Hotel Review – Intercontinental Hayman Island Resort. Luxury paradise in the Whitsundays

“Where are you off to next week?”, “Oh Hayman Island”, “ooh wow,  have a lovely time!”.  I am sure (some) people are genuinely happy for us, but prepare to experience jealousy as green as a tree frog. My advice is NOT to over share on socials like a zealous mum with a newborn and try to be modest returning from a trip which is on most people’s bucket lists and coffee table books. Yes my friends, we are going to HAYMAN ISLAND!!!!! OMG.

The Cruise to Hayman

Sun Symphony

And just like that, Mr G and I are sitting on curved lush leather seating aboard the Sun Symphony as the luxury motor cruiser powers though choppy Coral Seas.  I had visions of us sitting up upstairs like Robbie Williams in his Millenium video, but the captain advises otherwise. The weather gods are not going to be kind to us for our stay and water splashes onto the windows above head height.  “Would you like some champagne?” (When have I ever said no?) “That would be lovely, thankyou”, “Cheese Plate? “Oh, yes, please”. I love Hayman already and I haven’t even stepped foot on its mythical sands. 

Airlie Beach and it’s marina fade into the distance. Onwards to a happy land where beautiful people roam, people float in kaftans, men in designer sunnies pose and everyone is Barbie happy. Within an hour she appears.. the white, glorious pearl of Hayman Island Resort lounging sofa-like into the mountainous green forest.

The Arrival 

Golf buggies whizz us over to reception as our friendly Fijian driver shares that the island is over 7.5km long and we can walk round it in an hour and half. Cyclone Debbie devastated the island. It took USD $135m, 2 years and a lot of trees which celeb gardener Jamie Durie planned and planted to get it looking this spiffy. We are escorted on foot over to the pool wing which is quite a walk, we go past restaurants, the gym, a resort shop, sustainable water fountains (for use with our complimentary metal drink bottles), internal gardens and finally….hallelujah our suite. 

One Bedroom Pool Access Suite

This is a doozy. One swipe and we are in. At the end of the room sliding patio doors open onto our sunlounger clad private deck. It looks out onto 6.5 million litres of swimming pool. It’s the biggest saltwater pool in the southern hemisphere (and right now very cold!) Over the coming days, much amusement is found watching people jump in, have a mini heart attack, pretend to love the ‘refreshing’ experience and are back on land within…mmm about 60 seconds. It’s almost a game to see how long anyone lasts. The views across the blue waters to mountains, palm trees and ocean become our constant but ever changing companion.

The dining table is adorned with a bottle of Piper on ice and, wait for it… two champagne glasses. I can’t tell you how many times I arrive in a suite and the only thing around are wine glasses. The open living area has a comfy sofa, a couple of tub chairs, and stylish black hanging lights that remind me of fishing baskets. Pushing back the sliding wall (aka door) reveals romance personified with a bed dive worthy four poster complete with muslin drapes. A screen reveals a stand alone bath with his n’ hers vanities with a thoughtful additional mirror and seat for makeup and hair. The rain shower is divinely powerful and full size Byredo toiletries makes my body smell like a recent short stint at the David Jones perfume counter. 

More than anything, luxury at this level is about details. We have slippers, robes, powerpoints galore, a TV which we can move around as if it was a boomboy and I could spend all day on the touch button electric open and close curtains and blinds. The master switch sends all the lights off. Not in an abrupt ‘run for your bed’ moment, but like a conductor bringing an orchestra to a close. Slowly the light fades area by area. A bathroom visit at night is deliciously calming as motion sensor illuminate your pathway. The peak of indulgence however is silence. Leave me here forever. 

Dinner at Bam Bam

Bam Bam

Apart from being one of my favourite Flinstone characters, Bam Bam turns out to be one of my favourite (of the five) restaurants at Hayman. It’s at the opposite end to the Hayman main pool, and sits like a lilypad, in the middle of a warren of swimming pools (yay!) which are very popular with kids (not so yay). High ceilings and rattan lights with views onto the ocean during the day makes this a relaxed spot. At night it is glowing in the distance as we enter the main dining area and we meet the Hayman equivalent of a seagull, but so typically ‘Hayman’ these enormous curlews are elegant, timid and perform an elegant 3 step ballet of 1,2,3 ‘freeze’. It’s endearingly cute. 

We start with four triangles of pork and prawn toast, juicy mashed prawns, with a crunchy savoury coating of sesame seeds. Everyone is telling us about the pad thai, it’s good with a tamarind base, but greatness is yet to come. Hello red thai duck curry ($65).. .You are quackers if you miss ordering it. It’s a generous portion bursting with coconut infused chilli, ginger, garlic, lemongrass. A side of buttery sake and soy wok tossed exotic mushrooms have a delicious umami kick. Hibachi Hawker crispy chicken arrives with a few sambals – a spicy green chilli and a ginger one. Our chook today is a little bit like Donald Trump in Florida – a bit overdone, though the flavours are there.

Day Two

Breakfast at Pacific

Good Morning Hayman

I am not a fan of buffets, but I do adore a buffet breakfast. Unlike going out for lunch or dinner, it’s a rare indulgence. The continental breakfast room filled with possibilities: breads, pastries, juices, fruits. On the main floor there is is a lift-up-the-lid line up of scrambled eggs, sausages, bacon, tomatoes, mushrooms and a few mystery bowls such as ‘curry of the day’ and even the types of noodles rotate each morning. However, my favourite is the egg station. Each day there is a new dish from the chef (love the bacon and egg muffins) and the glazed carved ham is a stand out.

