Group getaways don't come more glam than Hamilton Island Yacht Club Villas, a coastal-chic collection of holiday houses on the Great Barrier Reef. With four bedrooms, expansive entertaining areas and jaw-dropping views over Dent Passage, these family-friendly beach houses take laid-back luxury to new levels.
Double rooms from £821.87 (AU$1,590), including tax at 10 per cent.
Rates include VIP airport/marina transfers, fruit and bakery platter, concierge service, use of a four-seater golf buggy, catamarans, paddle skis, windsurfers and snorkelling kit, priority booking for Hamilton Island Golf Course. Minimum three-night stay.
A mid-stay clean is offered for bookings of five nights or longer, or make an advance request for more regular cleaning for AU$636 a day.
As these are privately owned villas, decor and design varies throughout, with contemporary furniture from Coco Republic. Premium Yacht Club Villas score extra brownie points for their wow-worthy waterfront position.
The bayside lagoon pool isn't huge, but it's perfectly fine for a quick dip – and kids will love lolling about.
Sporty types should bring boat shoes, golf clubs and diving gear; poolside posers need only pack swimwear and shades.
The Yacht Club Villas are closed to guests during Hamilton Island Race Week in August. An AU$1,500 deposit is required for the golf buggy. A surcharge applies for credit-card payments (1.25 per cent for Visa/MasterCard, 3.36 per cent for Amex).
Kids aged under 12 stay and dine for free (at selected eateries), making this the ideal family escape. Children aged six weeks to 14 years will love the Clownfish Club, Hamilton Island's action-packed kids' club.
It's hard to pip a dinner cruise on the Denison Star for the best views and most romantic atmosphere. On dry land, try a waterfront table at Beach Club or Bommies.
Depends on where your dining: swimwear and shorts might cut it at the cafes, but you'll want to glam up for restaurant dinners.
Take your pick of Hamilton Island's slew of eateries, including Mod Oz tastes at Beach Club restaurant, fine dining at Bommie, south-east Asian fare at Coca Chu, pizza at Manta Ray Cafe and classic Italian flavours at Romano's. Each villa also features a gourmet kitchen with Miele appliances and a barbecue on the terrace, if you'd prefer to cook yourself.
Bars are similarly bountiful. Enjoy an ice-cold beer on the deck of the Marina Tavern, poolside sips at Bougainvillea Bar, smart cocktails at Verandah Bar or a sunset champagne at One Tree Hill, the island's view-blessed hilltop lookout.
Varied, though most of the kitchens call it quits between 9pm and 10pm.
Arrange in-villa catering and pre-prepared meals in advance, or dial up a home-delivered pizza from Manta Ray Cafe.
Sitting pretty at the southern tip of the Whitsunday Islands, Hamilton Island is an easy-to-reach tropical idyll perched atop the Great Barrier Reef, overlooking the Dent Passage.
Flights from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane depart regularly for Hamilton Island Airport (www.hamiltonisland.com.au/airport) with Qantas (www.qantas.com.au), Virgin Australia (www.virginaustralia.com.au) and Jetstar (www.jetstar.com). Once you've touched down, it's a 10-minute drive to the Yacht Club Villas, but there's no need to hail a taxi or arrange a car: room rates include a personalised concierge service, offering guests a VIP meet and greet on arrival and return airport/marina transfers.
If travelling inland from Brisbane, take the high-speed Tilt Train or the Sunlander, which run between Brisbane and Cairns. However, you’re looking at around 25 hours in the saddle. Book via Queensland Rail (www.traveltrain.com.au).
From 7am to 11pm, the free Hamilton Island shuttle bus ferries guests between the Marina Village, Catseye Beach, resorts and One Tree Hill.
Fantasea Cruises (+61 (0)7 4946 5111; www.fantasea.com.au) operates daily between Hamilton Island and Shute Harbour on the mainland. Each run takes about 35-55 minutes, depending upon the weather. Charter a chopper or seaplane through Hamilton Island Air (www.hamiltonislandair.com) for flights to Whitehaven Beach or other sublime spots.
Worth getting out of bed for
Hamilton Island has been described as a paradise of boys' toys, and when you factor in quad-biking, go-carting, bowling, target shooting and golf in many persuasions (your classic 18 holes, aqua versions and a mini course), it's not hard to see why. As it's the gateway to the Whitsundays, watersports are also in abundance, including sailing, jetskiing and scuba diving to name just a few. To up the fun factor, Hamilton Island Yacht Club Villa guests enjoy free use of catamarans, paddle skis, windsurfers and snorkelling equipment. While the boys go wild, ladies can indulge in an all-out pampering session at Spa Wumurdaylin, which draws on Waterlily and Li'tya products to create a uniquely indigenous experience. Or get your retail fix at Marina Village, where you can flex your credit card on art, fashion and jewellery, and stock up on holiday essentials at the General Store. With more than 74 islands in the Whitsundays, secluded coves abound. Pure white sands and a dazzling spectrum of blues make Whitehaven Beach the pick of the bunch. It's been named one of the world's most beautiful beaches, and more than lives up to its lofty mantel. Join a Fantasea Cruise from Hamilton Island Marina or charter a boat, seaplane or chopper to reach this remote isle.
