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Just back from: WA & Queensland

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30 July 2012

Lucy Skelton swims with whale sharks, relaxes in luxury and takes a drive along the coast of Tropical North Queensland. 

Where are you just back from:

Perth, Exmouth, Ningaloo Reef, Whitsundays, and Tropical North Queensland.

What did you see/do when you were there:

Coral Coast: Ningaloo Reef, Exmouth, and Cape Range National Park. We flew from Perth to Learmouth with Qantas, which takes approximately two hours. Exmouth is a ex-US military base which is now developing into a tourist hub due to the fact that whale sharks and manta rays can be seen in the coastal waters.

During our time there we were fortunate enough to go out on a fantastic whale shark trip and managed to see three different sharks, the biggest being nine metres long! The whale season had also just started so as part of the excursion we saw humpback whales, which was a real treat. The Cape Range National Park lies only 30 minutes from Exmouth and there are some fantastic attractions to see, including rock wallaby, breathtakingly deep canyons and drift snorkelling at Turquoise Bay.

Perth 

Perth: Back in Perth we made a visit to the historical city of Freemantle, enjoying the sights of one of the first places to be settled by the British. The small city is steeped with history and thanks to Cappuccino Strip and little creatures micro brewery it has now developed into a cosmopolitan area.

Whitsundays: Hayman island/Descarada/Hamilton Island. We flew from Perth to Brisbane (4hrs 30 mins) with an onward connection to Hamilton island. The journey onwards to Hayman island was taken by sea plane and it was certainly an excellent way to arrive in style. I would definitely recommend clients take this option on at least one leg of their journey here.

Hayman Island is a private island in the Whitsundays that has been recently renovated. The island is laid back luxury with full resort facilities and everything you would expect from a world-class resort. One recommendation is the Chef's Table, as it is a gastronomic delight. The hotel's own private beach has beautiful white sand next to crystal clear water and is a wonderful place to relax and unwind.

The next stage of this amazing trip is a night on the Descarada2 luxury cruise vessel. It was a great taste of the product our clients would normally go on. The cabins are ideal for a short break and the boat itself is spacious with a maximum occupancy of eight to 10 people. We were spoilt with food, never wanting for anything, and the crew on board couldn't do enough for us. Snorkelling off the back of the boat was a particular highlight.

Next stop on the Australia tour was Hamilton island. I had the good fortune to stay at Qualia, which has to be one of the best hotels I have ever stayed at. The pavillions are breathtaking and arriving to a glass of Verve overlooking the Whitsunday Islands isn't something I am going to forget in a hurry.

The island itself has lots to offer different clients, from luxury and adults only at Qualia, to families at Yacht Club Villas and good value at the Reef View Hotel. Hamilton has many different walking trails, watersports and restaurants. There is a vast array of wildlife on the island and a beautifully scenic golf course. 

After relaxing and enjoying the island, I then picked up a car from Cairns Airport and drove up the coast to Port Douglas. The scenic drive takes about 60 minutes and as you get closer to Port Douglas it hugs the coastline. Port Douglas itself is an excellent gateway for the Daintree and Great Barrier Reef.

The town has a bustling atmosphere and there are plenty of shops and restaurants to choose from. The sunset cruise with Sailaway is a great way to start your time in Port Douglas. A one-and-a-half-hour cruise allows you to sit back, relax and unwind as you get to know your surroundings a little better. The owner Steve quite often skippers the boat and he provides drinks and canapes on board to start your holiday or next stage of your journey with a bang.

The following day I took a full day trip to the Outer Reef with Poseidon for snorkelling at three different dive sites, offering some beautiful coral and even getting the chance to sea turtles. If you fancy diving then you can also take introductory dives or if you have your licence can do something a little more advanced. If you are lucky, which I certainly was, at the right time of year you can also see whales!

As I travelled further up the coast of Tropical North Queensland, I then hit the rainforset. The Daintree is a tropical wonderland, with lush vegetation and wildlife in abundance. You can either travel to the Daintree on an organised day excursion, or like I did, meander up to Cape Tribulation with a tourist map, stopping at various points of interest including forest walks, lookout points and finally Cape Tribulation itself. The area now boasts its own chocolate company and a local ice cream factory.

Driving to the Atherton Tablelands from the rainforest was a spectacular sight.  Constrasting the winding roads of the high mountains and rainforest, I come across large flat plains with termite hills dominating the landscape. Visiting beautiful waterfalls and strolling through woodland and plains - while only being an hour from the coast.

