The celebs: John Travolta and Bill Clinton
The place: Adare, County
The celebs: Miranda Kerr, Oprah Winfrey and Leonardo DiCaprio
The place: Hamilton Island, Australia
The hotel: Qualia
Hamilton Island seems like it should be off-grid, situated in the Whitsunday Islands, the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Except that it has a world-class yacht club. And a world-class regatta, which is actually the largest in the southern hemisphere. Oh, and a world-class resort called Qualia – meaning deep sensory experiences. So deep, apparently, that Qualia was voted the number one resort in the world, trumping its contemporaries from Bali to the Amalfi Coast with a perfect score of 100. And when you’re voted the world’s best resort, expectations are high. Cue celebrity visitors like Victoria’s Secret model and local Aussie Miranda Kerr, and Oprah.
So what about the resort warrants that perfect 10? First, there’s not a bad room – or, rather, pavilion – in the entire place. Each one has water views, lavish baths and impeccable service sans pretense. We stayed here during Race Week (the world-class regatta mentioned above), which is a prime opportunity for service breakdowns because not only the hotel, but the entire island, is at capacity – and still it was flawless. We wouldn’t have wanted to leave our pavilion had the resort not been located in one of the most beautiful areas in the world.
The Whitsunday Islands deserve another superlative – the most beautiful beach. Whithaven is only accessible via boat or helicopter, and you’d be remiss not to land and pop open a bottle of champagne immediately. Within just a short half hour from there, you can venture into the Great Barrier Reef, which pictures do not do justice to. Nor does the description of landing via heli on a napkin-size pontoon where you get to put on a wetsuit and snorkel or scuba with the fish. Add in top-notch restaurants and a casual beer with the unpretentious Aussies at the local Captain’s club, and there’s no doubt why this is a model retreat.