By James Dutton
Upon escaping the hustle and bustle of Hamilton Island Airport, we were welcomed with cool glasses of water, hand towels and a Mercedes, the ‘Qualia treatment‘ was just beginning. We entered the front gates of the retreat and negotiated the winding driveway up to the main entrance and were overwhelmed by the magnificent view which was reminiscent of a Jurassic Park landscape. We were treated to champagne on arrival and left to relax and absorb the view.
Qualia’s harmonious design is the work of Australian architect Chris Beckingham. His philosophy was to create a luxurious Australian retreat that stimulates the senses and draws the outside in. The resulting design combines a unique sense of space, openness and harmony. Set amongst native Eucalypts, each pavilion has been handcrafted from the finest imported and local timber and stone. To complement the natural surrounds, Dennis Nona’s artworks adorn the walls and Freedman Rembel has furnished the interiors with fabrics and patterns inspired by nature. Guests can choose from two types of spacious, one-bedroom freestanding pavilions or a private Beach House. An array of timber in the entrance area and an intriguing mirror of water created by the infinity edge pool expanding to the north and to the open water of the Whitsundays conveys a sense of connection to the elements. The usual paraphernalia of a front desk and concierge are out of immediate sight, club seating and a library down a discreet hallway create a relaxed atmosphere.
Upon check-in we learned that all food was included in the package, with some small charges on mini bar, alcohol and spa treatments. We were then taken by golf buggy to our retreat at the top of the resort. Luscious greenery, timber and high stone walls conceal the amazing view that awaits your entrance. The furniture and fit-out is plush with Australian flair. Our service manager ensured us that everything, and I mean everything, was at our disposal. From a fully stocked mini bar consisting of my favourite Grey Goose vodka, Turkish delights, to a full entertainment system allowing our iPod and camera to be plugged in to view the day’s activities. An icemaker, private plunge pool and outdoor shower to relax and take in the abundance of natural surroundings and warmth of the Whitsundays as well as a very well-planned air-conditioning system to cool off if the warmth was too much to take in.
This 61-room and suite luxury hotel, part of Bob Oatley’s big plans for Hamilton Island, has some specialty suites and I look forward to seeing much more of his work on the island. The main room is entirely wood-panelled and decorated in soft fabrics custom-designed to suit the hotel. The window coverings allow guests to sleep uninterrupted throughout the night then well into the morning if desired. Soft-covered arm chairs, and a cream sofa with matching large outdoor bed allows you to lie down outside whilst being protected from direct sun, accompanied by an outdoor teak dining setting. The flat screen television is set into the soft fabric wall.
The main pool has been designed to once again blend in with the beauty of the region. Lunch, which is served whenever desired, was a choice of food to satisfy all palettes, and a selection of house cocktails to sip by the bar. Mention must be made of the degree of aptitude and attention from the staff as we ordered lunch when it was noted that I had an intolerance to a certain ingredient. The next day at dinner, served by another staff member, we were advised that this ingredient would not be in the food we were ordering. Qualia deserves an excellent reputation with this attention to detail after only 6 months of operation. I was truly impressed. Qualia staff take their role seriously and with pride.
The quality of the cuisine was extremely high. Meals were meticulously presented, the cocktails were worth the trip alone and there was even a never-ending supply of chocolate croissants baked especially and hand-delivered even when guests are poolside.
Spa Qualia offers the ultimate in anti-stress, anti-ageing, detoxifying and cleansing treatments. It makes use of international organic product ranges from Phyto and Eminence. I received the signature hot stone treatment with ancient ‘Bularri Yarrul’ stones, and chakra-therapy sessions using a range of Australian essential oils from Anoint. They were as special and relaxing as the rest of my stay in the resort.
After two days at Qualia we then chartered a 47-foot Riviera called Ocean Magic for another two days. The charters are run by Ocean Dynamics and complement the service and style of Qualia their attention to detail and quality of their charter vessels are the best in the Whitsundays. The Charter took us to the northern tip of Hayman Island and then returned to Hamilton Island. Should guests wish to book these boats, we will have a charter section very soon on duttondirect.com.
Throughout your stay you receive crisp white linens and stunning Aesop essentials. Wonderful coffee, sensational selection of gastronomical choices from the daily menus and stunning service make for a truly special retreat experience.