The final stop on the journey was Palm Cove, the small resort 30 minutes north of Cairns. This is a great location to relax and completely unwind. The small resort offers luxury properties with fine and casual dining with a backdrop of palm trees and white sand. This is a real beach destination, although is still an excellent base to see Cairns or even go further north to the Daintree.

What was your highlight:

  • Swimming with the Whale Sharks in Exmouth
  • Cape Tribulation - Daintree
  • Chef's Table at Hayman Island - Whitsundays
  • Qualia Hamilton Island - beautiful vistas and excellent hotel.

What would be your tip for this holiday:

Hire a car and explore the area in Tropical North Queensland. There is lots to see and do off the main roads that you might miss if you only have transfers. Make sure you arrange excursions in advance, as it helps to organise your itinerary. Ensure that you don't miss out as some of them can be extremely popular and don't always run every day.

Why should a member travel there:

Seeing Whale Sharks is an amazing experience and certainly a reason in itself to visit Australia. There is also amazing biodiversity in its oceans with beautiful tropical fish and corals on the Coral Coast and in Tropical North Queensland

What is unique about this place:

You can visit so many different landscapes within one country, from tropical rainforests, white sandy beaches with crystal clear water and places of historical significance, such as Freemantle.

Did you have any disappointments:

I would have loved to spend longer in each destination, to be able to explore the regions to its fullest.


Hotel Reviews

Novotel

Hotel ratings

  • Location rating: 4
  • Area rating?: 3
  • Room cat rating?: 4
  • Facilities rating?: 4
  • Service rating?: 4
  • Food rating?: n/a
  • Overall rating?: 4

Where is it:

Exmouth

Why choose this hotel:

4* hotel, the best in the area, great place to base yourself for the national park and also whale sharks and manta rays.

What is it like?:

Contemporary style. Spacious rooms and communal areas. Layout spread around the main pool area which overlooks the ocean. Typical Australian feel to the whole hotel, being very laid back, nice bar area and terrace to relax in after dinner.

We like?:

Good quality food and relaxed atmosphere.

Best for?:

All Wexas clients interested in nature and wildlife, as the main reason to visit the area is the marine life.

What's the neighbourhood like?:

Very quiet area, with being an ex-US military base. There are a few cafes/ restaurants in the area, but very little infrastructure. More things are being developed though.

Are there any attractions nearby:

Cape Range National Park, Ningaloo Reef - whale sharks and manta rays.

What are the room categories, which is the best one and why?:

1/2/3 bedroom apartments.

Ocean views definitely recommended.

Are there any unique activities and facilities on offer?:

24-hour gym.

Service?:

Excellent service in all areas.

What is the food like?:

Good quality, with plenty of choice for breakfast.

Peninsula

Hotel Ratings

  • Location rating: 5
  • Area rating?: 5
  • Room cat rating?: 4
  • Facilities rating?: 2
  • Service rating?: 4
  • Food rating?: n/a
  • Overall rating?: 4

Where is it:

Port Douglas

Why choose this hotel:

Boutique hotel option in the centre of town. Personal service and independently owned. Good option if you want a hotel style property as many are apartment style in Port Douglas.  

What is it like?:

Ocean influence in decor with pale blue and green colour scheme. Small and intimate feel to the hotel, perhaps lacks a little space for the breakfast area as squashed by the pool. There is a public cafe in the space, which would be ideal for a breakfast area.

We like?:

Boutique feel of the property with personal service.

Best for?:

Couples who want a hotel.

What's the neighbourhood like?:

Located in central Port Douglas, so close to all the sights and right by the beach.

Are there any attractions nearby:

Great Barrier Reef and Daintree close by, lovely beach and marina with sunset sailing.

What are the room categories, which is the best one and why?:

Studio room, pool view, ocean view, coral spa suite, peninsula suite.

Studio rooms were lovely - with terrace or balcony. Ocean view rooms are a must as that's the reason to go there in the first place.

Service?:

Personal service. Manager/owner meets on arrival whenever possible.

What is the food like?:

Only ate breakfast, which was very nice.

Silky Oaks

Hotel Ratings

  • Location rating: 3
  • Area rating?: 3
  • Room cat rating?: n/a
  • Facilities rating?: n/a
  • Service rating?: 3
  • Food rating?: n/a
  • Overall rating?: 4

Where is it:

10 minutes drive outside of Mossman, and only 30 minutes from the start of the Daintree. Secluded hotel in rainforest

Why choose this hotel:

Rainforest experience, get away from the hustle and bustle . Only property of good quality which is close to the daintree without being in Port Douglas.

