Wednesday newsletters always feature a luxury hotel and/or flight review. This month, I publish an Australia special, with the following hotel reviews: Park Hyatt Sydney (Sydney), Longitude 131° (Uluru), Cicada Lodge (Katherine Gorge), and One&Only Hayman Island (Great Barrier Reef).
Today (December 17, 2014): Review of the One&Only Hayman Island (Australia).
- Location: Google Maps
- Hotel website: One&Only Hayman Island
- Tip: enjoy exclusive VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso
Located in the heart of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, One&Only Hayman Island is the northernmost of the Whitsunday Islands off the coast of Queensland. Within this private island resort, stylish elegance reflects the harmony of nature with beautifully appointed accommodation set against the backdrop of the Coral Sea. The resort is managed by the One&Only Hotel group, one of the world’s most luxurious hotel brands.
One&Only Hayman Island features in my top 10 lists of the world’s most exclusive private island resorts, the best luxury hotels in Australia, and the world’s best family hotels, as well as in my list of the most luxurious hotels that opened in 2014.
In this review (more info and photos below my Youtube Clip & slide show):
- Pros & things I like
- Cons & things to know
- My verdict
- Tips for future guests & save money
- Best time to visit
- How to get there
PROS & THINGS I LIKE
- Location, location, location! The hotel is located on its own private island, which is the northernmost of the Whitsunday Islands (off the coast of Queensland). The Whitsundays are internationally famous for their rugged, green-clad islands, blue waters and beautiful beaches, and Hayman Island is no exception to that.
- Transfer to the resort (from Hamilton Island Airport or the mainland) is in fact a sightseeing trip on itself, and done by yacht (50 minutes), helicopter (10 minutes) or waterplane (10 minutes). Most guest will arrive by yacht, and will be offered Champagne and canapés on route. I booked the yacht transfer, but I was upgraded to a heli flight.
- The resort is managed by One&Only Resorts, which is one of the most luxurious hotel brands in the world. The resort comes close to the epitome of luxury and features the One&Only signature design, which is also present in other O&O top properties such as the One&Only Reethi Rah in the Maldives and the One&Only Cape Town in South Africa.
- Everything is brand-new (at least for now). After a six month refurbishment of $80 million dollars by the One & Only Hotel group, the resort reopened last July, making it one of the most luxurious hotels that opened its doors in 2014.
- Upon arrival, golf buggies are waiting to meet you and take you to the resort (about 600 meters or 2000 feet from the private harbour). A member of staff will then guide you on a short welcome tour of the large property and take care of the in-room check-in. I was welcomed by Ben and he did a great job!
- The resort has two large, exquisite pools. The enormous hexagonal, iconic Hayman pool mainly attracts adults, is filled with salt water and feels refreshingly cold (although it has a separate, smaller and heated pool, filled with fresh water, in its center). On the eastern side of the resort, you will find a new, somewhat smaller and heated pool, filled with fresh water, that mainly caters to families with young children and offers nice ocean views (because of its beachfront setting). Lovely towel and ice buckets with bottles of cold water are provided to guests at both pools.
- The resort is located along a beautiful, palm fringed beach, with plenty of sun loungers and umbrellas. The beach is composed of soft sand that does includes fragments of shell and coral. Like most Whitsunday beaches, it has a pale brown colour (in contrast to the famous and blinding white silica sands of Whitehaven Beach, which you can visit on a heli excursion).
- The refurbished rooms, suites & beach houses are amazing. During renovation, One&Only reduced the room inventory from 210 to 160 to be sure that room size met their high standards (minimum 54 sqm). All rooms & suites feature a private balcony, spacious en suite bathroom with separate shower, bath, double vanity and open-plan dressing room. The bed is one of the best that I have ever slept in! I was upgraded from a Hayman Lagoon Room to an incredibly beautiful Hayman suite.
- Rooms & suites are located in three distinct areas of the resort, each different in style and ambiance, and each designed to take advantage of the breathtaking views of the island and its natural surroundings:
- The Hayman Wing is located on the tranquil eastern side of the resort, overlooking a serene lily lagoon and close to the family pool.
- The Pool Wing overlooks Hayman’s iconic hexagonal pool, with some suites offering direct swim-out access into the pool.
- The Beach Wing features a collection of uniquely designed villas for those in need of a beachfront setting.
- There is complimentary WiFi throughout the resort.
- Although the staff looks and is very young, service at the resort is excellent (unlike a couple of Tripadvisor reviews, I did not experience any service issue during my 3 night stay). The staff struck the perfect balance of helpful but calm, polite but fun, professional but casual, understated but available, smart but not snobby. To give some examples: around the pool a staff member came by every day to clean sunglasses, and nightly turn down service included fortune cookies one night and Koko Black chocolates another night. For my birthday (which I did not mention, but they must have noticed it on my passport at check-in), I received a lemon cake and chocolate strawberries.
- The sport’s club on the beach offers varying watersports, such as complimentary catamaran sailing, windsurfing and paddleskiing. For the more adventurous, tube rides, jet skis and water skiing are available at an extra cost.
- The resort has several restaurants with extensive menus, so those staying longer than a few days will never be gastronomically bored. In all restaurants, food is great without being pretentious. Their signature restaurant Fire offers modern Australian cuisine, while Amici offers Italian dishes and Bamboo delicious Asian food (the wagyu beef is to die for!). Other food options include the Pacific restaurant, in-room dining and snacks by both pools.
