In Travel

Post $135 Million Refurbishment, How Hayman Island Got Its Groove Back

When you think of private pool villas fronting onto sandy beaches, crystal blue waters teeming with turtles and stingrays, and private island resorts lined by palm trees, you’re probably thinking of a host of overseas destinations – the Maldives, Fiji or even Tahiti. So what if I was to tell you that a world-class resort, offering all this and more, is less than a few hours away by plane?

Often Australians consider international destinations as their first port of call for lavish beach getaways, but the new $135 million refurbishment at Hayman Island (just a short boat ride or heli transfer from the airport at Hamilton Island), has put the Whitsundays firmly back on the luxury map.

Following a tumultuous history of cyclone damage, this private island getaway has changed operational hands from Hayman Island’s own brand, to international favourite One and Only (2014-2017), to a refurbishment and reopening by Intercontinental in July this year.

hayman island

The multi-million dollar investment was worth the wait; the new interiors are chic and relaxing, the food and beverage options are top notch, and the pool areas feel refreshed and upmarket.

Entry level rooms still feel very well appointed, with the layout of the modest retreat room (often booked out for well-heeled kids and nannies, as the on-site marketing team tells me, due to their location backing off the private beachfront pool villas) nailing the upmarket brand of the Intercontinental. To be lusting over the private garden-facing bath of the cheapest room on site? Well there’s something to be said about that.

The generous sized suites are airy and laid-back, oozing understated luxury whilst opening out to a sunny balcony overlooking your choice between a pool view or a lagoon view. Pool access suites afford guests a private deck from which you can dive straight into the expansive 6.2 million litre main pool. But what we’re really here for is the beach wing.

The three-bedroom Hayman Beach House is pure luxury: the main bedroom leads out onto a private infinity pool that soaks in the spectacular wide views of the main beach, mere steps away. But don’t worry, you don’t have to share – the other two bedrooms also have a private pool each.

If there’s just the two of you, book a beachfront pool villa. The layout is genius, with private entry from a secluded, fenced off beach wing garden leading into an open bathroom, flowing into your private pool courtyard, then leading to a bedroom with stunning views and direct beach access. All sections feature automatic blinds that allow you to control your privacy options, lending a thoughtful understanding of how guests would use the space.

There are five dining options on site, and while some may suggest that is too few, the diverse and delicious menus more than make up for the small number. On a side note, for those on a babymoon or preferring alcohol free options, Hayman offers a unique mocktail menu for each food destination – a considered touch that isn’t often thought of at resort destinations.

On site, the spa delivers excellent treatments in partnership with Aussie brand Sodashi, an all-natural, cruelty free, vegan skincare brand that takes cues from botanical and marine ingredient sources. There are the usual watersports on offer – small catamarans, stand up paddleboards and kayaks to name a few – that you can launch straight off the sandy beach, as well as plenty of activities on site to keep you busy.

Image: Bianca O’Neill

Off-island, you can indulge in some passable snorkelling or sunbathing at one of the three close-by destinations surrounding Hayman – Blue Pearl Bay, Langford Island or Bali Hai – although if you’re here for the world class underwater vistas of the Great Barrier Reef, we suggest splashing your cash on a day trip further afield.

We took a private helicopter to the incomparable Whitehaven Beach to spend half a day bathing in the azure waters and sipping a bottle of champagne on the whitest sands in the world. Taking the chopper means that you get to experience an on-beach landing, far away from the day-trippers, and often resulting in an entire stretch of sand all to yourself. That alone is worth the $480pp price tag.

After a blissful five days soaking in the Whitsundays from our very own beachfront pool villa, I was considering why I often travel abroad for tropical holidays when we have world-class offerings right in our backyard.

(All images: Will Salkeld Photography / Hayman Island, unless specified) 

Published 28 November, 2019