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Australia’s Great Barrier Reef

The property was immediately rebuilt, and has been tirelessly reconfigured, tweaked, and refreshed ever since. Thanks to the most recent, $23 million offensive, a popular new room category, "pool access," has been created. Terraces that project into the pool were retrofitted with gates so that you can wake up, stretch, throw your legs over the side of your bed, and slip directly and noiselessly into the water. There was nothing in the binder of material on my night table suggesting a 3 a.m. skinny dip with my sweetie, but obviously that's the idea. Hokey?Yes. Fun?Yes.

Perhaps the most important thing to note about Hayman is the absence of anything tongue-in-cheek. The Italian and French restaurants look like send-ups of their genres, but no joke is intended. It takes a little while getting used to the lack of irony, but once you do it feels kind of good, even welcome. Imagine, a courtyard with a giant stone column capital that's nothing more or less than a plant stand. A marble foo dog that's a marble foo dog. No hidden or double meanings. How refreshing is that?

800/745-8883 or 61-7/4940-1234; www.hayman.com.au; doubles from $470.


Orpheus is as unpretentious as Hayman is flash, and as old-fashioned (in the best possible sense) as Bedarra is vain. The resort is attitude-free. The interest staffers take in guests' happiness and well-being is natural (that, or they're very good actors), not empty or obsequious. The good will and good energy are palpable. Personnel and hotel achieve an uncommonly high level of synergy. The property is laid out without fanfare in a broken line on a long ribbon of beach, the most spellbindingly serene of the 50 (or was it 500?) I visited in my 10 days on the reef. All construction—none of it higher than a single story—is tucked discreetly below the tree line and veiled in luxuriant vegetation, from spider orchids and acacias to tamarinds and weeping bottlebrushes. Most of the 21 guest rooms are in cottages of two and three; for irritating people like me who are really only happy (and only feel as if they're getting their money's worth) in a freestanding accommodation, there are two: Nos. 9 and 10. Blessed with lovely porches and in some cases beds with water views, rooms are located on one side of the sprawling restaurant and Quiet Lounge. Both are open gorgeously to the sea. Bare quarry-tile floors and chunky, rectilinear cane furniture keep the look elegant but uncomplicated. The cottages are a lot less exciting from a design perspective, but extremely functional.

One of the rare Reef resorts that is privately owned, Orpheus is untainted by corporate culture. And if it proves one thing, it's that there's nothing wrong with bromides as long as they're the right ones: swooningly romantic arrival by seaplane, hammocks strung over the sand between arching coconut palms, sunset sippies (cocktails) on the beach while feeding a colony of silvery diamond-scaled mullet, docile as puppies. A single candlelit table laid with a beautifully starched cloth and set out on a jetty may be a postcard, but it's a postcard I want to live. The food, which is not just fancy but Fancy, would be ridiculous if the chefs who dream it up weren't so earnest. I think I must have had preserved lemon–and-garlic-grilled scampi nestled on a rosé wine–and-oyster-scented rice-noodle salad with wok-tossed enoki mushrooms and slivered asparagus before. But never in my bare feet, and never while blacktip sharks cleaved the water inches away. Did that just cause you to lose your appetite?No worries, the sharks are harmless.

Orpheus' principal diving and snorkeling site is home to 1,100 of the 1,500 species of fish on the reef, 340 of the 359 varieties of hard corals, and one of the region's largest collections of soft corals, which lack the limestone exoskeleton of their cousins. The giant-clam garden, in a lagoon just off the resort, is populated by 100 of the mollusks, offering a singular snorkeling experience. All the copper-banded butterfly fish and red-throated emperors in the Coral Sea are nothing, I promise you, to a 35-year-old, three-foot-wide, 220-pound clam with ruffled chinchilla lips.

61-7/4777-7377; www.orpheus.com.au; doubles from $1,106.

christopher petkanas is a special correspondent for Travel + Leisure.


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