WOW. Where do I even start with this place?
Qualia is one of Australia’s most exclusive resorts, and sits on the northernmost tip of Hamilton Island. It’s an adults-only luxury resort made up of 60 private pavilions, (all boasting unparalleled views of the surrounding Whitsunday islands) and is the perfect escape for couples! So where else would my husband and I choose to spend our Wedding Anniversary/Honeymoon?
The exceptional service starts as soon as you step off the plane, with Qualias own service-desk at the airport to receive guests (you don’t even have to hang around for your luggage!) for a seamless transfer to the resort. There, you are met with complimentary champagne as you walk in to the main pavilion and take in those breathtaking views of the Whitsundays!
There are two types of villas: Leeward (starting at $1400AUD per night) and Windward (starting at $2100AUD per night). We opted for the Windward pavilion which comes with a private plunge pool, and a beautiful bath overlooking that incredible Whitsundays view.
The grounds of the resort are truly stunning – Instagram-worthy, if you will – with lush, tropical gardens meandering around each villa to ensure the utmost of privacy. There are two pools on the property, one up at the main entrance of the Long Pavillion (which most guests just assume is one of those pretty display pools, but we are assured you are allowed to swim in there!) and the main pool down at Pebble Beach. Pebble Beach is the main area that guests hang out by the pool, with options of sunbeds down by the beach, or private bungalows by the pool. Down here there is no shortage of service, with the waitstaff ensuring your cocktails are topped up frequently! On the weekends, and in the Summer months, these sunbeds are hot property so you will need to get down here pretty early to secure your spot by the pool!
As you open the doors to your villa, you are met with those famous qualia views thanks to the expansive floor to ceiling windows that wrap around the entire room. Our Windward pavilion was perfectly prepared, and we very much appreciated the complimentary bottle of Charles Heidsieck waiting on ice! Our luggage was mysteriously waiting for us in our villa (thank you, luggage fairy!) and the room itself is very well equipped – with all non-alcoholic juices, soft drinks and Cape Grim sparkling water complimentary and topped up daily. The bathroom is equipped with luxurious Aesop products, to ensure that you are able to slip a little deeper in to relaxation before draping yourself in a fluffy robe! BEWARE of the Cockatoos: they lull you in to a false sense of security by making you think you’ve got yourself a little bird friend, and then they fly on in and steal your sugar sachets!
Perhaps my favourite perk of living the high life, is the downturn service. It is EXCEPTIONAL! Coming home from an exhausting day of lounging around Pebble Beach, working on your tan, and sipping a few too many Elderflower Sours – it’s nice to come back to a perfectly cleaned villa, blinds drawn, mood lighting on, fluffy mats and bottled water by the bed and candles in the bathroom to encourage you to make the most of that lovely bath! They also leave a pot of blooming tea, and some handcrafted chocolates. Like I said, exceptional!
What do you do with yourselves when you come to this romantic paradise for your sexy honeymoon? You go your separate ways, of course! My husband booked himself in to a full day fishing charter with Renegade Fishing, and I booked myself in to the Spa to experience the signature 2hr qualia experience “Kumali Ritual”.
Kumali is an Aboriginal word meaning sacred, and this uniquely cleansing and nourishing treatment captures all that is Australian. A ground Macadamia nut and Bamboo pumice uncovers new skin, rich earth elements green and white clay envelop and draw out impurities. While cocooned, revel in a deeply therapeutic head and neck massage, then wash away your cares in our private outdoor rain shower. Aromatic warmed poultices combining medicinal Australian natives Kaffir lime, Tamarind leaf, Quandong and Kakadu plum massage your body, deeply infusing antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Shea Butter, Lemon Myrtle and Rose Geranium hydrate and restore your skins’ optimal glow.
As soon as you walk through the doors of the spa, you feel this deep sense of relaxation wash over your body. I love a good day spa, and spa qualia is no exception. It feels private, it feels personal, and it feels like time stands still while you are there. The facilities are top notch (as you would expect) with more Aesop products in the shower, dyson hair dryers, a steam room and a vichy shower – all of which you are able to utilise during your entire stay, and not just when visiting the spa!
My treatment room was open and private, and we start off with a warm herbal foot scrub before moving to the treatment bed for a pumice and mud wrap, followed by a private outdoor shower. It was raining when I was having my outdoor shower, which really just made me relax even further! HEAVEN! Then we finish the treatment with those warm poultices to massage your body, and my goodness, the smell coming out of these things with all the Australian native herbs and what not! This all helps to completely relax your body, so that you don’t die from complete shock when you go to sign the bill at the end of your treatment. Yikes!
Hot Tip: Take your poultices with you back to your room, and chuck them in the bath to re-ignite those senses! Plus, they were expensive YAKNOWWHATIMSAYIN. Multi-use!
There are plenty of things to keep you entertained at the resort. So much so, that you needn’t leave the grounds of qualia if you do not wish to do so! The resort has complimentary activities like sailing, snorkelling, stand-up-paddle-boarding, kayaking, yoga daily, a well equipped gym, a library, and a spa. If there’s anything else you want to tee up, while on the island, Guest Services can arrange absolutely anything for you. We had planned to take full advantage of the Hollywood A-lister life, and utilise that private qualia helicopter pad to take a private helicopter out to The Great Barrier reef for a day of snorkelling. But unfortunately our fat asses put us over the weight threshold and meant that we needed to purchase the third seat on our helicopter HAHA so that dream was shortly lived. But I have heard it’s a lovely way to see the GBR, if you ain’t so chunky that is!