- The Pacific restaurant, perched right by the sand and sea, not only offers great dining but is also the location of the daily generous Champagne breakfast buffet, with fresh pancakes, freshly baked pastries and eggs made to order.
- Both sunrise and sunset can be watched from the beach at Hayman Island (assuring some terrific moments of pure romance). For a full view of the sunset, walk to the beach bordering the eastern side of the resort (close to the Hayman wing).
- The One&Only Spa is a sanctuary of wellbeing, a place where you can indulge and unwind. Don’t miss it!
- The resort has a new, large and state-of-the-art fitness centre with separate areas for cardio, weight training and stretching.
- The hotel is located in the heart of the Whitsundays and Great Barrier Reef, and takes advantage of its prime location: there are plenty of (expensive) excursions on offer ranging from hikes, helicopter ride to Whitheaven Beach, snorkel trips to the Great Barrier Reef, and sailing adventures around the other island.
- Hayman Island has plenty of wildlife: I saw several interesting bird species, as well as plenty of wallabies at dusk. In addition, the island is home to thousands of flying foxes (large fruit bats or macrobats): as the sun goes down, these bats leave their treetop camps and stream across the sky, creating an impressive and noisy spectacle.
CONS & THINGS TO KNOW
One&Only Hayman is easily amongst the best beach and/or island resorts that I have visited so far. Simply put, it’s a brilliant resort and a no brainer when you travel to the Whitsunday Islands. I recommend it without hesitation to every luxury minded traveler, but there are some things you need to know and some areas where there is room for improvement:
- Pre-visit email communication with the resort was very slow. Response to my few, detailed questions often took many days. The resort should try to answer queries by email within 24 hours, as it may put off future guests.
- Inside my suite, internet connection was slow, from time to time non-existing.
- The beachfront scenery is pure paradise during high tide. But the beach is far from attractive at low tide (the sea almost completely disappears). It is fun though to watch the stingrays and other marine life in the shallow areas.
- While stunning on the inside after the $80 dollars refurbishment, the two main hotel wings are far from attractive from the outside. They date from the previous century and are an eyesore IMHO.
- The wildlife – especially birds – may annoy guests. Screeching cockatoos constantly do food raids at breakfast (and even inside rooms). Staff does a good job of shooing them without showing their frustration.
- Marine stingers may be present in the waters of tropical Queensland year round, with the higher risk season during November to May. During this period, jellyfish are prevalent in the waters around the mainland, islands and have occasionally been found out on the reef (a protective suite must be worn when you enter the water).
- Excursions to the Reef and Whitsunday Island are all done by plane or heli (no boat), which may be problematic for those suffering from a fear of flying.
- Excursion are very expensive, and cost a couple of hundred dollars more as compared to the same type of excursions that depart from Airlie Beach on the mainland (sometimes with the same company).
- Bar 50 is soulless, as it is located in a very large and totally uninviting lounge area. It definitely lacks atmosphere (the resort needs to reassess this one).
- Location: 9/10
- Design: 9/10
- Rooms: 10/10
- Food: 9/10
- Service: 9/10
- Overall experience: exceptional: 9,2/10
TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
- Save money: Read my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like the One&Only Hayman Island.
- Save money: enjoy exclusive and complimentary VIP amenities (upgrade on arrival, daily continental breakfast, one island escapade for two, early check-in and late check-out) when you book your stay at One&Only Hayman Island via a Virtuoso travel agent.
- Families with younger children may prefer to stay in the Hayman wing (which is closer to the family pool), while those travelling without chidren may be better off in the Pool wing, near the iconic pool.
- Chances are substantial that you will be upgraded with a helicopter transfer to/from the resort, when you depart from (or leave to) Airlie Beach on the mainland (fewer guests depart from here, making a 10-minute heli flight a more economic transfer option for the resort as compared to a yacht that needs 2 hours to complete the return trip).
- Transfers from the airport or mainland to the resort and food are expensive, so book a package inclusive of return transfers and (at least) breakfast.
- Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
Best months to travel are probably September, October and November, as those months have minimal rain, are warm enough to swim and there are no stingers in the water. In summer (December to March), it gets very wet and you do not want to be stuck on a subtropical island with one week of heavy rain. In April and May, marine stingers are still present, and while they disappear in the sunny and dry Australian winter months (from June on), those months may be a little too cold for swimming
HOW TO GET THERE
The most convenient way to get to Hayman Island is to fly to the Great Barrier Reef Airport (HTI) on Hamilton Island, which receives direct flights from all of Australia’s major cities, with onward connections to Asia, UK/Europe, North and South America and Africa. Transfer to One&Only Hayman Island is by luxury launch (50 minutes), or if preferred, by helicopter or seaplane (10 minutes). Check the Wikipedia page of the Great Barrier Reef Airport for an updated list of airlines that have direct flights to the Whitsunday Islands.
Alternatively, the resort can also arrange transfers from the mainland’s harbour village Airlie Beach or the mainland’s Whitsunday Coast Airport near Proserpine (PPP). Check the Wikipedia page of the Whitsunday Coast Airport for an updated list of airlines that have direct flights to the Proserpine, which is also one of the main getaways for travelers to and from the Whitsunday Islands.