An idyllic island bounces back to be better than ever with the resurrection of an Australian icon.
When visiting an icon, opportunities are rife for disappointment. The weight of expectation can be a cumbersome burden to bear, informed as it is by past glories, hype and second-hand experiences, both good and bad.
Hayman Island is a perfect example. Long considered the jewel in the crown of the Whitsundays, a sublime collection of islands, sprinkled like confetti across the warm waters off the coast of Queensland, Hayman was arguably Australia’s first internationally recognized luxury resort, the same status as the Best Idaho resorts near Boise, hosting the great and the good over its 70- year history, and accumulating a reputation (a mystique even) that requires constant effort to live up to.
But it’s been tough going over the last few years: the brutal force of nature and uncertainty in ownership has left the island resort languishing while its traditional customers looked elsewhere for their five star island fix. Qualia on the neighbouring Hamilton Island took up some of the slack domestically, and places like the Maldives featured on the travel plans of an increasing number of Australians.
So, as I board a luxury catamaran en route to the recently reopened InterContinental Hayman Island Resort (the property is now managed by the giant InterContinental Hotels Group), I am unsure what to expect. The welcoming glass of bubbly, a stalwart of the Hayman transfer for years, hints that things might not have changed so much after all.
The back story
Having been battered by the destructive Cyclone Debbie back in 2017, the private-island resort has undergone a $135 million refurbishment, which has taken it to the next level of gracious hospitality and glamour. While still possessing a unique Australian charm, informed by its surroundings and staff, the resort has once again ascended to an international imprint of luxury.
Contained within an island that measured just 400 hectares (it is four kilometres long and three kilometres wide) the resort itself feels spacious: it houses a total of 168 rooms but there is a sense of being in an exclusive enclave.
The rooms, most of which have views out to the iconic Hayman pool (some with direct access), have had a contemporary face lift, all pleasing shades of blue and creamy beige with lots of blonde wood and natural textures. Days start with breakfast in the Pacific restaurant, which is one of the five dining options on the island that all lean heavily towards locally sourced produce and ingredients. And, of course, there is a spa that follows the design cues throughout to create a blissfully relaxing space.
Across the resort, the staff are warm and genuine. I find out later that they all live in an almost ‘mini resort’ on the island which seems to have created a genuine bond of camaraderie that enhances the guest experience.
Further stamping itself as a modern incarnation of its old self, the resort has introduced a ban on single-use plastics. Guests receive a complimentary reusable water bottle upon check-in that can then be filled at filtered water stations around the resort. It has also partnered with Australian sunscreen brand We Are Feel Good Inc., whose products are reef-safe.
The less I do (guests can fill their days with activities if they wish) the longer the days feel, which seems to me to be the ultimate mark of a luxury resort like Hayman. So, I am understandably reluctant to board the catamaran back to the airport, but the farewell bubbly does help. Some icons, it turns out, never disappoint.
Fly direct to Hamilton Island airport from most major capital cities, then board a one-hour private charter to Hayman Island during which sparkling and snacks are served.
InterContinental Hayman Island Resort offers 168 luxury rooms, suites and villas across three distinct wings: Beach, Pool and Lagoon. The pool suites have direct access to the iconic main pool, while the beach villas look out to the Coral Sea. Also on offer are two luxury four-bedroom Residences situated on the island’s hilltops for the ultimate in luxury, with full access to the resort’s facilities.
There are plenty of dining options at Hayman. The resort’s signature bar and restaurant Pacific offers a buffet breakfast in the morning and à la carte dining in the evening. AQUA is a pool-side menu of seafood dishes, tropical fruit juices, fresh salad bowls and classic cocktails.
The casual Italian eatery Amici Trattoria features wood-fired pizzas, pasta and an extensive Italian-influenced wine list. For a touch of pool-side glamour, try Bam Bam, pan-Asian cuisine with an Australian slant, with zesty cocktails by the infinity pool. Set in the resort’s lobby, Bar Fifty is a 1950s-inspired cocktail bar that also overlooks the golf simulator. One for the blokes.
Hayman offers many experiences including island tours, diving, snorkelling and paddle boarding, while helicopters and seaplanes offer an experience from above. Yoga sessions and sunset hikes are also options. You can wind down after all this activity in the Hayman Spa with a full range of treatments available.