Qualia Resort: Whitsundays hotel chosen by Oprah, Johnny Depp, Taylor Swift


Sitting on the northernmost tip of Hamilton Island, this sanctuary has been towards the top of every “best of” or “luxury resort list” imaginable.

Boasting a growing celebrity guest list, this Aussie hideaway has established itself as the resort of choice for some of the world’s biggest A-listers (think Oprah Winfrey, Chris Hemsworth, Taylor Swift and Johnny Depp).

So when I started packing my bags for the Whitsundays, I thought I had a pretty sound idea of what to expect from my weekend stay at our very own ultra-luxe resort, known as Qualia.

Chris Hemsworth channelling his inner Kung Fu Panda while staying at Qualia on Hamilton Island. Picture: Supplied
media_cameraChris Hemsworth channelling his inner Kung Fu Panda while staying at Qualia on Hamilton Island. Picture: Supplied
Australian model and Myer ambassador Rachael Finch has stayed at the luxurious resort. Picture: rachael_finch/Instagram
media_cameraAustralian model and Myer ambassador Rachael Finch has stayed at the luxurious resort. Picture: rachael_finch/Instagram
Oprah chose to stay at Qualia as part of her Australian tour in 2010. Picture: Brian Cassey
media_cameraOprah chose to stay at Qualia as part of her Australian tour in 2010. Picture: Brian Cassey

I’d been dreaming of this island getaway for weeks, reading every detail possible about what to expect from “Australia’s best resort”.

However, following a horror season two years prior, with Cyclone Debbie shredding through the island region, I expected Hamilton to still be in some form of recovery.

But as our plane soared over the white horses that danced between superyachts practising for the island’s annual Race Week, we were met by turquoise water framing the popular holiday destination. And on arrival, there wasn’t a tree out of place.

We had made it to Hamilton Island, and my “suite to the stars” lay awaiting.

Qualia has been on most ‘best of’ resort lists around the world. Picture: Supplied
media_cameraQualia has been on most ‘best of’ resort lists around the world. Picture: Supplied

Stepping off the plane and making our way across the small runway, it wasn’t long until our first taste of VIP began.

“Ms Brown, I have your bags,” a member of the concierge team said as I was greeted with a cold towel and refreshment.

Within moments, I was being ushered into a gleaming Audi A8 and whisked through the backstreets of the popular holiday island towards my 48-hour home.

As we meandered past the marina, the foreshore was in party mode for Hamilton Island’s Race Week. As the biggest event on the island’s annual calendar, visitors shake off their winter coats in favour of boat shoes and bikinis to enjoy good food, champagne and (you guessed it) yacht races.

Cruising past the yacht club where sailors watched the waters, our car climbed over One Tree Hill (the best place on the island to catch a sunset) as we made our way towards the resort.

Behind Jurassic Park-like gates hiding on the other side of town, my experience of life on the A-list had only just begun.

The champagne is flowing as soon as your step into the reception area — known as Long Pavilion — which also flaunts the best view on the whole property.

Designed to take advantage of its location, with spectacular views of the water and Whitsunday Island, the resort’s reception area throws you straight into holiday mode.

The view from the Long Pavilion as soon as you arrive to Qualia is quite an eyesore, obviously. Picture: Celeste Mitchell
media_cameraThe view from the Long Pavilion as soon as you arrive to Qualia is quite an eyesore, obviously. Picture: Celeste Mitchell

While the Whitsundays has been under intense recovery since Cyclone Debbie ripped through the region in 2017, this year has geared up to be the best time to venture back to the islands surrounding the Great Barrier Reef.

During the redevelopment of the area, Hamilton — as well as neighbouring islands Daydream and Hayman — have all adapted to their own breath of luxury.

But as the winner of various tourism awards and recognised by Condé Nast Traveller on their USA and UK Gold Lists and Hot Lists, Qualia is a unique expression of Australian luxury setting the benchmark in luxury travel by providing a distinctly local experience.

Each room has a welcome cheese plate and bottle on ice.
media_cameraEach room has a welcome cheese plate and bottle on ice.
The champagne starts flowing as soon as you arrive.
media_cameraThe champagne starts flowing as soon as you arrive.

To experience Australia’s most luxurious resorts — at an average room rate of $1508 — staying in one of the 60 pavilions on the property doesn’t come cheap. But if you’re after a night or two in the lap of luxury, you get what you pay for.

The pavilions are immensely private, with each secretly hidden from the next, a drawcard that brings A-listers, honeymooners and adults simply wanting to find an escape without reaching for a passport.

View with your bath, anyone? Picture: Hamilton Island
media_cameraView with your bath, anyone? Picture: Hamilton Island
Each room has a fully stocked minibar. Picture: Qualia
media_cameraEach room has a fully stocked minibar. Picture: Qualia

Equipped with everything you need to barely leave your bed, bath or in some pavilions your own private plunge pool, there is good reason to venture outside of your room — I promise!

At the base of the resort, below Long Pavilion, sits Pebble Beach which is home to one of the resort’s two exclusive restaurants on the property.

Dining at Long Pavilion doesn’t come cheap. Picture: Qualia
media_cameraDining at Long Pavilion doesn’t come cheap. Picture: Qualia
Take your pick between two of the resorts restaurants. Picture: Qualia
media_cameraTake your pick between two of the resorts restaurants. Picture: Qualia

The food and the wine isn’t cheap, but if you’re a fan of fine dining with uninterrupted views of one of Australia’s most picturesque regions, it’s well worth the hit to your credit card.

Up the romance with a dinner on Pebble Beach
media_cameraUp the romance with a dinner on Pebble Beach

If you’re a mad man, and filling up on food and champagne isn’t your thing — a bit of physical activity isn’t hard to come by.

The resort offers guests use of their catamarans, paddle boats or a round of croquet at sunset.

For those looking to truly experience the Great Barrier Reef, Hamilton Island has just launched a world-first experience that will take you soaring over the world-famous Whitehaven Beach and on to Heart Island.

For the adventurous, you will want to take a trip out to the world-first Heart Island pontoon.
media_cameraFor the adventurous, you will want to take a trip out to the world-first Heart Island pontoon.
Taking off from the resort, nothing compares to flying over the famous reef.
media_cameraTaking off from the resort, nothing compares to flying over the famous reef.

You’ll get picked up direct from Qualia (they have their own private helipad) and flown over the turquoise waters to Heart Island — a world-first $22 million pontoon developed right near the famous reef. Circling above the iconic love heart reef before landing on the super-luxurious pontoon, it’s an experience like nothing else — and one you really won’t appreciate until you’ve seen it from above.

Qualia Beach House, where Oprah Winfrey chooses to stay, on Hamilton Island
media_cameraQualia Beach House, where Oprah Winfrey chooses to stay, on Hamilton Island

Closer to your home away from home, a lush day spa and even a cheeky Sake and Sashimi course await. Informative and interactive, the course takes the concept of wine and cheese tasting to the next level. Just line your stomach beforehand, because the Sake hits you out of the park.

As someone who always wants to explore the moment I arrive to a new place, the experience of Qualia is different. You don’t want to leave (perhaps it’s because of the price tag) but also because you know the best of the island is at your doorstep.

After winning the award as the Best Resort in the World in 2012, the multimillion-dollar efforts to create one of Australia’s premiere stays has certainly paid off.

This writer stayed at Qualia as a guest of Hamilton Island Tourism

Originally published as The Aussie resort celebs obsess over



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