Jul 23, 2013

Hamilton Island

I read the email for the fifth time, my heart still racing a bit. No freakin' way! I thought. When I first got the email in May asking if I was interested in coming to the Great Barrier Feast, a culinary event on Hamilton Island in the Great Barrier Reef, I wrote back a bit cautiously. I feared it was just another press release rather than a personal media invitation, and I didn't want to get my hopes up. When more details emerged, I was beside myself – a trip to Australia was in the works! I have quite the behemoth blog post ahead, so you might want to get comfortable first.

The Great Barrier Feast, now in its fourth year, is hosted by qualia, Hamilton Island's premier luxury resort (and what may likely ruin all future "luxury" accommodations for me with its unparalleled service and amenities). When I began the 24+ hour long journey (with a stressful nearly missed connection), I knew there would be a very bright light at the end of the tunnel. And bright it was. Upon entering qualia's Long Pavilion, I was greeted with this magnificent view and an ice-cold lemongrass ginger tea (and copious amounts of champagne).


Then I was whisked away to my pavilion, which was probably, like, three times the size of my current apartment. I had a quick lunch at Pebble Beach and then 'drove' (my golf buggy) to qualia's spa. There, I had a scheduled Kumali treatment, a 90-minute ritual using products containing blends of herbs and spices to relieve tension and stimulate circulation. I've never even had a real massage before, so this experience was heavenly, especially after the travel day. The ritual began with a body scrub and mud wrap. I then hopped right outside to the rain shower and returned for a steaming poultice massage and moisturizer. Ahh, I could have laid on that massage bed all day.


The next morning, I had some free time, so I went on a mission to get to the highest vantage point on Hamilton Island – Passage Peak. It was a challenging walk for someone who hasn't seen a gym in over five years and rarely moves faster than 3 mph in her daily life. As I was alone on the trail, I had visions of snakes emerging from the forest to snap at my ankles (yes, I have quite the healthy imagination). The challenge (and oh was it a challenge in my clunky-no-arch-support Converse sneakers) was well worth it. At the top, there was a beautiful view of the Whitsundays, the collection of islands of which Hamilton Island is part, and an intense but most welcome breeze.


In the afternoon, I headed to the Hamilton Island Yacht Club where the masterclasses with Australia's top chefs were held. First up was world-renowned Quay's Peter Gilmore, who showed us how to make his signature congee with mud crab, palm heart and egg yolk emulsion, a dish "all about textures." I've had a lot of congee in my day (it's definitely a comfort food for me), but never quite like this.


That night, we had a lovely dinner at qualia's Pebble Beach, featuring Robert Oatley wines. As I walked back to my pavilion, I looked up and was seriously stunned at how many stars I could see. I believe I even saw the Milky Way! Living in a city, it can be hard to remember that stars even exist, so I was really blown away.

The next morning, the light was pretty divine at Pebble Beach. I had a leisurely breakfast and took advantage of the inspiring light to take some shots around the waterfront. A lot of people on Hamilton Island kept apologizing for the overcast weather and mercurial sun, but I loved what it did for the light. It's the blue-sky-not-a-single-cloud sunny days I find the most difficult to shoot in.


Later that morning, we headed back to the Yacht Club for a masterclass with Dan Hunter, formerly of Mugaritz and most recently of the Royal Mail Hotel. He prepared a beautiful plate of raw jumbuck (a new-to-me food term for sheep), flathead, and salted dandelion.


That night was the seven course showpiece dinner in the Long Pavilion featuring dishes from Peter Gilmore, Dan Hunter and Alastair Waddell (Executive Chef of qualia). I snuck in early to get some set-up shots, then proceeded to practically miss the start of dinner from an overzealous nap! Luckily I ran to the pavilion (with no makeup! The horror!) in time for the first course. I have no idea how the kitchen churned out 140 artfully-plated dishes for each course, but I peeked in and it was a very well-oiled machine in there.

Oh, there's so much more I could say, but you know words are not my focus (nor are they my forte) here. I hope you've enjoyed viewing a wee bit of this incredible weekend, and of course, I'd be happy to answer any questions in the comments.

