Living the High Life on Hamilton
The location is stunning, the pristine blue waters glitter in the sun, the lush palm trees extend their arms to welcome you to paradise… and then you arrive at qualia…
I think I may have over-used the phrase ‘oh my god’ a tad during my time here, although
the inflection soon changed from a rapid-fire ‘ohmygod’ to a more drawn-out, breath-holding ‘Oh – My – God’. So this is qualia!
When we land on Hamilton Island, one of the resort’s drivers picks us up from the airport. We arrive during Audi Race Week, the sailing event, so are escorted up the hill in a brand new Audi. The big iron gates of qualia slowly retreat, like thick velvet curtains on Broadway, to reveal the most spectacular set. It is so surreal, almost too perfect! Ahead is the view of the Coral Sea, so sparkly it is almost blinding; on either side of the driveway are lush green gardens hiding the individual guest pavilions, a myriad of greens and blues. We pull up at reception in the Long Pavilion and, rather than obstructing the view, this glass and timber building frames it perfectly. The long building has doors that unfold, letting the view pour in. At one end is a bar and a corner library with a deck for afternoon cocktails or a quiet read. At the other end is the dining area. In the middle is a relaxed lounge area overlooking an infinity-edge pool.
At check-in, you are given the keys to your own golf cart for getting around, and informed that everything is included, other than alcohol. Children under the age of 16 are not catered for, and if we need anything at all, simply ‘let us know’. For the busiest time of year at qualia, it is still peacefully quiet.
Eager to check out our pavilion, we head off in our golf cart, home and work already a distant memory. The pavilions are very special, although to fit in with the beautiful surrounds of the Great Barrier Reef and the Whitsundays, they probably need to be! Each pavilion has its own living area, separate bedroom and bathroom, a large outdoor living area and, wait for it, your own private pool. What to do first? Take a dip in the pool, read a book on the huge day-bed on the deck, open the champagne and watch the yachts sail by, or take in the view from the luxury of our own bath?
The marketing brochure says, “This resort immerses you in a relaxed atmosphere, offering personalised and intuitive service. Qualia is a truly special place, where everything has been meticulously considered to relax the mind, yet completely spoil the senses. It’s what we refer to as ‘the qualia effect’.” Well, we are certainly under the spell!
With one of the great natural wonders of the world right there in front of us, we opt to borrow some of the resort’s kayaks and paddle to one of the nearby islands. It is times like this that you truly appreciate the environment we live in and feel blessed that we can reach out and touch it, smell it and take a swim in it.
Dinner is served at the Long Pavilion, which is dimly lit with little tea-light candles everywhere creating an alluring ambience. You can opt to dine in or out, but the choice is easy on such a balmy night, with the soft sound of the waves lapping the shore. Now we appreciate better how private the resort is. Until now, we almost felt like we had the place to ourselves, but at dinner we get the pleasant surprise of seeing other guests here as well. And being qualia, we spot a few famous faces too.
Like the rest of qualia, the Spa blends in beautifully with the surrounds and is built to
maximise the view, bringing the outside in on wherever possible, including the gentle sea breeze. There are six deluxe treatment rooms (mine has an ensuite, plus an outdoor shower) and additional guest facilities including a relaxation area with steam room and outdoor vichy shower. An open-air yoga and meditation pavilion completes the Spa building.
I’m thrilled to see that this uniquely Australian Spa embraces the natural Australian product ranges Li’tya and Sodashi. Both ranges are far more than normal creams; they come with healing rituals to treat your mind, body and soul. The menu is comprehensive, but not overwhelming. I narrow my choice down to two, then opt for the Mala Maya, a body treatment using Li’tya products. It includes a body exfoliation, mud wrap, hair and scalp treatment, plus a Kodo massage.
The treatment begins with a traditional smoking ritual to ward off evil thoughts and spirits. I like that. This is followed by a foot scrub and warm foot bath to begin the rebalancing and re-grounding process. I float to the massage table. Warm oil is drizzled and salt sprinkled over my body. While my therapist scrubs new life into my skin, I take in the native bird calls. I am then coated in a luscious mud (chosen prior to the treatment, based on my sensory needs) and wrapped up securely like a precious gift. While the mud puts precious minerals back into my skin and continues the cleansing process, I get to lay back and enjoy my all-time favourite – a head and scalp massage. I am so relaxed I nearly fall asleep, but will myself to stay awake so I don’t miss anything!
Getting back to nature, I wash the mud from my skin under the outdoor shower, enjoying the wee audience of a few local birds, with yachts visible in the distance out to sea. As the mud washes away, it takes my tired, dry skin with it. I’m now relaxed enough to absorb my surroundings. At the end of my treatment room are glass folding doors. They are fully open and a few steps away (or so it seems) is the sea. To my left is the other wall, which unfolds so there is no barrier between indoors and the little courtyard where I shower.
Completing the treatment is the uplifting and rhythmic Kodo massage, at the end of which I feel totally uplifted. When people say you’ll be taken on a sensory journey, I now know what they mean. The journey takes me to a final destination of being recharged and energised, ready to face the world again.
A special mention must go to the qualia food! Like everything here, it is world-class. The chilli crab at lunch is a stand-out, and nothing makes a meal more memorable than a couple of whales frolicking in the water right in front of you while you enjoy the taste of paradise.
The champagne is enjoyed watching the sunset from the highest point on the island, where qualia host twilight drinks every night.
There are some lovely (and challenging) bushwalks on the island. Make the effort to climb Peaks Passage – once you get to the top, you are on the highest point of the island and the views go as far as the eye can see.
Stretching along the Queensland coastline for over 2,000 kilometres, the Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef system in the world. The Whitsunday Islands is a group of 74 islands, the largest of which is Hamilton Island.
phone 1300 780 959