Travelling with a troop is all well and good, but if you feel the need for some quality time à deux, indulge in a romantic meal for two at Bommie Restaurant in the Yacht Club, or book the Denison Star Dinner Cruise, which kicks off with canapés and drinks on board the luxury boat before a four-course dinner is served. Dine on creative Asian flavours at fresh-face Coca Chu, huge steaks and salads at the Marina Tavern, authentic cucina Italiana at Romano's.
Breakfast buffets are on offer at the Pool Terrace and Hamilton Island Wildlife Cafe (you can even cuddle a koala at the latter). For casual pizza lunches, try the gourmet offerings at Manta Ray Cafe.
No stay on Hamilton Island is complete without enjoying a glass of champagne on One Tree Hill as the sun slips into the ocean. This nightly event has become a must-do ritual. Other drinking destinations include the laid-back Reef Lounge and elegant Verandah Bar, the perfect post for evening cocktails.
Mrs Smith and I are just a touch competitive and luckily Hamilton Island Yacht Club Villas is the perfect place to undertake some friendly (or not so amicable) contests. With the children happily making cupcakes and having a teddy bears’ picnic at the kids’ club, we have time to play tennis at the sports’ club, golf at sensational Dent Island and scramble to the top of rugged Passage Peak. For aquatic action, you can race paddleboards, kayaks or jet skis, or you can opt to embroil the kids in your matches, with mini golf, Kegel 9-Pin bowling or table-tennis back at your villa. Lets just say, Mrs Smith looks shocked when my skills honed as schoolboy table-tennis champion decimate her game.
Any fears of being cooped up with Mrs Smith, two kids and my mother-in-law on our family long-weekend getaway are swept away when we open the door to Yacht Club Villa 15. My head seems to nod automatically in joyous approval as I scan the four luxurious floors of seclusion and space, linked by striking staircases and giving onto breathtaking views. I can’t help but let out a quiet ‘yesssssssssss!’ at the thought of spending time here.
This exclusive collection of designer dens, tucked behind security gates and strategically positioned shrubbery (thanks Jamie Durie), is private enough for even the most famous of names (think Leonardo DiCaprio, who booked into ‘our’ villa last year!). You can quite easily stay within the vast confines of this chic, cocooned community, popping to the lagoon infinity pool that hugs the shoreline or strolling to the petite but adequate gym at the Yacht Club. Of course, with access to Qualia hotel facilities open to Villa guests, it is all too tempting to risk blowing your cover and take your buggy on a slow jaunt up to the fine-dining restaurant or magnificent day spa.
After our competitive capers, there are oversized sofas, chaise longues, indoor and outdoor day-beds, a huge bath tub and comfy beds all waiting to rest our weary bones. With an entertainment/theatre room on the basement level, the kids can watch TV as we retreat for a lunchtime snooze on the top floor, or in the evening we can cuddle up on the couch watching a movie in Bose surround-sound, as the kids slumber peacefully two floors above – heaven!
With a master bedroom overhanging the shoreline, and wood panelling and contemporary designer furnishings throughout, you could be mistaken for thinking you are on a large and very exclusive cruise boat floating in the Whitsundays. The bathrooms (all four of them, one for each bedroom) are equally deluxe, adorned with Aesop products. Just try to ration your shampoo and shower gel usage, as being a holiday villa, the rooms aren’t serviced or replenished every day.
Impressively provisioned, the villa kitchen comes stocked with serious glassware and more crockery and cutlery than most average homes. Entertaining here would be an absolute joy, cooking in a first-rate Miele kitchen and grazing indoors at the gorgeous 10-seat dining table or alfresco, consuming the mesmerising views. And if you are stuck for ideas on what to whip up, the Stephanie Alexander bible Kitchen Garden Companion is provided for inspiration. Word of caution, though, don’t leave scraps around while the doors are open or you may have some uninvited guests – of the furry persuasion. Our cute nocturnal possum visitor now has particularly fresh breath after pinching a pack of mints from inside a handbag on the floor.
4803: commit this number to memory if you’re planning a trip to Hamilton Island, especially with the family. It’s the island postcode – essential information when ordering your groceries online from one of the big-name supermarkets on the mainland. Order a couple of days prior to your arrival, for delivery a couple of hours after you get here, and your holiday is already off to a stress-free (not to mention economical) start.
While basic groceries are necessary when travelling with children, the ‘kids eat free’ policy for Villa guests is just too good not to use for the evening meal. Select restaurants around the island offer the deal, with dedicated kids’ menus, including the newest and hippest Asian-inspired venue Coca Chu. The standard of island food is very good, catering for every fussy child’s (or adult’s) taste.
So, what is wrong with Hamilton Island Yacht Club Villas – apart from the fact that we don’t own one? Well, nothing. However, the four flights of stairs could prove a challenge for certain holidaymakers – those with kids under the age of two (unless you plan on constantly restraining a crawling child), the physically challenged or those that might not relish navigating the stairs after a few too many drinks!
In what is undoubtedly one of the world’s best holiday destinations, the Villas are the ultimate luxury ‘home away from home’, complete with personalised executive concierge service to ensure your stay is seamless. If only I could wake up to views this good at my place…
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