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Australian Hand-Crafted Journeys

Resort Review – Qualia and Lizard Island

BLOG | Leaving the autumn and winter chill of New South Wales, my next stop was Queensland and her islands; Hamilton and Lizard. All were ‘firsts’ for me and landing on Hamilton Island, in the Whitsunday Islands, and boarding a chopper for a flight over the Great Barrier Reef and to Whitehaven Beach, was where I stopped trying to convince friends and family that I really was working very hard.

I have invited Rachel Wood who has recently joined The Tailor to share with you her thoughts and experiences from her latest journey across Australia. I hope you enjoy reading Rachel’s stories as much as I did.

Leaving the autumn and winter chill of New South Wales, my next stop was Queensland and her islands; Hamilton and Lizard. All were ‘firsts’ for me and landing on Hamilton Island, in the Whitsunday Islands, and boarding a chopper for a flight over the Great Barrier Reef islands and to Whitehaven Beach, was where I stopped trying to convince friends and family that I really was working very hard. Whitehaven Beach, named like so many Australian things, perfectly descriptively – Cape Tribulation and Tasty Cheese are two others that spring immediately to mind – is an immaculate strip of some seven or so kilometres that must have just been vacuumed. Touching down and stepping out was quite a moment. Sadly only a quick stop was permitted, just enough to get my toes wet and sandy (kindly brushed off by the pilot who took the “leave only footprints, take only pictures” adage seriously, or maybe he just didn’t want sand on the floor) before I was whisked away. Usually you’ll experience a beach picnic, an hour or so beachcombing and a swim. Flying low over the reef, the matrix of colours is formidable and the size of the reef more so. Heart Reef, aptly named (if you’re at the right angle, squinting and in a romantic frame of mind) was a highlight as were spotting turtles and rays from the air. Magical.

Landing directly at the resort of qualia, I took my golf buggy (the islands only permitted form of transport) and headed to the central Pavilion building. The entrance opened to a couple of steps, I warn you of this as I was so taken in with the view that I nearly entered this sophisticated resort on my face. The resort is built high on a rocky peninsula and the sun was just setting; several dense islands lay like dumplings in a stew and a lonely catamaran was gliding by – it was quite something and the reason for me not watching where I was going. Heading to my Windward Pavilion suite, I took in the rest of the resort – low slung buildings made of local timber and stone and every angle catching the breeze and presenting a different view of the surrounding islands. The sprawling suites with floor to ceiling windows, optional blinds (windows are blacked out to maintain privacy – I checked) are open plan with timber sliding dividers. The private terrace with day bed and private infinity pool faced the view and were the perfect place for a cooling dip after dinner.

Meals at qualia are an event. Food is light, fresh and healthy but you don’t feel as if you’re being too ‘good’. Seafood features prominently, wines matched if you need help and quirky touches and takes on classic favourites made the whole experience memorable.

The final stop on my island taster tour was Lizard Island, just an hour’s light aircraft flight from Cairns. If you want an island directly on the Great Barrier Reef, where at the end of a sandy pathway lays the ocean hiding, just briefly until you don your snorkel, a myriad of aquatic life – boxes are ticked. The accommodation style is relaxed, rustic, beach chic – that’s white washed wooden panelled walls, polished timber floors, soft blue hues and white cotton in abundance to you and I. The obligatory day bed adorns the deck and the ceiling fans tick gently overhead. A wooden board walks linked this Anchor Bay Suite with the main lodge, where the bar and restaurant stays open all day. Meals take advantage (but not too much so) of the watery surrounds, however as the island is National Park, restrictions are in place so the opportunity for a kitchen garden are limited. Nevertheless, with twice daily flights, no one goes hungry and it certainly doesn’t curtail the imagination of the chef as the degustation menus and incredible beach barbeque proved.

Lizard takes advantage of its location and with a dinghy available for you to explore the many beaches (there are apparently over 24) you can take a freshly packed gourmet picnic and maroon yourself for the day. Dive locations are plentiful and a dive in to the famous Cod Hole is easily accessible. Although these gigantic creatures haven’t been blessed with good looks, they are quite stunning in their own way. On dry land Lizard island has much to offer, a climb to the top of Cook’s Lookout, where Captain Cook once stood as he tried to plan his progress through the reef gives great perspective and allowed me to work off my various work related excesses and a visit to the Great Barrier Marine research centre blew my mind with the work that is undertaken by staff and students alike. Lizard Island is, yes named after the creatures that populate it. They range in size from those tiny, scurrying away when they hear the thud of feet types, to muscly looking beasts that stare insolently then turn, flicking their tails before they sashay away – never had I wanted a tail more.

To read more about my Australian journey, please click here:
Part 1 – Sydney, Park Hyatt and Wolgan Valley Resort and Spa
Part 3 – Southern Ocean Lodge

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