Australia’s private Hamilton Island is located just a few hours by plane from Sydney. The tropical retreat is the mastermind of the late Aussie wine and sailing enthusiast Bob Oatley and looks and feels like a luxe Hamptons meets Hawaii. Interested yet? So are the stars.
It draws A-list celebrity guests like Taylor Swift, Leonardo DiCaprio, Miranda Kerr, Tobey Maguire, Kate Hudson, and Toni Collette. Appropriate for their lifestyle, it's totally private: Not one paparazzo got a shot of Swift or her 125-member crew while she stayed at the premium luxury resort, Qualia, and gave a surprise private concert. The island has its own airport to boot, so folks can easily fly in and away. And VIPs have total privacy on their seaplanes and helicopters when coasting in to see the UNESCO world heritage site, the Great Barrier Reef, for its amazing coral and fish, from glass-bottomed boats or helicopters.
Need further celebrity endorsement? When Oprah visited on her 2010 Great Australian Tour, she was smitten. Swathed in a Camilla brand caftan — which may as well be a Real Housewives signature staple clothing brand — she hugged a koala, as this is one of the few places in the world you can do so.
Intrigued enough to plan a visit? Here’s how you can experience Hamilton Island like a celeb:
1. Arrive in style.
Fly Qantas from the States for a taste of Oz’s totally unpretentious yet over-the-top pampering in business or first class. You’ll receive a Kate or Jake Spade amenity kit, a pod the size of four economy seats to lie 180-degrees flat on in your sheepskin-covered foam mattress in your gifted first-class kangaroo pajamas. Watch films on your 17-inch wide screen. Gourmet meals, wine, cocktails and champagne are all unlimited. Everyone gets all you can eat Tim-Tams (Australia’s tasty version of an Oreo) and other snacks.
2. Stay where the stars do.
Qualia resort is a totally private and exclusive luxury resort in a tranquil eucalyptus forest surroundings and Coral Sea views with its own private beach. It has 60 pavilions and some with private plunge pools, a fabulous spa with indigenous-inspired treatments, and understated service. It’s been named best in the world by Conde Nast Traveller readers' choice awards. Children under 16 are not allowed, and rooms cost an average of $3,000 per night.
3. Embrace the blue... and the green.
You can walk to the white sands of Catseye beach — or 10 minutes away is the world’s largest collection of coral reefs: the Great Barrier Reef. Take a scenic flight by helicopter or seaplane to pristine Whitehaven Beach to snorkel in it the Great Barrier Reef preservation. From the plane, you can transfer across to your very own glass-bottom boat where you can also have a private snorkeling experience. Try bushwalking or a visit to Wild Life Hamilton Island to see kangaroos, koalas, and one scary crocodile. For land-lovers: Grab a golf cart to explore the entire island, just three miles north to south and two miles east to west, or head to Hamilton Island Golf Club. Designed by five-time British Open winner Peter Thomson, it is the only championship island course in Australia.
4. Attend an event.
Attractions like the Audi Hamilton Island Race Week in late August bring in fashion folk and socialites for the biggest off-shore regatta in Australia. The Australian Ballet pas de Deux weekend in paradise lets people meet the artistic director, dancers, and more, culminating in an outdoor performance with the Coral Sea as the backdrop.
5. Eat and drink gloriously.
Experience fresh oysters overlooking the Whitsunday islands, or foie gras ice-cream in an Oreo crumble served with quail cooked three ways at fine dining Bommie located inside the stunning Hamilton Island Yacht Club. Or dine at Coca Chu, one of the island’s most popular restaurants, which fuses South East Asian street food with relaxed Australian cuisine with dishes like so-called son in law tempura eggs, or “bugs,” which are like a lobster meets a crab, cooked in garlic sauce. Have a drink at sunset at the island’s One Tree Hill. Grab a green apple mojito or passion fruit caipirinha and sit on the restaurant’s deck or the nearby rolling green hill for one of the prettiest sunsets on earth. A family favorite is Brekkie with Koalas, where you can buffet brunch alongside two friendly koalas in their eucalyptus trees.
6. Shop for sublime souvenirs.
Front Street downtown (a five-minute walk from the beach) has some of the best boutique stores. Head to Qualia again for Camilla for iconic caftans made of pure silk. The in store experience replete with champagne can teach you how to tie your Camilla in infinite ways.
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