Four New Hotels Are Reinventing Queensland’s Whitsundays

Mother Nature has not been kind to the Whitsundays over the past decade. Cyclone Debbie hit in 2017 and Cyclone Marcia just two years before that. In 2011 Tropical Cyclone Anthony swept through, as did Cyclone Yasi, which the Bureau of Meteorology described as “one of the most powerful cyclones to have affected Queensland since records commenced”.

There has been a lot of damage and devastation. But out of the debris have sprung four remarkable new resorts that celebrate tropical north Queensland with both design and activities. From Airlie Beach to Hayman Island they welcome visitors back to one of the most alluring pockets of the country. Here are the retreats you need to add to your bucket list, stat.

Elysian Retreat
Few resorts are as exclusive as Elysian: you arrive by helicopter, then check in to one of only 10 beautifully appointed beachfront villas. On a private cove enveloped by rainforest, this is the only accommodation – the only development – on the entire Long Island, which means the maximum number of other guests you’ll be sharing paradise with is 18.

A redux of the award-winning Paradise Bay Eco Resort – left closed for many years following Marcia and Debbie – Elysian’s villas ooze barefoot-luxe charm, from the Australian hardwood furnishings and floors to the light-capturing cathedral ceilings. Yet all the style doesn’t come at the expense of sustainability; the retreat is 100 per cent solar-powered.

Between swings in the hammock, make the most of the lagoon-style pool filled with stress-relieving magnesium water, glide by the sights on a paddleboard or in a glass-bottomed kayak, explore the Coral Sea on a guided snorkelling tour with a marine biologist, or retreat to the resort’s breezy restaurant, where produce comes from the on-site organic garden as well as nearby farms.

InterContinental Hayman Island Resort
Since switching management a number of times since millionaire Reg Ansett – the founder of now-defunct airline Ansett Australia – built it in the 1950s, Hayman Island resort’s newest incarnation is by the InterContinental Hotel Group. The most northerly of the Whitsunday Islands, Hayman’s $135-million makeover touched everything from the five restaurants and bars to the 166 rooms and suites, scattered across three wings in a crisp palette of ivory, beige and chocolate.

If money is no object, you’ll want to book the 400-square-metre Beach House overlooking the sand and featuring three suites, each with a private pool. For everyone else, there are two other places to swim, including the hotel’s signature lagoon-style pool you can slip straight into from some rooms.

The resort is alone on the 400-hectare island, with the Great Barrier Reef and some of the world’s best diving and snorkelling on its doorstop. You can jump in a chopper and head for a private picnic on the sparkling sand at Whitehaven Beach, via an overhead loop of Heart Reef – a picture-perfect composition of coral that has naturally formed into the shape of a heart.

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