News & Reviews Rest of the World Australia Review: Qualia, Hamilton Island


Qualia, Hamilton Island
Room type: Leeward Pavilion
Duration: 14th March > 16th March, 2018
Booked with: Dorsia Travel

Every market has a luxury hotel that does the same thing as everyone, yet likes to pretend they’re somehow different; somehow better; somewhat more refined.  They always seem to use marketing terms, like “redefining luxury”, “beyond luxury” or “One Nation, One People, One Leader”.  Yet they love nothing more than handing out their own awards, like 6 or 7 stars.  All these properties exist to do is remind you that a polished turd is still a turd.  Some hotels are born bellends, but some mature into them like bacteria moulding cheese into a fungus.

Qualia has done this in a unique way.  Perhaps at one stage it really was the place of Australian royalty –  people like Paul Logan, Paul Logan’s friends or Paul Logan’s tax advisors.  Yet when you double the size of your property from 30 to 60 rooms, you are losing what made the hotel special in the first place.  Doubling anything other than your bank account is rarely a good idea.  Imagine if Keith Richards doubled his drug intake, we’d have no Rolling Stones and a man likely impossible to kill and certain to cause a zombie outbreak.

The issue with Qualia is not only its arrogance of its brilliance, but also its complete lack of competition since One&Only shut down due to extensive weather related damages.  It means it gets to tell you it’s the best and not even the competition can argue back.  Yet Adam Smith wasn’t creating capitalism just for shits and giggles, he wanted competition so Qualia couldn’t be useless.  He was a right forward thinking chap and knew that one day, on a private island off the coast of Australia, right near the Great Barrier Reef, no competition would be the downfall of a once revered property.

There are things to enjoy about Qualia, but you can only really enjoy them if you’ve not been to much, much better places.  Like your nearest Butlins.  Qualia is not cheap, with a basic room category costing nearly £1,000/n, and value for money not being at their forefront.  I am tired of average places charging these prices, but I’m also tired of getting suckered into them, so really it’s both our faults that it’s so bad.  However, when you have issues, please direct all your anger their way.  I had a lot of luck in Qualia, but all of it was bad.  I would rather pay 3x-5x that and receive excellence, rather than waste further money on something that offers me nothing.

It only took a few minutes upon arrival for me to know it was a mistake.  That’s all it took for the employee collecting us to let us know we were on our way to a 6 star hotel.  Oh, those sneaky 6 star hotels, always being discriminated against by pesky hotel rating systems only giving them 5 stars.  No more, I say!  We must stand up against this bigotry within the hotel industry.  I hope Burj al Arab and Qualia begin their own #MeToo campaign to finally drain the luxury hotel industry swamp.

5 minutes later, having left the airport and arriving at Qualia, I was offered a welcome beer and we were congratulated on our honeymoon.  It would have taken 10 seconds prior to check that I don’t drink and we had just got engaged – not married.  It was a continued theme of forgetful, impersonal and slow service.  Most strange, as the stay list was perfectly executed.

Qualia is only accessible via a gate that requires a room key, yet they would ask our room number so frequently that you would assume security was on high alert all the time.  Were were in some Agatha Christie novel of endless murders and the staff had to keep checking no assassins were on site?  The best interaction during our entire stay was offered by a parrot that showed up on our balcony – it actually bothered to spend more than 3 minutes with me without asking for my room number.

Who’s a pretty boy? Is it those in room 48?

The type of service that truly bothers me is the neglectful kind, like sitting down on the beach and waiting and waiting for someone to take drinks orders, and then waiting even longer for them to bring them.  During one order we just gave up, as they never arrived with what we requested.  The beach is an entire reflection of Qualia: great to look at, but ultimately useless; warnings for jellyfish meant everyone chose to stick to land to instead be attacked by the endless queue of insects.  The use of dark woods is very Amanpulo-esq, but it being more crowded than Woodstock greatly cheapened it.  When you’re struggling to get a seat in a luxury resort, it’s not really luxury.

