As in the qualia pavilions, down by the beach, one thing leads to another and one place opens onto another.
Outside the Pebble Beach Restaurant, where we’ve just enjoyed our first qualia culinary adventure, a path leads to a huge beach-side infinity swimming pool, surrounded by deck-chairs and little trellis cabanas. The pool garden opens onto the beach.
Commodious, deck chairs are drawn up at the water’s edge, with an uninterrupted vista across the water – perfect. We settle in to watch the Whitsunday world float by. A waitress in shorts and sandshoes delivers coffees and a s soon as the cups inch down to empty she arrives to remove them. Minutes later she reappears with complementary bottled water.
On the sea, the current carries logs from far out on the reef, fish jump. Kayakers paddle past. An occasional snorkel, propelled by a half hearted kick, bobs by. A yacht follows, with life-jacketed sailors leaning out to starboard. They’re blocking the view, they’re spoiling the silence. I wish them away. I close my eyes and in minutes they’ve vanished round the bend.
I brave the sea for a cooling dip. The coral is cruel on my bare, soft city feet. Note to self and others – be sure to bring the reef shoes!. The water is heavenly I float face down, lost in a landscape of ridges and ravines, schools of tiny fish dart around the forest of coral. I float face up, lost in the infinite blue. The shadows lengthen, the sky turns pink then pales. It’s time for another qualia experience – the gym!
Our qualia pavilion is tucked away at the end of one of those mysterious paths, suspended among the trees, above a quiet pebbly beach. You can hear the sea sucking at the stones.
Qualia pavilions are simple, spacious and like the Long Pavilion, in perfect harmony with the world outside. Its colours are the colours of wood, stone, earth, forests and sky from the Dennis Nona artworks on the walls to the fabrics selected by interior designer Freedman Rembel for the furnishings. Every space leads to another, each room flows to the next. On one side the living room opens onto a wooden deck with an infinity pool and a king-sized cane bed, on the other is the bedroom with a giant central bed. Beyond the bedroom is an enormous bathroom dominated by a tub of warm cream stone. Every room looks down, through the front glass wall, on trees, gardens and the sea.
There 60 pavilions at qualia but each one is hidden in its own corner of the 33 hectare garden. We feel that we have the island all to ourselves. Fans tick slowly overhead. I press a button and a glass wall rolls down. A gentle breeze blows in through the open space, bringing the smell of the sea and eucalyptus trees. There’s a flutter of wings and a sulphur-crested cockatoo lands on the rail of the deck. I am indeed in the Garden of Eden.
It would be easy to stay here forever, living on the complementary champagne, the Phillppa’s fine bagel crisps and garlic nuts, the mini-bar chocolates, the pretty little packs of herbal tea, luxuriating in the Aesops toiletries, the cloud-like towels, and the soft cocoon-like bathrobes, drinking in the views from the infinity pool, the king sized bed and the wrap around couches in the lounge or even ordering in from the sumptuous room service menu. But another zephyr ushers a faint hint of grilled seafood with a tang of je ne sais quoi through the open window. I am reminded that “the qualia experience would not be complete without a culinary adventure through the finest produce our region and country has to offer”.
The plane tilts and slants through the clouds. Suddenly, there below, is an expanse of sunlit sea, a crowded launch trailed by threads of wake, a yacht in full sail, a rough circle of land with a sprinkling of buildings half-hidden in dark green bush, a forest of tall masts at a marina, a stretch of sandy beach and way out in the distant blue, the broad white line of the reef. From up here, Hamilton Island looks like Paradise. Down on the ground, the sun is warm, the air is soft and it feels like Paradise.
Hamilton Island was formed eons ago, when sea levels rose, creating a chain of drowned mountains just off the Queensland coast. Nowadays the island is a popular tourist destination, which plays host not only to travelers from all over the world but also to numerous festivals, including the famous Hamilton Island Race Week Yachting Festival as well as cultural events like the annual performance of the Australian Ballet
Until 1975, when it was purchased by “men with vision” Keith Williams and Bryan Byrt, Hamilton Island remained just a bush covered dot in the ocean. In 1978 Keith Williams commenced construction of Hamilton Island Harbour. Work on the Hamilton Island Resort began shortly after and in 1982, it welcomed its first guests. In 1986 the Whitsunday Holiday Apartments opened, followed by the Reefview Hotel in 1990 and the five star Beach Club in 1999.
In 2003 the Oatley family acquired the resort. Among the Oatley developments are the Yacht Club with its fabulous restaurant. Then, there’s qualia.