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Queensland


Great Barrier Reef Islands

Time spent at one of Queensland’s reef islands makes for an idyllic escape from the everyday stresses of life. More than 600 islands are dotted along the length of Australia's Great Barrier Reef, seven of which offer hedonistic getaways for those seeking sensory indulgences. The reef’s tropical-north islands are often referred to as the jewels in Australia's crown, boasting luxury resort enclaves and coral cays of unparalleled beauty. The Whitsunday islands, further south, combine beautiful beaches and reefs with a vast range of activities and accommodation styles to suit everyone - and an enviable year-round climate of blue skies and sunshine. Some of the more beautiful resort islands of the far north are Lizard, Green, Bedarra, and Orpheus Island.

Lizard Island lies in the most pristine and unspoilt part of the Great Barrier Reef. It is one of Australia’s most remote, luxurious and beautiful islands and a classic playground for millionaires. This picture-perfect island resort caters for limited numbers of guests, with accommodation in individual bures connected by wooden walkways – all offering fantastic views of the local bays, beaches and surrounding ocean. The mood is unpretentious and laid-back, so relaxing around the resort is easy. Guests can snorkel and dive at famous Ribbon Reef sites inhabited by inquisitive Potato Cod (that often swim and interact with divers) and nosey Dwarf Minke Whales. Big-game Black Marlin fishing, tennis, gym workouts, bushwalking and sailing activities are on offer, as are indulgent spa treatments and gourmet picnics on secluded beaches. Dining is another of Lizard Island’s pleasures: guests can even arrange a 7-course degustation and wine dining experience at one of two beautiful beach locations.

Green Island on the Great Barrier Reef is unique because it is the only coral cay island with a rainforest. It is home to over 120 species of native plants, colourful bird and marine life and beautiful coral gardens just waiting to be explored. The resort is a luxury eco-sensitive property nestled among tropical rainforest, surrounded by waters abounding with marine life. The many activities on offer in this adventure playground complement the beauty of the island, as does the resort’s Arumi Day Spa which uses locally made products and a range of treatments to reconnect people with nature.

Bedarra Island is one of the world’s most exclusive resorts and is the ultimate 5 star luxury island experience. Here, it’s all about tranquillity, privacy, indulgence and relaxation; where guests can laze on cushioned day beds and gaze out to sea; take a small fishing boat (packed with picnic hamper and wine) to a secluded beach; and explore pristine shores peppered with basalt boulders. The boutique island resort offers accommodation to a maximum of 30 guests, in just 15 architecturally refined villas. Each is nestled within the forest, simply furnished with comfortable furniture, sunken spa baths, polished floorboards and its own hammock. Exquisite food and flawless service abound, and nothing is ever too much trouble. Like Bedarra, Orpheus Island is another of the world’s best private-island destinations. It is the unsung gem of the Barrier Reef, surrounded by 1,300 hectares of pristine national park and fringing reefs. Although it has long been a holiday favourite with the world's rich and famous, a vacation here also tops the list for nature lovers and those seeking a luxury hideaway free of phones, televisions, day trippers and young children. While the resort is currently undergoing an exciting transformation, it is due to re-open at the beginning of October 2011. The Whitsunday archipelago of 74 islands is located midway on the Queensland coast. While accommodation is available at a number of islands within the region, Hamilton Island and Long Island offer the finest options to anyone seeking the ultimate island escape.

Hamilton Island is the hub of the Whitsundays and the major events capital of the Great Barrier Reef. With its own domestic airport; marina and yacht club; village of shops, restaurants and bars; and wide range of accommodation choice, it is more like a town full of resorts than one large resort. Guests are spoilt for choice with over 60 different activities on offer including sports, adventures, tours, a day spa, and now a world-class golf range on neighbouring Dent Island. Situated on the northern-most tip (far from the bustle of town) is Qualia, a luxury 60-pavilion resort set in 12 acres of immaculately landscaped gardens overlooking the Coral Sea and Whitsunday Islands. Every aspect of the resort has been meticulously considered so that guests can relax and be spoiled: Qualia’s luxurious Day Spa offers treatments and rituals inspired by Aboriginal dreamtime; its two exclusive restaurants serve only the freshest and finest local produce; and its elegant, private pavilions reflect the serenity of qualia’s Whitsundays locale.

Long Island is another beautiful Whitsunday destination. It is a national park with 20 kilometres of wonderful walking tracks that lead to spectacular views over the Whitsunday Islands, secluded beaches and pristine wilderness full of native wildlife. Its quiet bays are ideal for water sports including sailing, fishing, snorkelling, diving; or simply wandering sandy beaches inhabited by no one else. Long Island’s Peppers Palm Bay resort is perfect for couples seeking an intimate, romantic island escape. Nestled amongst swaying palms on a private beach, it encompasses just 24 beachfront bures, five star service and superb surroundings. Both properties are only a very short helicopter ride from either Hamilton Island or the mainland. At the southern end of the island is Paradise Bay Eco Escape – a small resort that accommodates only 16 guests at a time and relies entirely on renewable services like solar electricity and rain water. It features a beautiful restaurant and excellent water sports including sailing trips on their own catamaran.

Tropical North Queensland islands experience their hottest, and wettest, season from November to February with temperatures averaging in the low to mid-30s°C. Temperatures from May to September are especially pleasant, averaging in the mid-20s°C. The Whitsunday Islands boast a temperate climate all year round. Even so, the best months to visit are from April to June, and September /October with little rain expected and average temperatures around the mid-20s°C. Summer can bring tropical rain that usually hits in short bursts, followed by clear blue skies, and temperatures in the low 30s°C.

Click here for our suggestions on events and places to go at various times of year

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