As soon as you enter the airport terminal on Hamilton Island you are greeted by cheerful Qualia staff who take your baggage tags and ask what your cases look like (at which point I struggled to describe a suitcase I have travelled with for years!) and usher you straight into a shuttle bus. The next time you see you cases they are settling in to your luxurious pavilion (we kept referring to the huge standalone accommodations as villas as they were as large as one – but on qualia they are called pavilions).
Travelling to and from the airport in a bus is the only time you are in a traditional motorised road vehicle whilst staying here, as the main form of transport on the island is the Golf Buggy. One of which is included in your package at Qualia, as you need it to get around the sprawling grounds. You can also then explore the island on it, as we did every day of our four-day stay.
You are checked in to Qualia while seated in the Long Pavilion. As you get off the bus to walk into the entrance you are greeted by a literally breath-taking wow factor view our across the island to the sea framed at the bottom by an infinity lap pool (which hardly any guests ever use we were told) and the wooden roof of the pavilion at the top.
After check-in you are given a short guide to your golf buggy and you follow your check-in host down to your pavilion. This is when wow factor number two occurs. The pavilions are spaced far apart, each with an area to park and charge your buggy. On opening the doors you enter a vast room with floor to wall glass doors and windows on the opposite side overlooking another stunning view of lush greenery below and ocean and island beyond.
Drawing yourself away from the view you take in the rich wooden floors, quirky but comfortable sofa and chairs, king-size bed, balcony with loungers and chairs and then massive bathroom with twin basins, deep bath and shower with enough space to hold a small party. There are many quality touches to the room including speakers in the ceiling to play music (their choice or your own from your iPod), free soft drinks and tea and coffee-making facilities.
Breakfast is included in your rate and you enjoy that in the Long Pavilion where you order à la carte from a generous menu. Again there are nice touches like a platter of fruit, smoothie and homemade granola bar is served while you make your choice. This is also where the fine dining takes place in the evenings that includes a multi-course taster menu.
Down at Pebbles Beach is the second pool on the property. This is the main pool surrounded by sun loungers and a series of covered cabanas. The pool is large and deep and has an infinity edge looking over the ocean. There is also a more informal restaurant here that serves lunch and dinner, as well as a bar. The food here was excellent. Down at Pebble Beach is a small but well stocked gym (although again many people do not ever get round to using it), free yoga classes and the water sports centre where you can go kayaking, sailing or get taken by motorboat out to a remote beach. We did this on one occasion and highly recommend it. We booked a picnic and we spend a few hours alone on a beach that had been set up with umbrella and cushions to lie on.
There is a helipad in the grounds as well and if you book a helicopter excursion to the Great Barrier Reef with Hamilton Island Air they come and fetch and drop you off there. It was great fun to scoot down to the pad from our pavilion in time for the helicopter to swoop in and whisk us off on our trip to the reef.
Qualia is a very luxurious and special place to stay. It has been voted by readers of Conde Nast Magazine as one of the best places in the world to visit. The grounds are tropical and lush. The rooms are huge, immaculate and fabulous to stay in. The food is excellent and the service efficient and accommodating, with staff of all different nationalities on hand to ensure your check-in and queries can be dealt with in your own language when possible.
Expectations were high when we arrived, but were definitely met. There was a range of nationalities staying, and most seemed to be there to celebrate a special occasion of some kind. Using that as an excuse to spend on staying in this premium resort. I cannot imagine many come away disappointed.
The biggest test for me being that we would come back, and are encouraging friends to experience it. This is how I usually rank places I stay. It passed big time!
Watch my video tour of this stunning resort on Hamilton Island: Big Trip Australia: I stayed at Qualia on Hamilton Island as one of the stops on a long trip around Australia, which was followed by a cruise from Sydney to Dubai on Cunard’s Queen Mary 2. For more on the trip and other experiences: tipsfortravellers.com/bigtrip2014