Hayman worth all the effort of getting there

While visiting Australia, Travel Weekly hotels editor Grant Flowers checked out Hayman, a resort island off the coast of Queensland. His report follows:

HAYMAN ISLAND, Australia -- There aren't many resorts in the world where you can check in while zipping along crystal blue waters in a yacht, but Hayman, a private island resort near the Great Barrier Reef, is one of them.

Hayman, a member of Leading Hotels of the World and a darling of consumer travel publications, is part of the Whitsundays, a group of islands off the Queensland coast and a short boat trip from the Great Barrier Reef.

To reach the resort, guests fly into nearby Hamilton Island, which is home to the major airport in the Whitsundays. Hamilton is regularly served by major airlines.

Once at Hamilton, customers board one of Hayman's yachts for an hourlong ride, which includes check-in, to the island.

The journey, particularly for those coming from the U.S., can be an ordeal. But Hayman is worth the effort.

About 48% of the resort's business comes from international customers. The U.S. is its largest international source market.

The resort, which opened in 1985, faces its own beach and occupies only a small part of the private island.

Hayman expanded to 244 rooms after completing the first part of a renovation project Aug. 1. The resort completed a renovation of its West Wing in August 2000.

Occupancies average, year-round, about 80%, with high season coming in October and November -- remember, the seasons are reversed Down Under.

The hotel is divided into two wings, with an assortment of other rooms and public areas in between. It's a very walkable resort, as there are no enclosed interior hallways -- walkways are covered, however -- and most areas are fairly close together.

Visual goodies abound -- the resort features an art collection valued at approximately $10 million -- and there are several pools and lagoons, but the tropical island, with clear water, white sand and green everywhere, is a better view.

Hayman wisely provides a range of dining options. After all, customers have nowhere else to go. With fine French dining at La Fontaine, Asian seafood at Oriental, Italian at La Trattoria and casual Australian at Planters, guests have four choices to ponder.

In addition, Hayman serves breakfast and lunch in a beachfront facility called the Coffee House.

During peak season, rooms go for a little more than $400 per night in the newly renovated East Wing rooms, while West Wing digs are slightly cheaper.

As one might expect with rates like this, rooms are very nice, with a kind of modern tropical luxury. Floors, for example, are white marble, and furnishings use blond woods and lots of right angles. Astute observers will note there is no desk, which is kind of the point.

When it comes to the beds, well, I might have slept in a better bed in my life, but if so, I don't remember it. Thread counts approach infinity, and with the air conditioning cranked up, the cool fabric feels great after being outside all day.

At Hayman, the emphasis is on activities. Although it's free to loiter on the beach or by the pool, more adventurous guests can book snorkeling or diving excursions, some of them to the Great Barrier Reef. The resort offers its own water activities center, with qualified guides and instructors.

Other than dining, nightlife can be fairly subdued, with the notable exception of Fernando's Hideaway, the resort's nightclub.

Open on Thursdays and Saturdays, it's very popular with the staff, who, in addition to being warm and friendly, are uniformly young and attractive.

If you're brave enough to show up, be prepared to party.

Room Key

Address: Queensland 4801, Australia
Phone: (011) 61-7 4940-1234
Fax: (011) 61-7 4940-1567
Reservations: CRS (Leading Hotels of the World); [email protected]
Sample rates: Doubles range from $270 to $425; suites start around $740
Built: 1985
Location: The Whitsunday Islands, along the Great Barrier Reef
Number of rooms: 244
Raves: If you're into water sports, Hayman's proximity to the Great Barrier Reef is a major plus. The island is truly beautiful, and the rooms aren't far behind. Staff members are helpful and have cool accents to boot.
Rants: Would a full panel in the shower, as opposed to the half panel that enables water to spray onto the bathroom floor, really be too much to ask?

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