What is it like?:

Relaxed luxury, no televisions in room but have i pods, hammocks on the balcony. Encourages you to relax and enjoy your surroundings. Layout is set all the in trees with walk ways linking everything, easy to get around although some parts a steep and may take a little time for older clients.

We like?:

The location is the best part of the hotel. Open air dining and lounge area, encourages you to interact with your surroundings.

Best for?:

Couples

What's the neighbourhood like?:

The hotel is the only thing within the immediate area, as it is a secluded retreat. Is a place to escape everything.

Are there any attractions nearby:

Daintree National Park

What are the room categories, which is the best one and why?:

Average service, didn't think it was particulalry personal and not very helpful when trying to locate everything.

Is there anything unique about the hotel and what should guests be aware of?:

Offers excellent excursions to experience the flora and forna of the area. Very high quality product.

What stands out for you - are there any hidden gems in the resort?:

The unique location. This is the reason why you go to this area and because of the Daintree National Park.

Rose Gums

Hotel Ratings

Location rating: 2

  • Area rating?: 3
  • Room cat rating?: 2
  • Facilities rating?: n/a
  • Service rating?: n/a
  • Food rating?: n/a
  • Overall rating?: 3

Where is it:

Yungaburra is the local town, with Cairns being a one-and-a-half-hour drive.

Why choose this hotel:

You would choose this resort if you wanted to explore woodlands and nature. Take lots of walks.  

What is it like?:

I would say it is a little dated and needs some money spending on it to bring it up to date. The concept is good with the tree houses, but needs a little work. Very friendly staff and good being self contained with full kitchen facilties you can spend longer here.

We like?:

Service, very personal, lovely menu every evening and with only a few choices ensures you get good quality.

Best for?:

Nature lovers.

What's the neighbourhood like?:

You have to have a car to explore the region as you would not be able to get to the property otherwise.

Are there any attractions nearby:

Throughout the Atherton Tablelands there are various different points of interest. Within the vicinity of the hotel you can visit Lake Eacham and Curtain Fig Tree.

What are the room categories, which is the best one and why?:

Tree houses, ranging from one bedroom to family tree houses.

All the same with beautiful vistas across the forests

Are there any unique activities and facilities on offer?:

Three lovely walks around the property, which highlight the stunning surroundings. All day walks can take 30 minutes to a couple of hours.

Service?:

Relaxed, not heavily service orientated. Only a person at the reception, then left to our own devices.

What is the food like?:

Breakfast basket in the fridge, which you cook and prepare yourself. Great selection and very delicious! Dinner was a small choice, but well prepared.

Is there anything unique about the hotel and what should guests be aware of?:

It is in the wilderness which is why clients would travel to this property. Relax and do lots of walks and see all the local attractions.

Qualia

Qualia

Hotel Ratings

Location rating: 5

  • Area rating?: 3
  • Room cat rating?: 4
  • Facilities rating?: n/a
  • Service rating?: 5
  • Food rating?: 4
  • Overall rating?: 5

Where is it:

Hamilton Island

Why choose this hotel:

Adults only, over 18s only. Exclusive and very luxurious. Villa style, but hotel service.

What is it like?:

Situated at the top of Hamilton island, private gates to get into the property. Only about four or five years old. Very exclusive and discreet - it is laid back luxury. Contemporary fresh design, with emphasis on 'outdoors in'.

We like?:

Everything! The service is excellent. Enjoy having a complimentary golf buggy to drive around the resort.

Best for?:

Honeymooners and couples.

What's the neighbourhood like?:

Hamilton Island is a resort island, used primarily for tourism and second homes, as you are in the heart of the Whitsunday Islands. There is a lovely harbour area which has several resaurants, a small supermarket and even a nightclub open on Friday and Saturday evenings. Nature park and the majority of the island is still undeveloped due to the restrictions in place from the government. Also a golf course on the opposite island (Dunk Island)

Are there any attractions nearby:

Whitsundays is the main attractions. Whitehaven Beach is only 30 minutes away from the island.

What are the room categories, which is the best one and why?:

Three categories. Villa (only one of these), winward pavilion and standard pavilions. Recommend winward as they all have private plunge pool in the room.

Are there any unique activities and facilities on offer?:

Met on arrival with a glass of Verve or spa tea as well as a complimentary bottle of yellow label verve in the room on arrival.

Service?:

Excellent service throughout!!!

What is the food like?:

Very good, contemporary and gourmet dining.

Is there anything unique about the hotel and what should guests be aware of?:

Complimentary golf buggies to all rooms.

What stands out for you - are there any hidden gems in the resort?:

Excellent service and a great way to escape, but within very easy reach of the main resort.

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