Australia’s Queensland islands are a popular holiday destination for those looking to spend some time in the sun. Located off the country’s north-eastern coast, they’re right there on the Great Barrier Reef, scuba diving’s Holy Grail. With their tropical climate and stunning beaches they’ve become synonymous with ‘idyllic’ and whether you want adventure or simply want to build sandcastles on the beach with your family, you’ll find an island that seems to have been tailor-made for you.
The rich and famous have long known that Queensland also has some very luxurious island resorts where they can hide away in privacy. If it’s within your budget, you may want to consider one of these destinations:
Hayman Island Resort
Hayman Island is situated about 560 miles north of Brisbane and is the northernmost of the islands in the Whitsunday group. Known for its pristine beaches and natural beauty, the island has been attracting well-known personalities for several decades. The first coconut palm tree on Hayman Island was planted in the mid-Thirties by writer Zane Grey, who also used what was then still a destination for fishing enthusiasts as the backdrop for one of his novels. In the Fifties, it became a true resort island and the Hayman Island Resort is now one of the most awarded five-star establishments in Australia.
Past guests include actors Sarah Michelle Gellar, Robin Williams and Kevin Costner and musicians Mariah Carey, Billy Joel and Elton John. Here Tony Blair met with Rupert Murdoch and in 2013, top model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley came to the island for a photo shoot. Legend has it that some guests once answered the door to find that the person who had been knocking was Rod Stewart, trying to get together enough people to play a game of football.
The resort offers a variety of accommodation options, from luxurious rooms and suites to penthouses, villas and a beach house. Several restaurants and bars ensure that you’ll never go hungry, whether you feel like simple Italian comfort food or innovative gourmet cuisine. There is plenty to do too, from water sports to bushwalking. The resort features facilities like tennis and squash courts, a nine-hole putting green and a spa for those days when you just need some pampering.
Getting here is incredibly easy too. You simply need to fly to Great Barrier Reef Airport on Hamilton Island and the resort will transfer you by luxury launch, seaplane or helicopter.
Qualia at Hamilton Island
Another one of the Whitsunday Islands that’s a favourite with the A-list is Hamilton Island, lying towards the southern end of the group. This was the fictional Hibiscus Island of one of Australia’s biggest hit films, Muriel’s Wedding. Toni Collette, who played the part of ABBA-fan Muriel, has returned to Hamilton Island to stay at the qualia (written all in lower case), the luxury resort that opened here in 2007.
The qualia has had many other celebrity guests, including actors Naomi Watts, Mischa Barton, Dannii Minogue, Formula 1 star Fernano Alonso, cricket legend Ian Botham, chef Gordon Ramsay, designer Donna Karan and models Gail Elliott and Yasmin le Bon. Jeremy Clarkson and James May stopped over during Top Gear’s Australian tour and when Oprah Winfrey brought a group of her most loyal fans on an all-expenses-paid tour of Down Under, this was where they started their adventure.
Celebrities flock to Hamilton Island for the scenery and wildlife, the excellent snorkelling and other water sports and sailing events like Hamilton Island Race Week. It’s not surprising that they would choose to stay at the qualia, since this five-star resort has been voted the 2012 Best Resort in the world by Condé Nast Traveler readers, beating hotels in exotic destinations like Bora Bora and The Maldives. The qualia was the first resort in Australia to have had this honour and has won many other awards for the excellent services it provides its guests, including superb restaurants, a spa and a wide range of activities available for guests to enjoy. Accommodation ranges from one-room pavilions to a beach house, all with great views over the ocean so that you may be able to spot migrating whales in season.
Lizard Island Resort
When Prince William married Kate Middleton, there were surprisingly few paparazzi photographs of them on their honeymoon. This was partly because the couple chose private and secluded Lizard Island as their destination, making it easy to escape the photographers’ lenses. The Lizard Island group lies at the northern end of the Great Barrier Reef, about 56 miles north of Cooktown. It is a national park and the group of small islands is encircled by a fringing reef, making it a prime site for scuba diving and snorkelling. The Lizard Island Resort offers a speedboat service to take guests to the best dive sites, including Cod Hole and the Blue Lagoon in the centre of the group of islands. Jet-skis and water-skis aren’t allowed in the waters around the island, so you’ll be able to explore the underwater world in peace.
There is a wealth of activities to enjoy on dry ground too. Bushwalking is a popular pastime, especially the trail up to Cook’s Look, the highest point on the island and the place from where Captain James Cook charted a safe passage through what he called the ‘insane labyrinth’ that is the Great Barrier Reef. It was Captain Cook who named the island, since they didn’t see any land animals here other than an abundance of lizards. However, you can also spot other animals like black flying-foxes, bats, pythons and various bird species.
The award-winning Lizard Island Resort can arrange excursions and other activities for you. There is a spa as well as a great bar and restaurants for recharging your batteries. Accommodation ranges from rooms and suites to villas and the ultra-luxurious Pavilion.
Orpheus Island Resort
Orpheus Island lies about 740 miles north-west of Brisbane and is part of a national park. It was established as a resort in the 1930s and hosted stage and screen legends like Vivien Leigh and Mickey Rooney. More recent guests to have enjoyed the privacy and luxury of the resort include Elton John, Phil Collins and Nicole Kidman.
Part of what makes Orpheus Island Resort feel so exclusive is that it accommodates a maximum of only 42 guests in its beachfront rooms, suites and villas. The resort features facilities like a tennis court, a gymnasium and two swimming pools. Those lucky enough to get to stay here can indulge in a wide range of activities, from scuba diving to private picnics on the beach. Foodies rave about the excellent cuisine dished up by the resort’s resident chef, who often goes foraging for the freshest seafood and grows his own vegetables in what used to be a tennis court.