Actress Sigrid Thornton reviews Qualia, the luxurious resort in Hamilton Island. It’s perfect time for armchair travel and planning our next getaway – and the feeling is that we all deserve a bit of spoiling. So why not Qualia?
I’m pleased I nabbed the window seat. As we descend, the spectacular Whitsundays bulge out of the depths like a great bunch of potbellied sea creatures lolling about in the midday sun.
A gracious envoy welcomes us on arrival with cool drinks, before a picturesque 10-minute drive to Qualia. This seems the ideal time to ask the obvious question: ‘Why the choice of hotel name?’ Mr Smith and I, having imagined myriad definitions of an indigenous term, couldn’t have got it more wrong. It’s ancient Greek, meaning a deep multi-sensory experience. Just what the doctor ordered.
‘Welcome to Qualia’ is the gentle greeting on our arrival at the Long Pavilion, the heart of the resort. It would be a cynical traveller who didn’t find themselves in awe of the breathtaking view from this space – it’s here that we begin to fully appreciate our good fortune. Standing in the middle of the world’s largest marine park is in itself a rare gift, never mind that we’re on the tip of an island peninsula taking in a 250-degree view of pristine nature and countless islands as far as the eye can see. The space itself sets an architectural tenor consistent throughout the resort – natural materials, mostly wood and stone, meticulously detailed and finished, furnished with muted organic tones. The pervasive atmosphere is luxurious calm. Honestly, you could just sit here all day – looking over the step-straight-in infinity pool – without ever making it to your room.
‘Glass of French? Don’t mind if I do. It’s my usual tipple.’ What am I saying? Well, in a place like this I can even believe it myself. Lounging on couches, we’re taken through a tantalising orientation of the premises. No standard check-ins here; just a cosy poolside chat, followed by a golf-buggy ride through the grounds for a spot of lunch.
The resort is revealed as a ‘community’ of pavilions enveloped by lush tropical gardens and forest. At the base of the hill, nestled on a pebbly beach is – you guessed it – Pebble Beach, another of Qualia’s network of retreats. There’s a second gorgeous infinity pool and an open-air café, should you need refreshment while you swim.
Following a scrumptious meal of Moreton Bay bugs – also known as the bay lobster – we might well be tempted to grab a towel and rest by the pool, or perhaps opt to use the catamarans or kayaks calling out to us from the beach. Nah. In truth, we’re dying to take a look at our room.
‘Swiss Family Robinson circa 2010,’ says Mr Smith. It does, indeed, feel a lot like a lavishly appointed treehouse, perched amid rainforest and oriented seaward. It’s totally private and nothing has been overlooked. Really, it’s an open-plan apartment, with a subtle dividing off of exterior, sitting, sleeping and bathing spaces. We plunge into our personal infinity pool and emerge, re-energised enough to appreciate the giant day-bed.
Time for some serious relaxation. I’m determined not to go any longer without testing Spa Qualia. Given the extensive possibilities – everything from hot-stone therapy to detoxifying wraps – I’m concerned my choice of a bespoke massage might seem tame. I needn’t have worried.
From the delicious signature herbal tea on arrival to the fabulous rub-down and Vichy shower that follows, this is pure pampering Great Barrier Reef style. My post-ritual meditation, however, is halted by a demanding Mr Smith wanting to explore the entire five square kilometres of this Queensland island, before the sun hits the watery horizon.
There are virtually no cars on Hamilton, so most holidaymakers explore in golf buggies. The residual effect is that the place is wonderfully quiet. We stop for a cocktail atop a hill, where a sunset bar is set up each evening so people can enjoy the extraordinary vista, drink in hand, or spy on distant islands through a coin-operated telescope. On the island’s main street, a group of shops, cafés and restaurants are upstaged by the pretty harbour. White weatherboard buildings and sparkling yachts remind us of Californian fishing villages. Every Sunday evening there’s a laid-back acoustic performance here on the grassy banks, so we settle in with ice-creams to listen for a while.
The romance of the Long Pavilion and its contemporary cuisine beckon. Mr Smith and I, seated on the deck under a brilliant sky, give the seven-course degustation menu a thorough sampling. Mod Oz dishes such as foie gras pithivier, crab and coriander tians and desiree-wrapped blue-eye cod give our tastebuds, and our mental dictionaries, a satisfying workout. We retire for armchair coffee in the bar, and we are sufficiently caffeinated to visit the library for some post-prandial cerebration. Mr Smith takes up an archaeological tome, while I opt for a limited-edition photographic compilation. So many gorgeous books, so little time. Back in our room I head for the pod-shaped tub to soak up the Aesop products. Mr Smith instead flexes his technological muscles with the audio/video choices. As a couple who often choose to relax in different ways, Qualia allows us to rev up or wind down in perfect synchronicity.
On our final morning we consider our brief indulgence. Mr Smith reminds me of the legend of Marc Antony transporting a beach of sand to the island of Sedir, off the Turkish coast, so that Cleopatra could meet him in an exotic location and still claim Egyptian soil between her toes. This unique hideaway evokes such fantasies. Indeed, Qualia lives up to its etymology: all five senses have been stimulated and also sated. A sixth one tells me this affair will be long remembered. And if you think that sounds sexy, it is intended to.
For bookings or further information about Qualia or any other Mr & Mrs Smith hotel visit www.mrandmrssmith.com or phone the expert Travel Team on 1300 89 66 27.
Note from editor: This story first appeared in Mr and Mrs Smith website and was republished on The Carousel with their permission.
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