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Tropical island holiday dreams at the luxurious Hayman Island Resort

Not for nothing are the Whitsundays off Australia’s Queensland coast known as the place to visit if you’re after a dream getaway. And this particular deluxe hideaway is the jewel in their glittering crown.

There’s a scene in the darkly comedic HBO drama The White Lotus where the staff of the tropical resort line up to greet arriving guests with carefully choreographed waving.

That’s precisely where my mind goes as our golf buggy taking us from the marina pulls up outside the main entrance to the InterContinental Hayman Island Resort and see our own welcoming party.

But while the TV show quickly descends into murderous chaos, thankfully that’s where the resemblance ends.

For tucked away in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef, this secluded island boasts the picture-postcard azure waters and pristine beaches synonymous with Australia’s Whitsundays. The only crime that’s likely to be committed here is forgetting to activate out of office on your email.

We had flown into Hamilton Island Airport and boarded a luxury launch (think Champagne and canapés) for the hour trip to Hayman Island. If you’re fancy, you can arrive by helicopter, which is only a 15-minute hop. Plenty of celebrity guests have picked this option, and while the resort’s staff are the epitome of discretion, let’s just say that I’m looking at you, Elton.

Getting to Hayman Island by boat is – even for the terminally jaded – an enchanting experience that sets the tone for what is a pretty idyllic experience. The panoramic views of the Whitsunday Islands archipelago, with its emerald isles and shimmering waters stretching out as far as the eye can see, mean I am immediately compelled to humblebrag on Instagram. The truth is, it’s so beautiful that I don’t even hate myself for it.

The boat docks at the island’s private marina and then it’s just a short golf buggy ride through lush gardens and winding pathways lined with palm trees to the resort.

Plunge pool sunset at our beach pavilion? Don't mind if I do

Hayman Island holiday

Anywhere that greets me with a refreshing drink and cool towel is a winner in my book. Anywhere that insists I stay in a beachfront pavilion is a friend for life. And that is how I fell in love with Hayman Island Resort. Not that the lagoon rooms or pool suites are anything to be sniffed at (because I did indeed sniff around and found them to be as deluxe as their names suggest) but the beachfront pavilions are mere steps away from the Coral Sea with a private plunge pool, enclosed deck and separate sitting room.

I took my objectives for this holiday very seriously.

1. Relax
2. Swim with a turtle

The pavilion meant I was able to realize both within hours of arrival. Our deck made perfect viewing for spotting suitable sea life with which to take a dip (turtles yes, but plenty of rays too) and room service was only too happy to help with the ‘relax’ portion of my requirements in the form of cocktails to ease our way into downtime mode.

Not bad for a resort that was decimated in 2017 by the fury that was Cyclone Debbie. Now, you’d never know that anything had ever disturbed its vibe of contemporary elegance.

And while the main resort, with its pools, bars, restaurants and activities, is less than 10 minutes away on foot from the pavilions, if you’d prefer to enter your landed gentry era while on the island, then a buggy ride is only a call away. I would recommend walking though, especially at night, because that’s when you’ll see the most wallabies and possums.

What’s really refreshing about Hayman Island, which when we visited in September was hot and humid, are its expansive open-air atria and breezy walkways. These make pottering about to explore a particularly inviting prospect. The sea breeze flows freely throughout the resort, and expansive floor-to-ceiling windows frame views of the Coral Sea and nearby islands, blurring the lines between indoors and out.

Likewise, the lush tropical gardens envelop the resort in a riot of color and fragrance, with vibrant flowers and exotic foliage, secluded seating areas and tranquil water features, creating intimate moments of relaxation and reflection which all add to the sense of serenity and seclusion.

Not bad for a resort that was decimated in 2017 by the fury that was Cyclone Debbie. Now, you’d never know that anything had ever disturbed its vibe of contemporary elegance.

The infinity pool at Hayman Island Resort is infinitely enjoyable

An oasis of luxury

Relaxing for me almost always involves a swim. It’s fortunate then that Hayman Island boasts a series of stunning swimming pools, each designed to provide a unique experience. The main infinity pool overlooks the ocean, while those seeking tranquility can enjoy the secluded plunge pools tucked away within the lush gardens, offering a private oasis to unwind and rejuvenate.

The beach in front of the infinity pool is where we found the water sports center. The Hobie Cats were tempting, but our sailing skills were not up to the strength of the wind that day, so we settled for kayaks instead. It was still an invigorating workout with the force of the current, but the activity team kept an eye on us and we beached safely (and pleasingly) near the pool bar.

Our dedication to keeping our holiday hydration levels up at all times meant we were able to join the sunset walk up to the top of the island’s peak later that day – demanding, but worth it for the views over Blue Pearl Bay at what the islanders call ‘golden o’clock’.

It was to this same bay that we headed the next morning but by launch this time, not on foot.

Handed beach chairs, an umbrella and snorkelling gear, we were dropped off at the bay and crunched our way up the beach to find a good spot. The sun-bleached shards of coral which make up the beach looked like something out of Game of Thrones, as if we were walking on age-old broken bones. If it had been sunny, their pristine whiteness would have been in startling contrast to the expanse of sapphire sky and depths of aqua sea which fringed them.

No matter that it was overcast, the snorkeling was still wonderful, and swimming with turtles was ticked off my bucket list once more.

Elton John enjoyed this view from the Hayman Residences

Celebrate good times

I had assumed that Hayman Island was mostly for couples, but there were plenty of families there when we stayed, with young children too. Maybe it’s the layout of the resort, but despite it apparently being at capacity, it never felt remotely crowded or noisy. In fact, we were hard-pressed to cross paths with anyone during the day and we wondered where everyone had come from when dining at night.

The resort’s staff explained that for many guests, Hayman Island is a family favorite with generations holidaying, getting engaged, marrying and celebrating special birthdays or anniversaries together. I can well understand why, as there’s something for everyone. The accommodation options, which include the ultra-luxe four-bedroom Hayman Residences or three-bedroom Hayman Beach Houses, make this perfect for an extended family getaway.

There’s also the option of soothing away the undoubtedly immense stress of lazing by the pool with the aid of the attentive team at Hayman Spa.

Planet Trekkers Kids’ Club helps entertain perpetually busy little ones and the choice of five restaurants (our favorite was the Italian Amici Trattoria) mean you don’t risk suffering menu malaise by the end of your stay.

There’s also the option of soothing away the undoubtedly immense stress of lazing by the pool with the aid of the attentive team at Hayman Spa. Book ahead if you want to amp up the indulgence, though, as it’s a popular spot. I had a Reef Renewal facial with natural ingredients sourced from the Great Barrier Reef. Was it good? The fact I woke myself up with my own snoring probably tells you all you need to know about the treatment – and far more than you would ever like to know about me.

It just goes to show that I’d successfully achieved the first objective of this holiday and that’s, hands down, thanks to the resort. Yes, anywhere with palm trees and sunshine can tick the tropical paradise box, but Hayman Island truly is the real deal.

Paradise? Found.

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