Qualia Whitsundays - Read our Stories and Reviews

Qualia Whitsundays

When Qualia opened two years ago the high-end arrived on the gorgeous waterways of Queensland’s Whitsunday Islands - which inspired Sheira and I to stop flying so far afield to find our next destination and rediscover the beauty at our own doorstep.

This region, only a few hours flight from Sydney, has always attracted Aussie families and honeymooners coming for short stays. Now it is on the radar of well-heeled, international guests coming a lot further to try this new, idyllic hideaway on the Coral Sea, with its stunning food and glam guests. Although we had some quibbles with service - Qualia is not quite there yet, considering its ambitions - it is the perfect spot to refresh your spirits, or as a luxe base camp for exploring one of the world’s wonders, the Great Barrier Reef.

And with Qualia’s new developments and upgrades in the works the squillionaires will certainly keep on coming...
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After a good few years gallivanting around the South Seas and summer hotspots of Europe I felt that Sheira and I needed to get reacquainted with this giant continent of ours and the best new places on offer.

I wasn’t looking
for a city experience. Aussie cities can be blessed with great beaches but urban crowding is never going to give you the same ‘let-go’ serenity that isolation will. There are some amazing camp/homestead stays but I usually prioritise water over rural, so I started searching for islands or beach resorts.

I initially
looked at the Western Coast of Australia, which is a frontier for us - and for many Sydneysiders as it is further away than Asia! The ‘other side’ of Australia is the only place in the country where you can see the sun set in the ocean. The long, empty coastline, populated by dolphin pods and pearl trawlers, has traditionally attracted backpackers and surfers.

The massive amount of new development in large coastal town, Broome got my attention (Cable Beach Resort has been around for a long time, but it doesn’t excite me). Even with a recession on, because of the resource boom in that part of the country there is $100 million worth of new accommodation coming up. But it’s a little too new. The Pinctada was just opening and only had sketch drawings online. They probably hadn’t worked out the bugs yet but it wouldn’t have worked for me anyway because the rooms are not right on the sand. I also shy away from built up, developed compounds, preferring subtle architecture that is integrated with the natural surroundings.

I came back
to North Queensland because of its great climate all year around - between 25 and 31 degrees C (or 77 to 88 F). If the scorched red Outback has a mythic, desert appeal for foreigners then this is our Garden of Eden, with rainforests, reefs and some of the greatest, palm-fringed beaches in Australia (The southern region that includes Surfers Paradise can be covered in concrete towers and suburban sprawl. Be very, very afraid).

I went through
all the obvious Barrier Reef properties, many of which we had stayed at over the years, but in the world of 5 star luxury a new name kept cropping up, Qualia. We already knew the Whitsundays, as we have a great affection for Hayman Island Resort, a way less jet-set, family oriented fun-in-the-sun standby of ours. Qualia is advertised as somewhere that finally matches the region’s world-class beauty with an international, boutique standard. I knew a couple of honeymooners and gym buddies who were really raving about it.

But I had my
reservations… I had never stayed on Hamilton Island, only passing through in transit to Hayman, where resort guests have exclusive use of the whole island. Hamilton is not a 5 star resort in its entirety; it is open to the general populace and any passers through, more like an ordinary, everyday place…

But Qualia’s intimate scale won me over. Because it is a gated property, separate from the Hamilton community, I assumed they would be able to create that sense of private, exclusive space that people like on getaways. We made an impromptu decision and took off for a three-day break, deciding to also look in on Hayman Island for 1 of those days.

Most international guests will also be travelling from Sydney like we did. Considering that at Qualia it’s not only the atmosphere but the prices that point towards heaven, it’s surprising that there is no business class service there. Flights up the coastline take up Qualia guests, returning locals, backpackers and travellers going elsewhere on Hamilton Island in the mid-range, about $AUS 400.

The best flight to take is the Jetstar Sydney - Hamilton island run (one of Australia’s budget carriers), JQ842, which is the only direct flight and leaves Sydney daily at 11.50am. The returning JQ843 leaves Hamilton Island at 1.50pm, so you are not too rushed as you tear yourself away at the end of your stay. Reality doesn’t have to bite; it can nibble!

Jetstar is only
a one-class carrier which is not ideal obviously but do-able for a 1-hour flight from Sydney (2 hours from Melbourne). It’s the best choice because Virgin Blue fly via Brisbane. It wins points for being direct - but not for service. The food choice ran out by Row 12, which is amazing for an everyday route. You’d think that they would be savvy about food patterns by now! Eat big at either end before boarding because the food is really limited.

THE SEATS TO BOOK are 1A, 1B, 1C for double the legroom They board last and leave first (we paid an extra $40 per seat when booking online for our legroom but these are free).

Failing that,
book emergency rows 12 & 13, Seats A,B, C, D, E and F on the Airbus 8220. And avoid Row 1 seats E and F or you’ll be up close and personal with the toilets.

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