Stay at the Great Barrier Reef in Luxurious, Eco-Friendly Style

The latest resort by InterContinental is situated on the closest private island to the natural world wonder



Maybe it’s our 840 miles of coastline, or the omnipresent aquatic pursuits that enchant so many in California — regardless, one thing is certain: We love the ocean. For this reason, any locale with a similar reverence for bodies of water seems a natural holiday destination. Even better if the water’s clarity is like a diamond, with aquamarine and sapphire hues, and we can play above, on and beneath its pristine surface.


Perhaps nowhere epitomizes this idyll as much as the Great Barrier Reef and its newest luxury destination, the InterContinental Hayman Island Resort. The private island property in Australia’s Whitsundays is actually something of a reboot, having first opened in the ’50s and then later becoming a One&Only property before Cyclone Debbie devastated it in 2017 to the point of closure. A hefty $95 million later, it’s fresh and fantasy-worthy once again as the five-star InterContinental.

Getting to Hayman Island from Los Angeles or San Francisco is just a hop, skip and a jump. Fly into Sydney, then connect to Hamilton Island’s little airport before enjoying a boat trip across the cobalt-hued water of the Coral Sea. Spotting a humpback whale en route isn’t guaranteed, but also isn’t rare — they migrate to the area during the southern hemisphere’s winter.


Everything at the resort is oriented to the full enjoyment of the breathtaking surrounding beauty. The open-plan Beachfront Pool Villas are incredibly romantic retreats with primo panoramas, while the Pool Wing has direct-access suites, allowing guests to dive right into the expansive piscine from the wooden deck. Every one of the 166 guest rooms, suites and villas, in fact, has a sea view, which changes with the tide throughout the day. When the turquoise water is high, Hobie Cats zoom across the bay; when it’s low and a moody blue, you can see the partially exposed reef. A pair of beaches and paradisiacal infinity pool round things out. Hikes up, over and around the island — likely past some wallabies — lead to secret beaches and vistas, all with the surreal Coral Sea as an epic backdrop.


The main event is of course the Great Barrier Reef, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1981. For perspective, it’s about the size of Japan (or the length of two Californias) and can be seen from outer space. Take a ride in the island’s helicopter to tour some of its most iconic features, such as the highly Instagrammable Heart Reef, or book an aerial tour that lands at the secluded pontoon beside Hardy Reef and you’ll be able to snorkel or dive in peace (without the crowds of tourists who come by boat every afternoon) amid the technicolor fish, colorful giant clams and hearty corals, some mimicking al dente bucatini swaying in the current.


Plenty more experiences cater to those eager to explore the depths of this natural world wonder. Excursions to nearby Langford Island may turn up green turtles or unbelievable sunsets with the electric orange sun dropping below the sea; sea kayaking could yield stingrays; and charter day trips by Ocean Dynamics reveal Whitehaven Beach’s 7 kilometers of snow-like sand and Hill Inlet’s turquoise swirls. For even more immersive adventures, try fishing, standup paddleboarding, jet skiing or on a sea scooter underwater tour.

Otherwise, the eco-friendly resort (you’ll find no single-use plastic, and each guest gets a water bottle to fill at filtered water stations on property) does a beautiful job within its Edenic landscaping of providing plenty of nap spots. There’s also a spa that uses all-natural Sodashi products in hyper-soothing treatments; and a fitness center with exercise classes, tennis courts and squash. Each of the five eateries offers something different, from Asian fusion to Italian and, of course, seafood, with excellent mixology options at each.


Considering the planet’s most at-risk locations — the shrinking Dead Sea, sinking Maldives or melting Glacier National Park and Patagonian Ice Fields, to name a few — the Great Barrier Reef is now quite accessible, thanks to the new InterContinental Hayman Island Resort. And despite the reef’s environmental outlook being downgraded from poor to very poor just this year, many people still believe it will survive our lifetimes. But there’s no reason to wait to see it. Not when it looks this good right now.




Oct. 7, 2019

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