We did, however, book ourselves in to the Sake and Sashimi tasting class (an obvious choice when you’re told you’re too fat to fly LOL!) held on Wednesday evenings and I must say, we were both pleasantly surprised with how much we enjoyed some good quality Sake and how much there was to learn about the stuff!
Hamilton Island itself is a very small island. You could technically walk it, if you were one of those fitness freaks. I am not, so I made use of my golf buggy. The island kind of has a “mini Waikiki” feeling about it, I thought. And it also makes you realise how much people hate rich people. People would laugh and point, and roll their eyes as soon as they see the “qualia” printed across the front of your golf buggy. “Ohhhhh they’re staying at KWAHHHLIAAA” you would hear them say, as you overhear another crowd conversing about “ERMAGHERD, HAVE YOU HEARD HOW MUCH THAT QUALIA PLACE IS TO STAY AT?”. Man, rich people have it tough, you know. Having to put up with this kind of judgement!
One place that deserves a good shout out, is the bakery! You can’t miss it. It’s located in the main street and literally has a giant sign saying “THE BAKERY”. The bread, the sandwiches, the sweets, just delicious! I recommend the roasted pumpkin and beetroot gourmet sandwich. It’s freaking delish! My husband enjoyed the Marina Tavern. It “just so happened” that he had a bunch of work friends staying on the island while we were over there. It kind of felt like a bit of a stitch up, like that beer ad where all the blokes take their wives for a fancy holiday and are all surprised to see that their rooms are adjoining to other rooms that their best mates just so happen to be holidaying in at the same time. Like that.
Anyways, FUN STORY TIME: he had a big day at the pub, indulging in a few too many beers. Interrupts my fluffy robe and slippers time, when he messages me to come pick him up from the pub. As we are driving a hectic 5kmph back to our villa, a big gust of wind rips through the cabin of the golf buggy and blows his akubra (hat) off his head and straight out the back of the buggy. I stop the buggy, he runs off in to the dark to collect his hat. He retrieves said hat, and jumps on to the back of the cart. I take off and hear this manly scream shriek through the night, as I look back, my husband is doing a matrix out the back of the golf buggy and literally flying sideways through the air. He hits the bitumen like a sack of shit and smashes his head on the gutter. A normal, concerned wife would be running out to check he hasn’t sustained any serious head injuries, but I think we’ve come to realise that I’m not a normal wife. Instead, I wake the whole Hamilton Island up with my roar of laughter as it echoes through the night. I couldn’t drive for like, five minutes, because I had tears streaming down my face. He tries to play it cool, saying that there was too much “Amor All” on the back platform and his footing slipped. I’m sure it had nothing to do with the fact that he was twenty beers deep on a school night!
Anyways, there’s really not much else to the island apart from a lookout that packs out with 90% of the islands population at sunset. It is pretty, though.
At Qualia itself, there are two places to eat. The Long Pavillion for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner (alternatively you can order breakfast straight to your room!), and Pebble Beach for a bar menu in the afternoon or the most epic set menu for dinner. Both have great food options, with a lot of seafood on the menu – as you can imagine, there’s not many places in the world where you can get fresher seafood! However, the menu doesn’t really change and if you’re eating there each night, the food can seem a little limited. One of the guests had been out on a fishing charter and caught a huge Nannygai which he bought back to the resort, and the chef made a complete set menu custom for him and his wife using different parts of the fish. We could have done that, but my husband holds a pretty long-standing curse when it comes to fishing – I’ve never known anyone to love fishing so much, yet be so unsuccessful at catching anything (he is going to kill me for that!).
On our last night at the resort, we did the Pebble Beach degustation with matching wines. Now, I’m not new to a degustation, but this is was up there! The food was so fresh, incredibly well cared for, and presentation as you would expect at a five-star resort. Our favourite dish was the scallop with parsnip and truffle! Of course the truffle came from some Saudi-Arabian prince that had stayed there recently and he gifted the resort with a small truffle farm – or so they tell us! But my goodness, the flavours were truly delectable!
There are plenty of other restaurants and cafes on the island, and it just takes a quick google search to see which ones are worth going to. But be warned, in down-season, the options are extremely limited!
While Qualia is an absolutely beautiful resort, in a stunning location, with fantastic service from all the staff – we still couldn’t help but feel that it was lacking something. Sure, if you’ve got the cash to splash, you absolutely would not stay anywhere else! But parts of the pavilion and the resort itself can tend to feel a little dated. I think this tripadvisor review hits the nail on the head:
Qualia is lovely – the décor is terrific, the spa exceptional, the gardens divine, the pools inviting, the food good, and the location painfully pretty. But it is also one of Australia’s most rewarded, hyped, and expensive resorts. And it doesn’t quite reach the standard it sets for itself.
Hamilton Island itself, I have no desire to revisit if I am to be perfectly honest. I much prefer the pristine beaches and reef of, say, Pumpkin Island or Lady Elliott – but they sure don’t boast the same five-star facilities that parts of Hamilton does!
Have you been to Qualia? Or is it on your bucket list? Would love to know your thoughts!
But for now, Goodbye from paradise!