Epic Honeymoon Report: The Great Barrier Reef

For romance and white sand beaches.

Great Barrier Reef

Photo courtesy of InterContinental Hayman Island Resort

Imagine touring the spectacularly turquoise lattice of the Great Barrier Reef by helicopter, floating over the Heart Reef, the most romantic of natural attractions, with your sweetheart before landing on a pontoon for snorkeling with thousands of vibrant fish in its shallows. As the sun rises, you hike to find not only secret beaches but wallabies hopping through the trees like miniature kangaroos. Go for a cruise across the deep cobalt water of the WhitsundayIslands and spot not just dolphins but humpback whales and their massive offspring seemingly frolicking. Visit one of the whitest-sand beaches on Earth, so pure it looks like fresh snowfall. And savor sunsets with bubbly from a long spit of sand being gently lapped by crystalline water. 

A honeymoon at InterContinental Hayman Island Resort means all of the above and more. The dreamy private island property recently opened after extensive renovations to restore it to its former glory—and then some—after a devastating cyclone in 2017. With the remodel comes chicly refreshed rooms boasting a slew of tropical views and, in some, the ability to jump right off your deck into the huge pool. There are also gorgeous beach villas sitting front row on the sand, with uninterrupted views of the sea from the moment you walk inside, thanks to plentiful glass (and lots of automated privacy shades) and private pools—these are the stuff of honeymoon dreams.

When it is time to emerge for sustenance, a handful of dining venues ensure plenty of variety, from a very authentic-feeling Italian trattoria serving pizzas and handmade pastas, to the Asian street food–inspired poolside Bam Bam and an elegant steakhouse. The breakfast array is legendary. Honeymooners can book private dinners for two under a shower of stars, in a sweet fairy light-lit garden setting or on the beach, perhaps. If you feel any guilt about indulging, there’s a robust schedule of fitness classes, not to mention a cutting-edge gym, so there are zero excuses. Days are, understandably, spent enjoying nature’s blue and white palette in the sun; many different excursions and boat trips are available alongside kayaks, paddleboards, and Hobie cats over disarmingly clear water. The spa, which serves up muscle-melting treatments using local Aussie-made Sodashi products, is a worthy splurge. 

As great as this destination is for a honeymoon, it’s also unbelievable for a destination wedding, and the InterContinental is equipped with prolific lush, scenic venues fitting all sizes of parties up to about 200, not to mention the charming little Stella Maris chapel, elevated with stained glass and picture windows, making for the most breathtaking panoramas a ceremony could possibly have. There’s even the new all-white three-bedroom Beach House, which makes an epic bridal suite for getting ready and topping up tans around the private infinity pool blending into the blue beyond. With its own kitchen, a chef can come cook private dinners, too. Another option still, for very small parties or elopements, is the architecturally stunning Residences built into the hills, with four bedrooms each, private infinity pools, and barbecue grills with 270-degree vistas.  

For newlyweds who want to enjoy the scenery sans children, the adults-only luxury resort Qualia, nestled between eucalyptus, does the trick with 60 individual guest pavilions with tropical bushland views or awe-inspiring vistas of the Whitsundays. This is also the place for avid golfers; a course designed by Peter Thomson is on the next island over, reachable in minutes by ferry or helicopter. 

If you’re still not sold on heading Down Under, consider that while the reef is quite healthy now, without too much coral bleaching, climate change and warming oceans (not to mention the uptick in cyclones) are making for an uncertain future. (Also, it’s relatively easy to reach, just a two-hour flight from Sydney, where you can fly nonstop from many major U.S. cities.) It’s been affected by people—up until five years ago there were still reef walking tours, in which tourists literally could walk on the corals—and dropping anchor on the reef is still legal, which causes some 1,000 years of damage in 10 seconds. For deeper immersion into the reef and its giant colorful clams, giant Maori wrasse, spaghetti-like coral, and parrotfish (and even diving, if you wish), adventurous couples can arrange to spend a night on the aforementioned pontoon, glamping, if you will, in tents with cushy mattresses on the top. Those wishing for even more up-close-and-personal encounters, plus a splash of luxury, can opt for one of two brand-new suites that make up Australia’s first underwater accommodation, dubbed Reefsuites, complete with aquarium-like glass that allows you to actually sleep alongside fish. 

Of course, there’s no one way to enjoy one of the world’s greatest wonders—it’s up to each couple to explore it at their own pace, in their own way. The bottom line is, just don’t miss out. 

The current outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. As the situation remains fluid, we’ll be sharing tips and stories from industry experts to give you of-the-moment advice and help you navigate wedding planning today. For the most up-to-date guidelines and latest on travel restrictions and requirements, check the CDC and U.S. Department of State websites.

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