When the One&Only Hayman Island opened last month on Australia's Great Barrier Reef, Ian Swain, founder of Swain Destinations, was the first guest on-property. We caught up with Swain to get his take on the property and his insights on what the resort means for luxury Australia tourism.
“I was very honored to be the first guest at One&Only Hayman Island,” he said. As a top Australian tour operator, Swain’s arrival at the resort was something special: “I flew in by helicopter and I was greeted by about 50 of the team, including Guenter Gebhard, who is the general manager, and introduced to all the senior management team as we came on the island.”
Swain has been selling travel to Hayman Island for the past 23 years, and estimates that he has visited the island more than 30 times over the decades. “I know the island extremely well and this certainly is a game-changer,” he said.
The rooms and suites are all totally revamped, he continued, down to the footprints. The previous layout included more than 200 rooms, but the renovation brought it down to 160. This made a number of suites possible throughout the property. “The beach wing hasn't really changed,” he noted. “They've got eight beach villas and one beach house, which are exceptional and right on the beach. They have their own plunge pool, great for honeymoon couples.
“The pool wing, which is overlooking the famous, iconic Hayman Island Pool, is still the same...The most telling change, though, is what they're calling Pool Access suites, which are on the ground-level of the Pool Wing, have got these beautiful timber decks cantilevered out over the iconic pool, and you've got nice day beds and little loungers out there to sit on, but you can just jump straight in from there into the pool itself.” Previously, this the pool was blocked off from the rooms by rails, he explained. “It's just completely open and it looks fantastic. The suites are now twice as big, obviously, as the original rooms. The bathrooms are incredibly done. They've just got every latest modicum that you can imagine, and just beautifully set up for both men and women so they'll really enjoy the way that they're being set up from the hairdryer access to the twin sinks to the showers with the large showerheads to this huge bath they have in each of the rooms. It's beautifully done.”
The bedrooms in this wing have four-post beds, with flowing white material down the side, he continued, “giving this sort of very romantic sort of look and when the window's blowing slightly through there.” Other perks include flatscreen TVs, a “beautiful” minibar area, a dining table and a great lounge room. “Everything has just been done at a level that I haven't seen in a lot of hotels for a long time,” Swain said. “There was no money spared...They spent about $75 to $80 million just in the last five months doing the renovations to it, and certainly you can see all that because it is just totally changed the whole resort.
“The other wing, which is now called the Hayman Wing, used to be the Lagoon Wing. There used to be a small, round pool, which was more designed for the non-family people...It's totally gone away and they've made this beautiful new pool that’s got this sort of beach access to it. It's on the bottom of the beach, and they've got a small beach in the pool itself.”
This, Swain continued, is going to become the family area of the resort. “When we send our clients that have families with younger children, we'll certainly have them staying in the Hayman Wing so the kids can have access. The nice thing about this it's right next to the beach activities pavilion with the kayaks and the paddleboards and things like that are. It's easy access for the kids, and family members, to go from their pool across the beach to do the activities, and then come back to the pool for lunch or drinks or whatever.”
The owner's penthouse is the largest accommodation at the resort. The three-bedroom penthouse is on the top of the Hayman Wing, but because it was renovated last year, it was largely left alone for this renovation and rebranding. “It's a magnificent suite. You've got a huge, wide balcony. For any clients who have families [with] three or four children, it's a great place to be because you've got some of the best views from the island from the suite. The penthouses and the beach villas all come with butler service, and the deal is that they've got one butler for two rooms or two suites. That's a great option.”
The hotel’s restaurants have also changed significantly, Swain said. “I've come to know these restaurants so well over the years, and they've completely changed.” The Italian restaurant is now called Amici, and has a woodfire pizza oven as a centerpiece. Swain recommends trying their pasta buffets. For Asian cuisine, Bamboo serves dishes from Japan, China, Korea and Thailand. By the family pool, Aquazure is a relaxed casual-dining restaurant. For somewhat more upscale dining (Swain won’t call it “fine dining,” but notes that shorts and a T-shirt would probably not be appropriate), the former Fontaine restaurant has been recreated as Fire. “You get that very... warm and great feeling with excellent food, and they've got a beautiful small private dining area, which is suitable to family gatherings of 10 up to 20 people.”
The final restaurant is called Pacific, and serves three meals each day. In the evening, guests can try a wide range of barbecue options on different nights (think seafood barbecue or burgers or lamb chops).
“Then, of course, you've got On The Rocks, the bar around the main iconic pool, which serves great lunches and snacks all through the afternoon,” Swain continued. “A new concept they've introduced is live music--and also DJ music, which they’ve never had before. They’ve got a DJ that's playing in different places during the day around the pools, and then they've also got that going at the cocktails at nighttime. They'll have a band--a trio or a four-piece band--which will be there at different times. And they actually are quite unique! They actually will play different music in different places, so it's not like seeing the same band in three different places doing the same combination.
“There have been a lot of great things and great changes, and it's just you're going to be top of the list for anyone who wants to have an incredible island experience in Australia. You got a selection of restaurants, you've got great suites, you've got great rooms, you've got great activities. Hayman Island itself is just a very special place, it's a very energetic place, and you can walk to the top of the hill on the island to get some incredible views. The walk itself makes you feel special about being there, and that's what keeps on drawing me back to so many times over the years.”