Ticking off bucket list destinations is always a great feeling and after our stay at qualia (pronounced kwah-lee-ah) in the Whitsundays, we can now say we’ve stayed at the Best Resort in the World 2012 according to Condé Nast. We rarely book through travel agents, however this time we made an enquiry directly with qualia and weren’t disappointed. The service from Daniela our Luxury Specialist was lightening fast and friendly and they could package domestic flights as well. qualia even offered us a complimentary upgrade to Business Class on our return flight to sweeten the package.
When we arrived at Hamilton Island we were greeted by the staff at the qualia desk and were offered a cool towel and qualia bottled water to help adjust to the tropical climate. We shared a transfer to the resort in a luxury van stopping at a few points along the short drive to show some of the islands landmarks.
The resort is exclusive and hidden behind two large timber gates. At Long Pavilion, the first glimpse down the walk way and towards one of the infinity pools that overlooks the Coral sea is stunning. We were greeted with champagne and a refreshing tea cocktail. It was another sit down check-in (a welcome plus at luxury hotels and resorts) and was relatively quick proceeding through the formalities. Our stay included our own two seat golf buggy, Hamilton Island’s transport of choice and was so much fun for zipping around the resort and island.
PAVILION | Our relaxing stay was in Leeward Pavilion 39. The pavilion was spacious with an open bed and living room with floor to ceiling views of the natural landscape and aqua Coral sea. The pavilion felt and looked like a little home. The lounge was comfortable for two to watch a movie and the bright coloured pillows were fluffed and arranged perfectly. The bathroom had a free standing bathtub, double vanity and a large separate shower, though no rain shower, maybe it was to be eco friendly? There was no luxury element spared…. from the quality minibar including Zokoko chocolate and Phillipa’s Parmesan Sables, the cute Tea Drop Tea Cubes to the Aesop bath amenities. The pavilions standard rate includes non-alcoholic beverages (antipodes water, Sunraysia juices, Schweppes varieties and Coke) that we loved in a resort of this class. The nightly turn down service was great and the staff friendly, we got an itinerary of the next days activities and a mini box of Zokoko chocolates each evening. The pavilions were spaced nicely and we were never bothered by any neighbours or room attendants wanting to clean – they were very discreet.
RESORT | The golf buggy made everything at qualia easily accessible from making our way to breakfast at Long Pavilion to visiting Pebble Beach and the second infinity pool. The resort is secluded and made up with narrow roads for the golf buggies and is surrounded by the tropical vegetation and aqua sea views. qualia also has its own boutique if you’ve forgotten some summer essentials and would like a dash more of luxury, as well as its own heli pad for exclusive arrivals and day tours to the Great Barrier Reef. We spent a few afternoons relaxing in one of the many cabanas by the pool and had our pick as there were never many guests around. The temperatures were very warm and humid, but we also had a few rainy patches. The second infinity pool was huge, especially when you are the only two guests swimming and the view over Pebble Beach and the sea was lovely. We also ventured to the Windward side of the resort to seek out the pavilions with the private infinity-edged pools. Although we were tempted to stay in one of the more luxurious pavilions, we have stayed in overwater bungalows in Bora Bora and the Windward price point was significantly more.
EAT | Breakfast each morning in the Long Pavilion was delicious. Unlike some other luxe resorts, a hot buffet style breakfast and wandering past multiple breakfast stations was off the menu. You were greeted with a beautifully presented fruit platter with small muesli slices and an alternate third item. We had mini mango puree & yogurts and strawberry smoothies during our stay. Then you got to select one freshly made breakfast dish and if you’d like, a choice of sides. If you preferred a lighter fare or another course, there was a small buffet selection and it consisted of pastries, cheese, cold meats and cereals. The quality of the dining experience even extended to the Riedel drinking glasses.
