With four new hotels, the great resurgence of Australia’s battered tropical shores is well on its way.
When Cyclone Debbie tore through Australia’s Whitsunday Islands in March 2017, the storm left wispy white-sand isles thrashed, hotels destroyed, and renowned natural wonders like the Great Barrier Reef and Whitehaven Beach in ruin. With losses to the tourism industry estimated at $114.5 million, the event could have wrought lasting damage. But just two years on, the islands are back.
The revival began with a mega-makeover of palm-fringed Airlie Beach, unveiled in June: A sleek new waterfront promenade, bursting with restaurants and markets, has allowed the formerly backpacker-filled beach town to pivot from being a regional jump-off point to a destination unto itself. New and improved hotels, too, have perked up the area’s prospects, with adults-only wellness retreat Elysian opening in March. The 20-guest escape brings unprecedented exclusivity to the islands, not to mention sustainability—it’s the first fully solar-powered resort in the Great Barrier Reef. In April, the family-friendly Daydream Island Resort reopened, showing off a $100 million renovation and breezy, barefoot-luxe rooms; then came the InterContinental Hayman Island Resort, which has taken over from One&Only in one of the Whitsunday Islands’ most glamorous spots. Unveiled in July, it includes eight sumptuous private beachfront villas and the 4,300-square-foot Hayman Beach House, set up steps from the ocean. Plus, travelers can now snorkel to a six-sculpture underwater exhibit, opened in September.
Next month the Museum of Underwater Art—the first of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere—makes its much-anticipated debut, with installations scattered among the islands that double as sites for coral and marine-life regeneration. Perhaps the most original development, though, comes courtesy of tour operator Cruise Whitsundays; the outfitter has just launched Reefsuites, Australia’s first underwater hotel, where guests spend the night in a fully-submerged glass-walled suite, taking in an incredible hidden world. All of these eyes focused on the reef will amplify the attention needed to protect its future.
Source: Kris Fordham from cntraveler.com