Review: Qualia Luxury Resort, Whitsunday Islands, Australia

This post is one chapter on our trip to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, Melbourne with The Great Ocean Road, exploring The Yarra Valley and the beaches of The Gold Coast via Qantas First Class. This trip was booked using Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

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Review: Qualia Luxury Resort, Hamilton Island, Whitsunday Islands, Queensland, Australia

“Qualia is a world class luxury resort with service levels and attention to detail that is unparralelled”

The original plan for our trip was for a three day stay on Hamilton Island, followed by a three day, two night tour around the Whitsunday Islands on a small group sailing catamaran. We had booked the group trip through Sailing Whitsundays, an online travel agency for many boats operating out of Airlie Beach. I had picked them after a little research on Trip Advisor and generally favourable travel reviews.

On arrival in Hamilton Island, I received an email indicating that our tour on Whitsunday Blue, which was to start in 3 days, had been cancelled. There was a request to contact the agent. I didn’t know if similar to airlines, we were going to be automatically re-booked on a different boat or what the contingency arrangements were. 

We contacted the agent and we were told that the trip had been cancelled thanks to low occupancy. It turns out we were the only ones booked on the trip and the departure was “not guaranteed”. Of course, this was not advertised on the website and fact this was silently absent. Since there were no other boats departing that day, we were asked to move to a day earlier, or later. We were in pre-paid accommodation at Qualia so we were unable to move dates without giving up expensive accomodation. The best that Sailing Whitsunday’s could do would re-contact boat operator and would get back to us by the next business day. 

Ultimately, the whole thing ended up cancelled “with our apologies” and a full refund. As a result, we then had to find last minute accommodation for the two nights that we were supposed to be on the boat. As luck would have it, Hamilton Island accommodation was completely full thanks to school holidays break. After some careful deliberation, we ended up one additional night at Qualia at regular price, and we moved our departing flight with Virgin Australia up one day and departed one day earlier to take in additional time on the Gold Coast. The only funny part to this whole thing was that we now had 4 bottles of wine with us initially intended for the boat, that now needed to be enjoyed.

Ultimately, it was a major headache for this part of the trip as it took several hours to research alternate arrangements while we were at Qualia. Sailing Whitsundays’ was very polite to deal with, but like any online travel agency, they conveniently get to blame the boat operator while they walk away from the whole thing. Unfortunately, there was no option to book direct with the boat operator. If you plan on booking a boat tour through them, I would recommend having a back up plan as a safety measure. 

Booking Qualia Luxury Resort:

I had booked our accommodations at Qualia direct through their website. Although they are a member of the American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts program, I could not find any availability through their program or Amex booking website. I doubt that this was because they were full, as the hotel featured several extended stay discounts (25%) and various promotions. We had considered staying at the newly re-furbished Hayman Island which was now operating under the InterContinental Flag, but were ultimately put off by the extended transfer fee $600 USD+ per person, and the difficulties of getting off the island for local area excursions.

After we landed, we were met at the Hamilton Airport by representatives with cold towels and water. As was custom, I provided the Qantas luggage claim slip to the staff and they took care of collecting the bags on our behalf. 

We were immediately led to an awaiting van and escorted the 5 minutes up the road to qualia with a brief description of the resort on the way. The driver kept in touch with the main team using a secret service wireless earpiece almost the whole way. We passed by the Hamilton Island Reef view hotel which was probably a good idea in the nineteen eighties but looks pretty out of place given the natural beauty of this place.

Arriving to Qualia Luxury Resort:

On arrival at the main building entitled “the long pavilion” we were met with waiting glasses of Charles Heindseick champagne or fruit juice. MrsWT73, the champagne lover, opted for the champagne while we completed a seated check in on the lobby couches. In an impressive move, the resort offered top ups’ on the champagne while we were processing the check in. It was early and our room wasn’t quite ready so MrsWT73 had 3; which left her quite impressed. How could you not be impressed with open air views like this on arrival…

The Room: A Leeward Pavillion Villa

“The room was exceptionally spacious and well equipped, including free flow premium mineral water”

After presentation of our driver’s licence’s (for both of us) were assigned our golf buggy (#44) and given a brief demonstration on how to drive it. We drove to our assigned Villa #46 (following a host). We were given an introduction to the villa, and explained that there would be turn down service between 6-9 PM. 

There hasn’t been much written about the Leeward Pavilion (base room) villas but they are very comfortable. They have a large living room with a couch and two loungers. The color palette isn’t my style but it certainly fit with the look. 

Being that it was MrsWT73’s birthday week, the hotel was kind enough to provide a bottle of champagne for the room (arranged in advance). This was in addition to a welcome bottle of wine and an appetizer tray, which appears to be the custom.

The washroom were absolutely humungous and featured a separate stand up shower in addition to an oversized bathtub. The toiletries were Aesop branded and replenished daily.

The room had a substantial mini bar. Our accommodation plan had free unlimited non-alcoholic drinks, meaning that everything that didn’t have alcohol in the minibar was free. This included the super tasty Cape Grimm “rainwater from Tazmania” bottled water that would be served at breakfast. I couldn’t get enough of this stuff and it was gone by the end of every night we stayed. The room also featured a proper icemaker for self catered beverages. This was especially handy except for the fact we had those 4 bottles of wine (laughing).

There was a small desk in the corner which didn’t have a view. It was mostly a drop point for charging of devices and laptops.

My first impression of the view from the room wasn’t all to spectacular. It turns out it was against a slope that had suffered cyclone damage and was undergoing re-growth. The inlet we were overlooking was also muddy thanks to being at low tide. It filled up in the early morning and made things much more scenic and picturesque to look at. There is a robust deck and two loungers along with a table and chairs.

The room views of the inlet at low tide and the cyclone damaged slope.

Every night at turndown service, the hotel set up a beaker of heated aromatherapy scented liquid. Upon seeing it for the first time, like the true C-Suite executive she is, MrsWT73 commented “What waste of resources”. However, I really enjoyed the smell and it wasn’t something I would have spent time setting up at home in our otherwise busy lives.

Food and Beverage at Qualia Luxury Resort:

“A highlight of the day was the breakfast served in the The Long Pavilion where you could spot cockatoo’s over ocean views and breezes”

Breakfast was served every day was in the Long Pavilion. The breakfast was served with mixed fruits and an eye opener smoothie. The breakfast was made to order with smaller items available from the buffet. The buffet items consisted of cold cut and cured meats, artisan cheeses, shaved coconut, raisins dates, and apricot chunks. There was an emphasis on organic and all the food was exceptionally fresh. The main items were incredibly varied ranging from the Australian breakfast consisting of eggs, roasted tomatoes, field mushrooms, sourdough toast and sautéed spinach (absolutely massive). Other dates I had smoked salmon eggs benedict, heirloom tomato avocado smash with feta cheese, mint and balsamic. The food was of excellent quality. 

“Eggs benedict with smoked salmon”

“Croque monsieur”

“The Australian”

My Thoughts on Qualia Luxury Resort:

In summary, a four day stay was a most excellent and relaxing vacation. I have been fortunate enough to stay at many hotels around the world and this one was clearly in the top 3 stays of my lifetime. The only negatives aren’t related to the hotel, but rather that there is no immediately accessible sandy beach from the hotel property.

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