Generations of fun in the sun
Hyatt Regency Coolum is an Australian tourism stayer
IN an age of instant gratification and disposability, anywhere that has stood the test of time is a place to be treasured. I am not necessarily talking of historic piles or grand monuments but of buildings or complexes that represent the very best of their era.
Hyatt Regency Coolum opened amid considerable fanfare in 1988 — I know this as I was there, in shoulder pads and high hair — and its arrival caused much excitement in the tourism and hospitality industry. Here we had a 150ha estate, meandering in a wavy arc with integrated accommodation and leisure facilities, championship golf course, seven tennis courts, myriad pools, villas and cycling trails. And all in a resoundingly Australian setting, with woodlands full of ringtail possums, squirrel gliders and rainbow lorikeets at its back, and beach beyond.
There were (and still are) satellite lounges with names such as Palm and Bauhinia and Coolibah servicing accommodation clusters with breakfasts and information facilities. It felt very organic, before we had started to diminish that word through wholesale overuse.
It hardly sounds all that exciting now but that was the age of excess, of Christopher Skase and gold-plated taps, of stretch limousines and wine coolers. No one thought much about the environment, about recycling towels or saving water. Carbon emissions? Something to do with triplicate forms, perhaps.
Twenty-three years on, after thorough refurbishments and light makeovers, and decades of good maintenance and management, Hyatt Regency Coolum still delivers the goods.
Queensland mining billionaire Clive Palmer bought the property from the Lend Lease Corporation this month, which could herald more investment in infrastructure. It was originally built by Japanese developer giant Daikyo at the height of the Queensland tourism boom; Hyatt has always had the management contract and when casual as well as permanent staff are counted, it’s the Sunshine Coast’s biggest employer.
Hyatt Regency Coolum is as family-friendly as ever, with an emphasis on walking and cycling, breathing the fine air of this blessed Queensland region, and getting sporty on the golf course or being princess-pampered in The Spa, the largest in Australia at a lavish 750sq m and open for encouragingly long hours (6.30am to 7pm).
In the 1980s, that word spa meant a hot tub, with chaps sporting moustaches and medallions and ladies togged up in gold bikinis. Now we all recognise that spas are temples to health and beauty, salons of absolute pampering, and The Spa may be plainly named but that’s where the no-frills approach ends. It’s all about frills and fab treatments, from massages with buckwheat and blossoms to a Diamond Facial with ice-lift mask that features frozen marine DNA, grape-seed extract and lavender essential oil. This extraordinary affair features products from the Natura Bisse — as used, don’t you know, ‘ ‘ by Beyonce and the Spanish royals’’.
There are bamboo scrubs and detoxifying oxygen facials and private little ‘ ‘ geisha tubs’’ in pebbled courtyard gardens with piccolos of French fizz and sliced tropical fruit at hand. Fitness is on the holiday agenda, too, with swim coaching, personalised yoga or pilates, and trainers plus a 25m lap pool, steamrooms, saunas and aquarobics classes.
In 1988, I remember having my nails done and thinking that was pretty cool.
What was so revolutionary all those years ago was the sense of not being in a hotel at all but more of a country club, with low-rise blocks of rooms dotted amid paperbarks, groves of angophora and vivid rainforest with kangaroos hopping, brush turkeys strutting and jewel-coloured parrots swooping. It is still a nature-based experience; every time I have stayed — perhaps six times over the years — there has been a kangaroo on the 18th tee, j ust standing there expectantly as if on some kind of corny cue, waiting to be photographed. I can’t help but imagine staff lurking in the bushes and calls of ‘‘Release the roo!’’ as guests wander past.
What’s new on my visit late last month is the first-phase refurbishment of the resort’s 156 King Rooms — this revamped accommodation has been branded as Golf King and Garden King categories, with chic white bathrooms, smart neutral soft furnishings, pale timbers and a two-way television that turns for viewing from lounge or bed.
The 324-room inventory also includes refurbished twobedroom Golf Villas, Lakefront Villas and Ambassador Villas and Residences in their own enclave, with pool and gardens, opposite the 18th tee.
If you have children in tow, this is nature nirvana, with a Camp Hyatt recreational program and four age-graded clubs catering for juniors from six weeks to 10 years. Especially during school holiday periods, there are supervised activities that range from children’s golf clinics and kite-making classes to birdwatching and botanical walks and archery.
Older Camp Hyatt kids can take off on guided excursions while you sit by the pool, lie down in the spa, or loll just about anywhere. Meanwhile, they could be ice-skating, tenpin bowling or riding attractions with names such as Booma Zooma or Giggle Go Round at Aussie World theme park at Palmview in the company of a supervisor and other Camp Hyatt kids.
The annual Taste of Coolum (this year it was on the weekend of June 24-26) is a great time to stay; there are events galore with visiting Australian and international chefs and winemakers, and special accommodation packages. But this long weekend is immensely popular, so forward bookings are essential, even if you are just on the Sunshine Coast and feel like dropping in.
This June there were ‘‘chefs al fresco’’ in the Sparkling Garden, degustation dinners at Eliza’s (the resort’s fine-diner) and Italian celebrations in the Tuscan-inspired Village Square, where at any time a meal in Bruschetta is a treat (standout dish: spinach and lemon risotto with Moreton Bay bugs).
At the other end of the scale, T’Go in the Village Square offers takeaways, snacks and grocery supplies; the multi-bedroom Ambassador Villas and Residences have full kitchens, so selfcatering for longer stays is a popular option.
Hyatt Regency Coolum’s Robert Trent Jones Jr-designed 18-hole, par 72 course is home to the Australian PGA Championship, and golf is serious business here. It’s not a game I’ve ever played but I can see its appeal and can well imagine golfers would be in heaven if housed in a fairwayfacing guestroom, practising at a floodlit driving range, making the most of the redesigned frontnine holes.
The thwack of golf balls, the cackle of kookaburras, the highspirited calls of kids as they cycle past. Some of those very young children could represent thirdgeneration guests; it’s a place families return to again and again. Heritage list it, somebody. Susan Kurosawa was a guest of Hyatt Regency Coolum.
The country-club layout of Hyatt Regency Coolum seemed revolutionary when it opened in 1988, and it remains a nature-based experience
An elegantly refurbished King Room with two-way television and chic new decor