Enjoy Australia’s Great Barrier Reef at One&Only Hayman Island

One wing of rooms at One&Only Hayman Island

One wing of rooms at One&Only Hayman Island

It all began with a Virgin Australia flight from LAX to Brisbane. Then came another, significantly shorter flight from Brisbane to Hamilton Island. Once there, we boarded a helicopter for a 15-minute ride to our desired destination: One&Only Hayman Island.

As soon as the helicopter touched down, my fellow journalists and I were whisked via golf cart to the main entrance of the resort, which stretches along more than a mile of white-sand beach. We were led through the airy open lobby and shown to our rooms. Mine was on the bottom floor of the Pool Wing, which meant I had direct swim-out access straight from my own pool deck and floor-to-ceiling windows spanning the length of the bed and living rooms for endless pool, sea, and palm tree views. Not a bad way to begin a two-night stay in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

Two day beds, direct entry into the pool, and quite the view at One&Only Hayman Island

One&Only Hayman Island opened in 1950 as the Royal Hayman Hotel, and the destination became a favorite among families, leisure travelers, and honeymooners. It was these memories made during the property’s more than 60-year history that the resort’s new owners took great care to preserve, investing in an $80 million renovation that both honored its history and added redesigns on par with a true One&Only experience.

As someone—regrettably—unfamiliar with the resort until after the renovation, I can still vouch that One&Only Hayman Island felt like a home away from home. It’s a place I’d love incorporate in my own family tradition.

Let’s begin with the basics about the property: The resort sits on the most northerly Whitsunday Island in the Great Barrier Reef. It spans 726 acres in area and shares the island with only a few privately owned homes, employee housing, and a small school. Accommodations are divided among three wings—Beach, Hayman, and Pool—and there are also several penthouses, including a three-bedroom Owner’s Penthouse and a two-bedroom Diane von Furstenberg Penthouse.

Canopy-draped bed and adjacent bathroom in a Pool Wing suite

In the Beach Wing, villas can be combined with a Retreat Room for guests traveling in a group or as a family; these rooms include twin or double beds and bathrooms with a sunken bath and outdoor rainwater shower. The Hayman Family Rooms include two rooms that connect through a private foyer, allowing kids and parents a little space while still keeping the family together. A new Aquazure Pool in the Hayman Wing is also family friendly and features shaded day beds, and the adjacent Aquazure restaurant offers indoor and outdoor dining overlooking the new zero-entry infinity pool and a menu to please all ages.

On the other side of the resort, the Pool Wing features all-suite accommodations overlooking the iconic Hayman Pool and al fresco restaurant On the Rocks. This grill and bar is the perfect place for a laid-back lunch poolside, with a menu of sandwiches, salads, and seafood. I indulged in the OTR Burger, which came with maple bacon, beetroot, and cheddar cheese, and split a side of bacon-wrapped avocado fries (both were mouthwateringly good and are highly recommended).

OTR Burger with fries at On the Rocks

One&Only Hayman Island has a total of seven restaurants and bars on property serving anything guests might desire, from buffet-style to fine dining and Italian to Asian-fusion. I especially enjoyed the leisurely beachfront breakfasts at Pacific—think made-to-order eggs, fresh-baked pastries, and fruit smoothies—and the dinner of shared dishes inspired by cuisine from Thailand, Korea, India, and China at Bamboo.

As you can see, it’s easy to fill up on amazing food here, which I why I was happy to discover the resort offers plenty of activities and excursions to balance things out. Guests can take a stand-up paddleboard or kayak out right from the beach or opt for complimentary catamaran sailing, windsurfing, or paddleskiing. After a morning paddleboarding session (a personal favorite), we hopped aboard a speedboat to Langford Island for a few hours of snorkeling and sunning on the small, sandy stretch of land. Those who want to get an overhead view of the Great Barrier Reef can book a seaplane or helicopter tour, and of course there are several opportunities to get a closer look at the sea life via a diving, snorkeling, or fishing adventure.

More traditional forms of exercise can be found at One&Only Hayman Island’s state-of-the-art fitness center. The center not only offers use of equipment one might expect to find in a gym but also features classes using the Bodyism system, a program developed by James Duigan that focuses on total wellbeing. Duigan’s program relies on movement and exercise as well as nutritional protocols, and the resort makes this easy for guests to follow with designated items on the menus at each of its restaurants.

Of course, what is wellness without relaxation? At the Hayman Island spa, I was treated to a wonderful hot stone massage that helped melt away the tension and put me in a vacation state of mind. The spa has a range of specialty treatments for the face and body customized to rest, rebalance, or renew. In addition, guests can book an appointment at the PEDI:MANI:CURE Studio by Bastien Gonzalez, which features exclusive skin and nail treatments designed and developed by the internationally recognized pedicurist. As if that wasn’t enough, there’s also the Luke.Espace Salon by Luke Smart for haircuts, coloring, and blowouts and a glamorous makeup studio.

View of the sea between Pacific restaurant and palm trees

A luxurious mix of the old and the new, One&Only Hayman Island has everything a traveler might be looking for when it comes to a vacation—whether it’s relaxation, adventure, spending quality time with loved ones, or all of the above. I was so impressed with the resort’s unique and varied offerings and the many ways in which guests can create their own memorable stay. How would you spend your One&Only Hayman Island vacation?