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|Hayman Island is one of the Whitsunday Islands' most exclusive resorts along the Great Barrier Reef. (Courtesy of Hayman Island)|
HAYMAN ISLAND, Australia -- Those who have been to Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef may find it comical that it was an Aussie, Geoff Ogilvy, who was injured by coral in Maui prior to the PGA Tour's season-opening Tournament of Champions.
Aren't Australians supposed to know all too well about the dangers of any reef, given the greatest of all reefs is in their backyard?
To Ogilvy's defense, he's from Adelaide -- not Queensland, where the Great Barrier Reef spans 2,300 kilometers along its shoreline. He's also not alone in getting too close to reefs.
"We had a girl who wanted to take part of the reef home," said Chris Barton, now a First Mate with Cruise Whitsundays. "So she broke some off and stuck it in her bikini."
She had to be treated with vinegar and avoid salt water for treatment.
Even on the day trip I took on their Seaflight cruise to Knuckle Reef, reports of a "bloke with a coral graze" echoed on crew radios.
Golf travel to Queensland isn't complete without taking in the Great Barrier Reef and the spectacular Whitsunday Islands. There may be better pure golf destinations in Australia to the south, but they can't offer the secluded beauty of the islands and the ecological marvel of the reef.
Cruise Whitsunday's Seaflight 37-meter vessel heads out to Knuckle Reef and docks beside a large pontoon that is permanently housed beside the reef. The pontoon can house a couple hundred visitors at once and helps to make the afternoon a part science lab, part water park and part pontoon party. Some visitors drink beer, tan and go down the water slide, while others scuba and snorkel around the reef. Some don't get in the water at all and instead sip beers and tan on the open deck listening to party tunes.
Those here to learn something can take a semi-submarine around the reef or go into the underwater observatory for an under-the-sea view. Reef experts are on hand to answer a lot of questions and provide little factoids of the reef and the animals that inhabit it. Here, you really get a sense for how "living" reefs are (as part of the jellyfish family), and Knuckle Reef has actually reduced by 20 percent recently due to higher water temperatures.
Perhaps the most awe-striking way to see the reef isn't so much below it as it is above with helicopter rides.
Few of the 74 islands in the Whitsundays are populated. One of the most exclusive is the northernmost Hayman Island, which is home to little more than a Leading Hotels of the World luxury resort set on a crescent-shaped, private beach that holds its own among the Whitsunday Islands' many world-class beaches.
Most guests of Hayman head out onto the reef or to nearby Whitehaven Beach at some point during their vacation, but Hayman's beach is peaceful and there's plenty to do right outside your door. Some of the activities included in your room rate are catamaran sailing, windsurfing and paddleskiing. Back on land you can play tennis, billiards, squash or even hit some golf balls.
Each guest room has beach views, and some come with swim-out pool access. For ultimate luxury, you can stay in one of the penthouses, all individually decorated with butler service around the clock. For ultimate luxury, Hayman just debuted its new Absolute Beachfront Villas, built away from the main building right on the beach.
For serving such a select few on a private island, the dining options are especially varied -- from fine French dining, to a wide variety of Asian dishes at Oriental, or more casual pizza and Italian dishes at La Trattoria. It might be best to just eat in your room, and waiters will set up a pleasant table on your balcony for private dining.
Before 2009, about the only golf available through Hayman Island was a small putting green on the beach or a chipping range at the activities center.
But now that nearby Hamilton Island has opened up a world-class golf course, Hayman now offers helicopter transfers right to the golf club. You can stay for the day and play 18 holes, have lunch in the clubhouse and then be transferred back home. Or, you can take a one-hour ferry to Hamilton Island (check with resort staff for ferry departing times, which usually coincide with flights arriving and departing Hamilton Island).
Opened in 2009, Hamilton Island Golf Club was designed by five-time British Open winner and Australian Peter Thomson. The course has some legendary views, tiptoeing along the water's edge from high above, and a fantastic closing stretch.
January 17, 2011
Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Advisor. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker.
Do you like to practice? If you're a two- or three-bucket golfer who can chip and putt till the sun goes down, there are several great places to practice in Florida. Bonus: These practice facilities are situated at top-notch golf courses and resorts.
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