Islands trace the Great Barrier Reef up the northern east coast of Australia, clustering in the blue clear waters known as the Whitsundays. There, nestled on Hamilton Island, Qualia has set a new benchmark for Australian tourism, and resorts worldwide. The chic 60-pavilion escape won the Condé Nast Traveler Best Resort in the World award in 2012. But what is magical about Qualia is not just the immaculate bed linen and that some rooms have their own plunge pools, that it uses Aesop toiletries or the Champagne on arrival (though it helps). What it does that others cannot is fit so perfectly in the natural beauty of the island. The “resort” part doesn’t eliminate its place among the eucalyptus, where the rainforest falls into the sea and beach pebbles rattle with the gentle rocking of the tides. It’s a distinctly Australian experience. The rooms look through natural bushland out to the water and surrounding islands, and dolphins are frequently spotted. Each guest room has its own electric golf buggy, from which the entire island can be toured. The epic Long Pavilion, just short of 100 meters long, opens to a panorama of the Whitsundays. On the seaward side, floor-to-ceiling folding doors open to an infinity pool, and on the other side glass windows look out to bright tropical landscaping. Far from being a glitzy theme-park resort, Qualia is understated and sophisticated, a sensitive connection with the environment for those keen to see Australia without the tourist fanfare.
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Hotel Qualia: Australian Beach Paradise
“Two hours on a plane and I land in paradise,” says Peter Gilmore, chef at Sydney’s Quay. Guest pavilions at this over-the-top resort look out on the Coral Sea. From $882. This appeared in the May 2014 issue.