It’s all about the water. Whether you are in it, above it or simply looking at it, water is the reason that draws so many visitors to this slice of home grown paradise. So yes, pack your boat shoes and a beach towel, and prepare for a little island life. There are 74 islands in all, with a handful offering all types of accommodation and meetings facilities.
But you don’t have to leave the mainland to experience the best of the region with Airlie offering plenty of options to stay, meet and play. Activities can be as laid back as holding a glass of bubbles and watching the world sail by to action packed itineraries that include trips to the Great Barrier Reef or world renowned Whitehaven Beach, by seaplane or by boat.
Visitation to this jewel in Queensland’s crown is still mainly domestic, but international visitor numbers are on the up. That trend is set to continue with $100 million being invested in the redevelopment of Daydream Island and Resort. Set to reopen in September, the 4.5 star resort will offer 290 refurbished rooms and suites. There will be an expanded food and beverage offering with three restaurants and five bars across the island. The new pool landscape is set to be a hit with Instagrammers, with three separate pools offering unparalleled views across the Great Barrier Reef also on the cards. Daydream Island Resort’s event space will also be able to cater for large events across three dedicated conference rooms.
The iconic Hayman Island has been rebranded Hayman Island by InterContinental and is undergoing a total refurbishment. Mark Eletr has been appointed as resort manager, with the 166-room resort taking bookings from March with an opening planned for July 2019. In the coming months, the iconic resort will announce a line-up of food and beverage experiences, alongside local tourism activities and the introduction of new luxury suites, the beach house and residences.
With its own airport, Hamilton Island is still the powerhouse when it comes to events, with a capacity for groups up to 700 delegates. But if you’re looking for something more intimate then Palm Bay Resort might fit the bill. Sitting at the secluded end of Long Island, this tropical hideaway features 23 Balinese inspired villas and suites. It is self-catering, but for the right group a buyout with a chef could create something quite magical. The open air dining area next to the pool is undercover and acts as a perfect focal point for social events or casual meetings.
If you’re lucky enough to have your own yacht, your island adventures will begin at Abell Point Marina in Airlie Beach. The newly refurbished marina features restaurants and tapas cafes and is located just a short stroll away from the luxury resort accommodation and boutique shopping of Airlie Beach. It is also home to Lure, the nautically inspired event space that overlooks the marina. With a conference capacity for 150, it also has a fully equipped kitchen making it an ideal space for any type of event. It also sits adjacent to Hemingways, the newly hatted restaurant with a Hamptons feel. The marina’s owner, Paul Darrouzet, also has plans for a new parkland area over the road with walkways, shade pavilions and a sound stage on 5000sqm of open space ready for festivals and events.
A five minute walk from the marina Coral Sea Resort is a truly waterfront hotel with unmatched views. Event space includes the 220sqm Nautilus Room or for outdoor settings head poolside or to the jetty, which makes for a stunning location for gala dinners. Hotels with conferencing facilities on the mainland also include Mantra Club Croc, which has a conference room catering up to 200. Breakout spaces can be personalised to suit the event and include the poolside and restaurant areas. Peppers Airlie Beach is another conferencing fave, catering up to 110 in the largest space. If you’re looking for space Mirage Whitsundays offers huge one, two and three-bedroom self-contained apartments. Bathrooms to die for, pool views and a new fine dining restaurant being constructed make this property one to check out.
One venue that is flying under the radar, but not for long, is Paradise Cove Resort. So secluded it feels like an island getaway, bring guests via a short boat trip from Airlie Beach for a money can’t buy experience. Anything is possible here from large events under a marquee through to more intimate gatherings in the African inspired lodge, and as it is set on 4000 acres you don’t need to worry about the neighbours. There are a small number of villas available but be warned, you will never want to leave.