An immense thank you to Sophie, Michelle, and Debra for making this trip possible!

66 comments :

  1. That's quite a dream holiday destination!! Thanks for sharing these beautiful photos, Alice!

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  2. Looks amazing!! I was stalking your Instagram :) Beautiful photos as always.

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  3. This looks absolutely beautiful! I love the photos, they're so gorgeous. Great job! And thank you so much for taking us along your little adventure.

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  4. That sounds like an amazing event Alice! Good to see you having fun in Australia. I'm looking forward to my new home :)

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  5. Beautifully captured Alice, it looks to be a dream weekend. The Spa treatment sounds mindblowing

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  6. Whoa damn girl, you're living the life. Australia is definitely high on my places to go now! Love the photos.

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  7. Looks like such a great trip! Glad you had an amazing experience!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Can you explain exactly what is the difficulty you have with composition using ink (or a keyboard) rather than a lens? Your writing is beautifully done, as are your images. You need no modesty. Keep writing... and making wonderful images.

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  9. Wow, wow, wow!! What a dream trip Alice. Aren't massages heavenly? My husband and I are addicted to them. I recently had my first facial and am afraid it's going to become another addiction. It is now one of my goals to attend the Great Barrier Feast...

    ReplyDelete
  10. Oooh goody, I've been looking forward to these posts! So beautiful to see my country through your eyes. x

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  11. You've shown me a part of my own country that I didn't even knew existed! Very luxurious and beautiful - what a lucky duck you are for having experienced such a beautiful part of the world :) Keep sharing - maybe one day, I'll be inspired enough to go there!

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  12. This place looks UH-mazing. Would kill for a visit.

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  13. Gorgeous pictures, Alice. Each and every frame is brilliant. I was impatiently waiting for these pictures (after having the sneak peek in Instagram). Hope you recovered from the jet lag. :)

    ReplyDelete
  14. Wow, lucky you! This looks absolutely amazing. Another trip to add to my holiday destination wish list :-)

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  15. Beautifulllllesssssstttt photos!
    wonderful place.. a pleasure for the eyes and soul...

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  16. Beautiful photos and lovely post!

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  17. I've just found your blog and I love it at all! Grat pictures everywher! I'm following your work from now!

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  18. I've been looking forward to this post after getting glimpses of your trip on Instagram. The food! The spa! The views!

    ReplyDelete
  19. What the? How the? You are officially my hero! When my daughter asks me if heroes are real, I will pull up your blog and show it to her.

    Ok, ok, I may be a bit exagerrating, but how cool are you??? =)

    I went to Australia for the first time 6 years ago, and went to Hamilton Island for a few days, and loved it. I hope you got the chance to see the great barrier reef? We were just there again in November, but skipped the island for the red center. Loved that trip as well. Honestly, I wouldn't mind living in Australia for a couple of years or so. That country is full of wonder.

    I hope you had an awesome time!

    ReplyDelete
  20. Hamilton Island, I'm sold! Great feature Alice. They've picked the right person ;)

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  21. so gorgeous!

    & I definitely agree about the light - I find super bright days hard to photograph too :)

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  22. Gorgeous images! Lucky you! ~M.

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  23. Wow, what an amazing trip and you captured it so well. Hamilton island looks stunning.

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  24. The first time through I had to just look at your pictures! I have no patience! And then I went back and read. And then scrolled through the pictures again. Wow.

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  25. Oh wow! Those photos are to die for. I can't believe you flew half way round the world for no more than 3 days. BUT....what an incredible experience and opportunity.

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  26. I dont know Qualia before this! what an amazing experience! Hamilton Island is gorgeous:)

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  27. this looks absolutely amazing. Australia has been on my top 10 list for ages, this is so gorgeous. You lucky girl, you!

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  28. Dying a bit over the beauty of this place and your photos.

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  29. Really beautiful place!!

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  30. Heavenly post

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  31. My gosh what a beautiful blog you have. Pleased to have discovered it. Emma Louise Layla x

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