It turns out paradise – aka Elysian Retreat – only has space for 20 lucky guests (and zero mini Smiths). Hop on a chopper to the aquatic Whitsundays to ensure you’re among them. Don’t be fooled by the 50 shades of blue outside – Elysian Retreat is green to the core (it’s the first solar-powered resort in the Great Barrier Reef, after all.) Romantic villas riff on a couture-castaway theme, with plenty of sun-bleached white and wicker, and the talented chef writes edible love letters to the sparkling local waters (and the rich bounty of marine life that darts inside them). Additional reasons to reach for your passports include all-inclusive rates and reef encounters – aided by Lotus, the hotel’s boat – in Australia’s aquatic playground…
Get this when you book through us:
A bottle of wine, if you're staying four nights or fewer; a scarf from Above & Below gallery if you're staying longer
10am; earliest check-in, 2pm. Both are flexible, subject to availability.
Double rooms from £503.04 (AU$924), including tax at 10 per cent.
The all-inclusive rate covers all gourmet meals, wine pairings, soft drinks and water, plus daily sunset cocktails and canapés. Use of the watersports equipment and snorkelling gear is free; other activities incur an extra charge . Minimum two-night stay.
Spoiler alert: each villa has a Pamela-worthy swing.
February is the hotel’s annual month off.
At the hotel
Private cove; hotel boat; watersports equipment; greenery galore. In rooms: air-conditioning, ceiling fan, TV, iPod dock, bathrobes, organic bath products, minibar stocked with free soft drinks, tea and coffee kit.
Our favourite rooms
All the villas are born equal, though some have the added boon of a terrace with an outdoor shower – worth requesting if you like the idea of ablutions beneath the stars.
As if staying at Elysian Retreat wasn’t relaxing enough, the hotel’s alfresco, magnesium mineral pool is designed to relieve stress, detoxify the body, reduce aches and pains and re-energise muscles.
Inspired by the ancient Indian healing system of Ayurveda, the jet-set Jala Spa offers beauty-boosting facials, indulgent body rituals, hair masks and pampering massages featuring crystal healing, sacred stones and hot poultices. You can have an Ayurvedic consultation to determine the state of your doshas (energy patterns); private yoga sessions can also be arranged.
Bring crustacean-print beachwear and your sense of adventure. (Anything requiring electricity, mobile phone signal or WiFi can go to the bottom of the pile.)
Sorry, Smith Junior: this island idyll is only for adults.
Very – you’re looking at the Great Barrier Reef’s first fully solar-powered resort. Elysian Retreat also recycles, composts and grows its own organic produce.
Elysian Retreat dishes up food that would wow Neptune and co: delicious ocean-inspired numbers that take their cues from the season and the region (we’re talking dishes such as Whitsundays Bay bug with seafood bisque and buttered beans). The menu’s enticing Asian influences hint at the well-travelled chef’s stints in Bali and Thailand, and the open-air dining hut has a low-key, fuss-free vibe – keep your eyes peeled for the visiting curlew, who likes to (s)wing by at dinner. The menu changes daily, so you’ll never get bored of mealtimes; dinner is a decadent, three-course affair. Successful anglers can pass their catch over to the chef, who’s sure to do it justice.
There’s no formal bar, but you can enjoy drinks in the relaxed lounge area or in the dining area. Minibars are stocked with beer, cider, wine and sparkling wine according to your own preferences.
Breakfast is available between 8am and 10am; lunch is 12pm–1pm; dinner is served between 6pm and 8pm. Explorers heading out early can also request a packed breakfast (or picnic hamper) to go.
Living up to its name, Elysian Retreat occupies a private cove on the southern tip of Long Island in the dazzling Whitsundays, just off the east coast of Queensland.
Swoop in, Bond-style, by hopping in a chopper from Hamilton Island or Whitsunday Coast Airport (Proserpine). The journey takes 10–20 memorable minutes. A 15kg luggage limit applies (bring soft duffel bags, not chunky suitcases). Excess luggage can be stored safely while you’re at Elysian with all transfer options except the direct helicopter transfer from Hamilton Island Airport.
Depending on arrival and departure dates (plus tidal variations and weather restrictions), boat transfers for two can sometimes be arranged in advance from Shute Harbour and Hamilton Island for AU$300 each way.
Worth getting out of bed for
Punctuate your days here with morning and sunset yoga, plus a spot of guided meditation. Beach bunnies can nip across to world-famous Whitehaven Beach, 45 minutes away, on the hotel’s obliging vessel, Lotus (which can be chartered for an extra fee). Go stand-up paddleboarding (keeping your eyes peeled for green turtles) and kayaking in a glass-bottom boat. Save some energy for a game of life-sized chess in the garden (well, naturally). Embark on a fishing expedition or hop in another helicopter to tour Insta-famous Heart Reef (take a gourmet picnic hamper with you). Don’t forget to meet the local marine life while snorkelling or diving. The hotel can arrange trips to the Great Barrier Reef for introductory dives, or certified ones if you're taking your aquatic adventure studiously. Set off on a day-long cruise on Lady Enid (a rare classic yacht) to visit Tongue Bay, Betty’s Beach and other local highlights. Alternatively, sign up for a Great Barrier Reef experience with Cruise Whitsundays (hotel staff will arrange the logistics). Use of the hotel's watersports and snorkelling equipment is free. Most activities that take you away from the hotel – such as yacht charters and reef visits – carry an extra charge.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this adults-only hotel in the Whitsundays and unpacked their goggles and pearls, a full account of their Australian island break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Elysian Retreat in the Great Barrier Reef…
According to Greek mythology, Elysian Fields is the final resting place of the gods and heroes. If Homer’s to be believed, it’s on the western edge of Earth, by the stream of Okeanos; would-be visitors should keep their ears pricked for melodic music and their eyes peeled for dazzling displays of athletic prowess. Quite frankly, we’d rather rest up at Elysian Retreat in the heart of the sparkling Great Barrier Reef: here, the weather is supreme, the seafood is succulent and – thanks to all the external operators – bucket-list trips to Whitehaven Beach, Hill Inlet and other local headline acts are a daily occurence. Even better, Elysian Retreat’s generous all-inclusive rates cover gourmet food and drinks, marine adventures (snorkelling, diving, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding and so on) and land-lubberly leisure pursuits such as yoga. This is island living, so don’t expect fuss or formality: it’s a family-run, relaxed and carefree kinda joint – and all the better for it.