Watching from my inside breakfast perch (why defend your breakfast against a greedy bird?) Hayman’s soul unravels before my eyes. Guests are hugging chefs, they are high fiving servers. “How’ve you been man?” it’s like a scene from Love Actually. It’s clear many guests are regulars, the team are friends, and there is genuine care and affection for each other on both sides. What a remarkable thing to witness.

Let’ GO!! – The Adventure Lounge

This is an adults equivant of a ‘romper room’. The team here organises our activities. The lounge includes Bar 50 – which became a perfect spot to watch the Women’s World cup. It has supersized Scrabble, Connect 4, indoor golf range and more. Turns out there is a lot to do on Hayman from complementary guided nature walks, paddle boarding, kayaking and sunset peak hikes. There is a whole lot you can pay for too – sky or water is the limit. 

Fish Feeding 

Trevally waiting for breakfast

We jump onto buggies for the 10.30am fish feeding at the Marina. Turns out that fish are a very punctual bunch as we gather on the walk ways. Our host throws sardines into the clear blue waters, almost turned silver by little fish reflecting the sunlight, that is, till the big boy giant trevallys turns up. They are big, black, powerful and fast. These teenagers operate in packs to stun their prey with their speed and bodies. We also meet Murry the Manta Ray who has his home very close to the marina edge. Apparently he is a well behaved lodger. Can we move in?


I wish I could say it was blue skies, and sunshine, but even when the weather is not great. We have a blast. Hayman is hugely tidal. Mr G and I walk out over a kilometre from the resort over sands, little inlets, rock pools, it’s a glorious morning of crustacean discovery. 

Dinner at Pacific

Pacific is Haymans signature restaurant. It’s a big sweeping room with wrap-around views onto the ocean. We start with a Claire Valley, Jim Barry Riesling which is fantastic paired with grilled horseradish & butter vinaigrette rock oysters served on a bed of corn kernels and beans. Cold smoked scallop, potato frittes & whipped bacalao is a glorious combo. We head on to mains. If you are pescetarian or vegetarian this is where things get difficult. There are few or no options. We order today’s special of artichoke, which is a delicious medley of veggies, along with the best dish of the night, a paperbark cooked mackerel, perfectly bronzed with three oven roasted sweet carrots. The aged duck breast is a touch dry. The hasselback potato ($18) is indeed, one potato! It’s good, but this is a bit of a theme for dining at Pacific, the prices are high, servings are small, but there is inconsistency of dishes, some overcooked, some a little cold. So it’s exciting news to hear Sous Chef, Tony Kramer has been promoted to the role of Executive Chef. Good to great is yet to come!

Day Three

Langford Island Escape 

Our last day in Hayman and we wake up to blue skies! We onboard the speedboat and head to Langford Island. Shortly after leaving the marina, I realise I don’t have a stinger suit. Despite protests from me, the team turn around and head back (now that’s customer service). Seven minutes later we are dropped on an instagrammable beach with directions to have fun and the best snorkelling spots. Our companions are another couple who came here for a friend’s wedding and have returned! (spot the theme). Mr G and I wander hand in hand up the sand bank towards the main island.  The romance of exclusion (knowing they are picking us up in 2 hours) is so special. I feel humbled to be here, sand, sea, mother nature, sky in one of the prettiest places on earth, the Whitsundays. The enormity of the moment hits me. It’s quite overwhelming as we put foot to sand and see the untouched land in front of us, knowing in a few hours this will be underwater and our presence washed away. Snorkelling has low visibility given conditions, but we get to see reef fish, angel fish, parrot fish and an ENORMOUS sea cucumber!

Hayman Spa & Salon

Double spa treatment room

The anticipation of a massage is (almost) as good as the real thing. Elemis products take centre stage as I am escorted to a simply furnished curtained lounge to fill out my details on an ipad. Soon I am laying face down on a deliciously warm and comfy massage bed. My therapist is the master of towel management, as soft smooth strokes lay across my body, the perfect balance of weight, movement and mastery. The transitions are expertly executed in a way only the very best in the world know how to do. Whilst the  massage rooms don’t have private areas to change in, the experience is worth the wait. 

The Verdict.

Heated pool by Bam Bam

Hayman Island lived up to everything we dreamed of. The service from the staff is not what you expect from an Australian resort. It’s way better – warm, friendly and international and nothing is too much trouble. The Fijian staff add a vibrancy to the whole team and it’s wonderful to see how special this place is on your first, second or even 15th time.

The island’s raw beauty is breathtaking. Our pool suite was divine, to transition from inside to sunbathing, to pool, to shower and is gloriously show-offy!

What we are addicted to – The whole island is your private playground. Champagne arrival on the boat, poolside luxury with cocktails. The stunning pool suite along with a James Bond-esque getaway. Service, Service Service!

What do we need to be more addicted? –  Pacific Restaurant isn’t quite where it needs to be (yet), The spa, whilst lovely, could add a few service touches and interior design to make it shine. Other than that honestly neither Mr G or I could think of much more!

About the author

Karen’s corporate job back in the UK had included entertaining clients in some of the best restaurants. This ultimately sparked a curiosity 'Just how do they do that?' (she confesses she was brought up on meat and vegetables, so this was all very exciting). Currently a Mr & Mrs Smith 'Tastemaker', she’s flashpacked around the world, learning about wine, experiencing different cultures and cuisines and had a two- year love affair with it all. Originally from England, she finally settled in Australia and continues to be besotted by food, wine and travel preferring to focus on the luxury end of town (thread count does matter).