Even the Internet was as unreliable as the staff, cutting off every 15-20 minutes and needing to re-login every single time.  Yet one thing they were on top of was chasing the signing of the bill.  At one point we forgot to sign, so they followed up so the toilets and waited outside to grab our signature.  Kinda like The Shining meets modern day celebrity.

The main USP of Qualia is not the resort itself, but the island it sits on.  Quite unique, the entire island is owned by one family and almost every single shop, restaurant and hotel on the island is theirs, meaning you can charge everything to your room.  Best of all, every room is given a golf buggy, so I can finally accept golf has an actual use.  For a family owned business, it is quite ironic that Qualia imposes a minimum age of 16 for guests.  Probably for the best and about time we started to think of the children; we don’t want them getting used to this sub-standard of living.

The room was a combination of modern and archaic, like the botox stuffed face of a 60 year-old Hollywood actress.  We were in room #48, which we were kindly upgraded to.  It is the same room category as we booked, therefore not an upgrade, but this is Qualia and who I am to doubt their 6 stars?  The upgrade was, according to them, because we had a room with a better view, which I’m sure they tell every guest.  The view was out onto a construction site with a hint of ocean, but only when the tide wasn’t in, otherwise it was just a pool of mud that was as appealing as a tramp in a bin; god knows what the rooms with worse views look into.  Maybe the local prisons shower room?

The room is barely a junior suite with a balcony, even if they like to call them pavilions –  their marketing material refers to them a temples, shrines and kingdoms.  I did not consider the next category up – Windward Pavilion – as its main difference appeared to be just a pool, but their basic room category is South-West facing and therefore there is no light coming into the room, and very little making its way onto the balcony.  That’s right – not even the light wanted to come into our room.  It does offer plenty of privacy, with enough space between each pavilion that you cannot see into another room, but I would assume that’s just because even the builders had enough pride to insist they build no other rooms in such an awful location.

The bathroom was the best part of the room; rather incongruous in its modernity compared to the bareness of the rest of the room, with Aesop products in abundance.  Yet separating the bathroom and bedroom was just your imagination.  Free movies were offered to distract you from the reality you found yourself in, but the TV is so far away, the AC so loud that watching or hearing it was as painful as hearing yet another request for our room number.  If you’re a light sleeper, you may want to consider earplugs, or simply a one way ticket to Lizard Island; the AC frequently woke me up due to turning itself off and powering back on again.

What surprised the most was the quality of food.  Sure, they stop serving dinner at the quite absurd 8:30pm, so when we arrived at 9:30 and had to decide between room service or the fluff in the bottom of my jean pockets, we were slightly taken back.  Yet when they did deliver it, it really impressed.  I certainly didn’t need a wide angle lens to photograph the breakfast buffet, but the a la carte offering was perfect, particularly the rice porridge and fruit.

As we eagerly awaited our departure, the suffering was prolonged by their desire to tell us one thing and then have the reality different.  Kinda like having 6 stars, if we were being pedantic.  We just stood there waiting for the driver for 15 minutes, and then had to share the car with another guest – a first for me.

The Good

  • From landing to the resort in less than 10 minutes
  • The food, as long as you’re ok dealing with a small menu

The Bad

  • Service
  • Rooms
  • Facilities
  • Crowdedness

The Luxurious

  • The next place you visit will suddenly and inexplicably become better


Occupancy was 100% during our stay and is 92% year around.  Changes will not be a-comin’ here anytime soon.  As if I couldn’t emphasis that enough, we decided to fill out the departure feedback form and received no follow-up, which can be turned into a mathematical formula to show the sum of shits they give.  Don’t waste your time.


Beach Club & Pool

Leeward Pavilion

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Tom Cahalan

Written by Tom Cahalan on 20th May '18

Dorsia Travel’s co-founder Tom Cahalan’s take on travel is reliably candid. Here’s his take on what’s good, bad, and luxurious.

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