Our package included a Gourmet dinner at the Long Pavilion as well. The chef Alastair Waddell and his culinary delights are influenced by noma. We couldn’t go to Denmark for this occasion and qualia seemed the next best place. We indulged in the Tasting Menu and were pleasantly surprised. The service from Michelle was fantastic, she even altered a few courses for myself as I’m not partial to seafood. The flavours and textures of the quail course (quail and jamon – tea smoked quail, sweetcorn, seeds & grains) was amazing, however the wagyu course that was prepared right in front of us was a mini show we had never seen before! All I can say is…. smoke, wagyu, chopsticks, charred peach and wasabi = wow!
We opted for In-Pavilion Dining (room service) sampling the 400g Cape Grim Ribeye big enough for two on two nights. The first night it was cooked to perfection along with the fries and complimenting jus. The cheese platter also went nicely with the complimentary Veuve that we received in our pavilion upon arrival.
TO DO | Our package included a Seaplane tour to the impressive Whitehaven Beach. We took our golf buggy to Hamilton Island Air and joined a very small group to fly to the beach with the whitest and finest sand (another bucket list must). It was my first seaplane flight and it won’t be my last. The tour included an umbrella, beach blanket, some light snacks and champagne to enhance our time on the beach.
We always have a spa treatment on the day before we leave a resort. This time was no exception. Before booking our treatment the Spa qualia staff were very happy to show us around the serene spa including the couples suite which included two treatment beds and a soaking tub for two. My treatment was with the lovely Nicole and she helped make my spa experience even more relaxing. The spa even had the fluffiest robes ever.
Being located on Hamilton Island means there is plenty to see and do outside the resort as well. We had sunset cocktails at the pop up bar with the local and friendly cockatoos at One Tree Hill lookout and cruised all around the island in the golf buggy. You can also relax and have a dip on Catseye Beach and check out the local shops on Front Street next to the Marina.
THE SMALL STUFF | Getting in contact with the Guest Services team took a few follow ups with the help from the Luxury Specialists team. Our check-in although friendly, the welcome introduction felt rushed and a tad under prepared when confirming our tour details (as we prebooked the date and time). As we ventured to breakfast around 10am, we found on a couple of occasions that the service was a bit lacking. One morning we were seated at an unprepared table and had to ask for some of the standard table items. After they initially took our order, we felt they didn’t ask us for more beverages as they were too busy cleaning up the breakfast service and preparing for lunch. So we learnt to order our juice and coffee when we were first seated. Unlike some other luxe places we’ve stayed in we were never asked if our stay was for a special occasion and this time it was. In the pavilion if you didn’t rinse your cups out, the local tiny ants would quickly make a home!
IN SUMMARY | What you need to know….
– PAVILION – Modern and spacious
– NUMBER – Leeward Pavilion 39
– VIEW – Natural landscape and aqua Coral sea
– BED – King size and comfy
– BATHROOM – Grohe fixtures and stone finishings
– BATH AMENITIES – Luxe Aesop
– MINI BAR – Quality but with a price tag to match!
– BREAKFAST – Included and delicious
– RESTAURANTS – Recommend the Tasting Menu at the Long Pavilion
– ROOM SERVICE – Limited menu and pricey
– RESORT – Beautiful grounds and amazing infinity pools
– SPA – Reasonably priced
– WI FI – Free and fast
– LOCATION – Exclusive and hidden behind two large timber gates which made it secluded and tranquil
– NOTABLE GUESTS – Oprah Winfrey and Naomi Watts
– PRICE TAG – Luxe
– LOVED – The inclusions – golf buggy, non-alcoholic beverages and movies. The food quality was the best of the resorts we’ve stayed in to date
Our stay at qualia was unbelievably relaxing and it was the experience we had hoped for. Check-out was seamless and you didn’t even have to confirm the departure transfer time! The Business Class flight on return was one of the best upgrades we’ve received as well. A mini break at this beautiful resort feels like weeks away from home. For a luxury stay within Australia and without the jet lag, qualia is definitely a resort worth considering. Is it the best resort….? Personally it is second for me, Four Seasons Bora Bora is still at the top, however if you do venture to qualia you can always decide for yourself.
BOOK | qualia – Whitehaven Beach Package
20 Whitsunday Boulevard, Hamilton Island QLD
All photos by Mel McLeod ©