hill Inlet and Betty’s Beach. I hadn’t walked to the lookout at Tongue Point last year either (preferring to spend the limited time lolling about in the shallows of the pristine white silica sand beach) but this time we had time to do both.
The wind picked up quite strongly after lunch but Charlie still managed to find us a protected spot in Mays Bay for some snorkelling. A spot we had all to ourselves. Stinger suits were donned (you’d be very unlucky to encounter a stinger in September but as they were supplied we wore them). Snorkelling gear was also supplied. I loved getting up close and personal with the fish and coral in this bay. You’d almost call me outdoorsy ;). Never loved a shower more than the warm one on deck afterwards though. I’m a wuss when it comes to water temps and it was a little fresh for me still. Would not be a problem for most!
Motoring into Nara Inlet was a surreal end to an action-packed day. It felt like we were in a miniature version of Milford Sound in NZ, with the tree-lined hills rising steeply either side of the deep blue waterway. There were quite a few other boats opting for this protected spot as well. For us, it was a chance to experience our first evening anchored on the water. The water was calm but the boat did circle around like a revolving restaurant. I was ok with the rocking all night, it was the noises of the water and wind that felt amplified and woke me up a few times. Not that it mattered. After a huge day we were all in bed early. Plenty of sleep was had.
As a 10th wedding anniversary treat, we pre-booked a night at Qualia – Hamilton Island’s premier accommodation option. Beth and Rob were up for joining us and much as we were sad to say goodbye to Charlie and our floating home of two nights, I was a like a kid in the most luxe of candy stores when we arrived via our transfer to the resort. They had me at the welcoming glass of champagne and continued to have me for the next 48 hours (the bonus second 24 happening because of our flight cancellation).
Yes, it is expensive (about $1600). It’s the most we’ve ever paid for a single night’s accommodation. But it was unequivocally worth it. The level of service alone warranted the price tag but when matched with an incredible location at the northern tip of Hamilton Island looking out across an expanse of that blue, blue sea to Whitsunday Island and accommodation that sent my jaw into a permanent position of “have you EVER?”, then you have the makings of a memorable getaway. And that’s what we had.
For us, it’s tricky to get away for more than a few nights without our youngest. A two-night escape somewhere close to home in a place like Qualia makes you feel like you’ve actually been away longer.
Beth and I were treated to an hour at Spa Qualia. It’s a spacious spa with rooms that open out on to private courtyards. Beth had a Sodashi calming facial and I had an intuitive massage. There may have been snoring. There was definitely drool … on my part. These are the two KPIs I place on any new spa I experience so was not disappointed at all.
I was also not disappointed to return afterwards to our Windward Pavilion room. The reason? Our own infinity plunge pool, raised pod bath and prime position looking out across the passage. The second night we were in the same room but slightly further up the hill and into the tree line. Room amenities were by Aesop, all non-alcoholic drinks in the mini bar were included in the price, as were movies available on the TV system and a golf buggy for your use during your stay.
Dining options within the resort include lunch and dinner at Pebble Beach, breakfast (included in our package) and dinner in the Long Pavilion or in-room dining. We sampled and loved them all but I think my favourite experience was dinner on the second night – a seafood platter and salad eaten on our deck.
This is the kind of resort experience that will be etched in your memory forever. I’m not surprised that Qualia’s won a string of awards or that it’s running at 94% average occupancy. They just get hospitality. Nothing was too much trouble. Staff had thought of things before we’d even thought to ask a question about those things. The decor is elegantly understated and completely in tune with the location. It’s far from stuffy and smart casual clothing is the go. Well, smart casual with a side of Camilla and a sprinkling of sparkles if you’re anything like me.
Qualia is definitely a place to retreat, a place to unwind and a place to renew. We did all that and are already working on a plan to get back.
So tell me, have you been sailing in the Whitsundays? Spent time on Whitehaven? Indulged at Qualia?
We were guests of Tourism Queensland, Tourism Whitsundays and Cumberland Charter Yachts for the first two nights of our escape as well as flights to and from Hamilton Island. Whitsundays Provisions supplied our on board food. We paid for our own food at Coca Chu, alcohol on board the yacht and accommodation and food at Qualia. Our spa treatment and welcome bottle of champagne at Qualia were complimentary.
For more from our trip, click on over to my friend BabyMac:
But if there is just one click you do, make sure it’s watching this video that BabyMac’s husband Rob shot and produced.