Inside the Recently Updated One&Only Hayman Island

A new zero-entry pool is the focal point of the Hayman Wing.
A new zero-entry pool is the focal point of the Hayman Wing.

One&Only properties are known for their exceptional locales so it’s no surprise its entrance into the Asia-Pacific region is a showstopper. One&Only Hayman Island sits upon a 726-acre private island in the Great Barrier Reef off of Australia’s Queensland coast.

Simply getting there is an adventure. You must pre-reserve an air or sea transfer to the property from the Great Barrier Reef Airport (HTI) on Hamilton Island. (There’s daily jet service to HTI from Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Cairns and other Australian hubs.) Our Advice: Opt for the 15-minute helicopter ride to the resort, for a “Fantasy Island”-like arrival. For the return, book the 55-minute luxury yacht ride. You’ll want to bid farewell to Hayman Island at a leisurely pace.

First opened in 1950, the resort has been reimagined, renovated and reopened (in July 2014) under the One&Only flag. More than half of its accommodations are now suites, villas and penthouses. Nearly all offer views of the teal-blue Coral Sea, named not for its own color but for the treasures that lie beneath.

Three distinct sections of the resort have their own appeal and atmosphere. All are surrounded by sparkling pools, lush tropical landscape and more than one mile of private beach. We stayed in the Pool Wing, where a quiet walkway led us to a one-bedroom suite with a private entrance. It was one of 16 new Direct Pool Access Suites. Sliding glass doors from the living area and the bedroom opened onto a teak deck from which we could jump right into the famous Hayman Pool. It’s one of the largest pools in the world, newly refurbished with South Beach-style daybeds and cabanas. Admittedly, it felt quite decadent to take a dip first thing in the morning and last thing in the evening.

Direct pool access Suites open onto a sparkling pool and lush green landscape.
Direct pool access Suites open onto a sparkling pool and lush green landscape.

We loved the spaciousness of the suite. A comfortable living room featured oversized furnishings, and the dining area was equipped with a Nespresso machine. And a separate bedroom featured a luxurious canopy bed, an open-plan dressing room with standalone tub, two vanities and enough closet space for our entire wardrobe. We confess, though, that we spent most of the time in a bathing suit and cover-up.

Our suite came with butler service, which we utilized but once: when a resident lorikeet swooped in from an open balcony door, feasted on our fruit bowl and refused to leave.

If the Pool Wing’s allure is understated luxury, the Hayman Wing is showy and more sociable. Its focal point is a new zero-entry pool and adjoining outdoor restaurant Aquazure. Both were filled with families and couples enjoying the sunshine, cool breezes and sea views.

The Hayman Wing also holds the resort’s top accommodation: the three-bedroom, three-bath Owner’s Penthouse. A wraparound balcony provides guests a sweeping view of the neighboring islands in the Whitsunday chain.

If you’re traveling with family, the Hayman Family Suite can connect with Ocean View or Premium Ocean View Rooms. For top bragging rights, book the two-bedroom, two-bath penthouse designed by Diane von Furstenberg.

If beach access and total privacy are top priorities, book from the eight Beach Villas or the Beach House. The Beach Villas have private pools, outdoor rainwater showers and retreat rooms for large family gatherings. They’re among the most requested accommodations at the resort.

The two-bedroom, two-bath penthouse designed by Diane von Furstenberg have bold and striking interiors.
The two-bedroom, two-bath penthouse designed by Diane von Furstenberg have bold and striking interiors.

The Beach House is a freestanding small residence with a private pavilion and gardens. The seclusion was ideal during the recent stay of an Australian-born film star, her country rocker husband and two young daughters. But we’re told that after a few days, they joined the rest of the guests in the resort restaurants.

With the Great Barrier Reef as its playground, resort activities revolve around the water. There’s a dive and motorized watersports center on property with its own marina and helipad. We opted for one of the most popular excursions, the Island Escapade snorkeling expedition to Langford Island. A small speedboat took us to a tiny atoll less than 10 minutes away. We had a few hours there to enjoy the blazing Australian sun and explore the surrounding coral reef. Suffice to say, the colors, shapes, textures and massive size of the coral formations lived up to the hype.

General Manager Guenter Gebhard ([email protected]; 011-617-4940-1234) tells us that the Great Barrier Reef’s “bucket list” allure is what brings most first-time visitors to the property. Once there, they’re often hooked for life. Many families have been coming to Hayman Island for decades, informs Gebhard.

One thing repeat visitors will find is a revitalized spa, which we had to try. Though tempted by the Ocean Dreaming Massage (administered while floating in the beach), we chose a pedicure. This is no ordinary pedicure, but a PEDI:MANI:CURE Studio treatment by Bastien Gonzalez. We’d heard that A-list celebrities fly from L.A. to the One&Only Palmilla in Los Cabos for the acclaimed Gonzalez services. Our treatment did yield some great results, but it’s not for the squeamish. Tools included a mini drill, glass nail file and scalpel. Adjacent to the spa, a new Fitness Centre offers workouts incorporating the Bodyism concept of health and fitness expert James Duigan.

The scenery and setting of One&Only Hayman Island is such a rush for the senses, food may be an afterthought for some, but you’ll find seven restaurants and bars here. We enjoyed a memorable dinner at Bamboo, served in an outdoor teahouse that can be reserved for groups. Another Option: New outdoor teppanyaki tables. At the aforementioned Aquazure, we enjoyed a whimsical take on tapas plus a gelato bar serving mini cones for dessert. Throughout the meal, large swans from the nearby lily pond stopped by to visit.

One&Only Hayman Island is a natural for the ultimate fantasy destination wedding. Wedding Sales Manager Teegan Deck ([email protected]; 011-612-8272-7070) is available to help coordinate. A chapel, formal gardens, lagoons, rainforest and coconut grove can all be called upon as a setting.

Open year-round, Christmas, New Year’s and Easter sell out quickly. For special requests, contact Warwick Jones ([email protected]; 011-617-4940-1234), director of VIP services. Reservations Manager Jason Wong Sun Wai ([email protected]; 011-617-4940-1234) is available for booking help.

Additional helpful contacts include Leisure Sales Manager Dominic Mehling ([email protected]; 011-617-4940-1838) and Guest Services Manager Rebecca Micevski ([email protected]; 011-617-4940-1234).

Getting There: We flew Virgin Australia’s new daily 777 service to Brisbane from LAX. The Business Class experience was better (and certainly more fun) than many First-Class long hauls we’ve taken. Among the highlights: Comfy designer pajamas handed out right after takeoff. That made it easy to settle in for the 15-hour flight. Another dreamy detail: A ladies-only lavatory with full-length mirror, hanging garment bag to store clothes and enough counter space for your amenity kit. Meals by Australian celebrity Chef Luke Mangan were farm fresh, seasonal and scrumptious. And our seats converted into lie-flat beds with memory foam mattress and high-end white linens.