To tide us over until we’re able to travel again, we’re republishing classic travel stories from our archives. Today we revisit Melissa York’s trip to Australia’s Hayman Island for a VIP tour of the Great Barrier Reef.
Backpackers heading to Australia usually aspire to conquer the three Rs; Reef, Rocks, and Rock. Admittedly, it gets a bit repetitive towards the end, but if you follow the three Rs you’ll get a basic understanding of the country’s vast and extreme landscape, namely the Great Barrier Reef, The Rocks in Sydney and Ayers Rock.
But there’s a little-known trip you can make to a private island off the coast of Queensland that’ll knock two off the list in just two weeks. Well, it’s not widely known to us Pommies, but to Australians it’s something of an institution.
Sitting on the most northerly tip of The Whitsundays – a disparate collection of paradise islands named after the day Captain Cook “discovered” them – is Hayman Island. It’s one of eight inhabited islands among 74 that happen to reside next to one of the seven wonders of the natural world.
The Royal Hayman Hotel was first opened in 1950 by then Deputy Prime Minister Sir Arthur Fadden in anticipation of a royal visit, and the great and the good of Australia came out to this tiny island paradise to see what was widely-touted at the time as the foremost luxury resort in the country.
For some reason (probably one that has a lot to do with distance), big luxury hotel franchises often overlook this part of the world, so Hayman was kind of a big deal. Ever since, it has occupied an elevated plane in the collective Australian mind; this was where Tony Blair made his infamous address to Rupert Murdoch and senior News Corporation execs to win their support for New Labour in 1995.
But Hayman has had its fair share of turmoil in recent years; between changing ownership and Cyclone Yasi in 2011, which left the resort badly damaged, it was definitely time for a revamp. Unusually for the continent, a big luxury hotel chain came to the rescue, One&Only, which only has seven other properties to its name, mostly in extravagant playgrounds for the wealthy like Dubai, the Bahamas and Mauritius.