Queensland’s Whitsunday archipelago comprises 74 islands: here are three of its new and revitalised stars.
A brand new build on Long Island, Elysian is just 1km off the Queensland coast, south of Shute Harbour: it’s reached only by helicopter from the airstrips at Hamilton Island or Airlie Beach. With a focus on wellness, daily yoga and organic spa treatments, there are only 20 guests on the secluded retreat at any time, and only for those 16 years and over. Rates include all meals and sunset cocktails and canapés around the fire pit or poolside each day, as well as equipment for snorkelling, SUPping, kayaking and yoga: keep an eye out for green turtles or whales, who use the Whitsundays as their nursery between June and September. Step it up a notch and book a cruise on the Lady Enid yacht or a castaway picnic. From $700 a person, twin share, elysianretreat.com.au
Also a victim of Cyclone Debbie, Daydream Island’s rebuild comes with a $100m price tag for the 277-room resort. With its eye firmly on travelling families, its statement Living Reef lagoon is now bigger and better. The 1.5 million litre sea water lagoon curls around the resort, letting guests feed its baby stingrays and swish between the coral and sea creatures of the salt-water filled reef, with a marine biologist on hand. Otherwise walk below to look up into the reef to admire the underwater beauty. Make a diary note to visit its gin bar, graze on Asian fusion food featuring Queensland produce and catch a movie at its outdoor cinema. The look is beach chic, with family suites and serenity suites sporting soft coastal tones. From $392 a night, daydreamisland.com
Hayman Island Resort
One of Australia’s signature island stays since the 1950s, Hayman Island reopens on July 1, now under the banner of the InterContinental. The private island resort has 166 rooms, suites and villas, each touched by the multi-million dollar spend required after Cyclone Debbie devastated the island in 2017. Set off the coast between Townsville and Mackay, return visitors should check the new 13-room Day Spa, while the Planet Trekkers’ kids club, with coral planting and meditation all included. The private island now has a new Beach House, comprising three self-contained suites, each with their own pool, and has revamped its small collection of private villas. On the food front, expect poolside seafood and cocktails, a casual Italian, pan-Asian and the signature brasserie-style bar, Pacific. From $750 for a retreat room, including breakfast.
Hamilton Island’s newest drawcard is its Heart Reef Pontoon: take a 30-minute ride in a private helicopter from Hamilton to Heart Island, across Whitehaven Beach to the luxury Bond-style pontoon for remote snorkelling, glass-bottom boat viewing and a light lunch. The three-hour unadulterated reef experience costs $999 a person, maximum six guests, hamiltonisland.com.au
[Heart Reef, photography: Kara Rosenlund]
Save the Date
Save the Date Great Barrier Reef Festival, August 1-4, 2019 Airlie Beach hosts one of the Whitsundays’ biggest gigs, kicking off with a comedy gala, followed by fireworks, a wearable art show, street parade and family fun day. The Whitsundays’ new underwater sculptures and a beachy long lunch are festival highlights, greatbarrierreeffestival.com.au