Nicky Oatley: Brand Manager, Hamilton Island


Nicky Oatley holds paradise in the palm of her hands. As the brand manager of Hamilton Island, Oatley mans a playland of azure waters, luxury resorts and yachting regattas.

But the exquisite tropical destination off the north-east coast of Queensland is more than just a glamorous vocation for Oatley—it’s the family business. Her late grandfather (and esteemed yachtsman) Bob “Popeye” Oatley acquired the island in 2003 for $200 million. In 2007 the young scion was charged with opening the world-class luxury resort, Qualia. Set on a secluded stretch of beach, Qualia boasts lavish accommodations and gourmet dining which has received innumerable acclaim, most notably awarded Best Resort in the World 2012 by Conde Nast Traveler. Oatley’s role across Qualia and Hamilton Island is all-encompassing, “to maintain the quality of the guest’s experience and ensure that what we are doing today and planning for tomorrow are true to my grandfather’s vision”.

Looking at Hamilton Island today—lush and thriving—it’s difficult to imagine that just over nine months ago it was completely obliterated by Cyclone Debbie. “It was very distressing when the cyclone hit. We were awake all night trying to have communication with the island,” says Oatley about watching the storm helplessly from Sydney with her father Sandy. Without missing a beat, the family leapt straight into action and with the assistance of the community they were able to reopen the island in just one week. “We set ourselves a goal of having the Island back to ‘normal’ by Audi Hamilton Island Race Week (AHIRW) and thanks to the efforts of the staff and community we achieved that.”

As one of the most prestigious regattas on the sailing calendar, AHIRW sees sailing enthusiasts (and their glitterati entourage) flock to the Whitsunday island every August for a week of yacht racing and Champagne-fuelled soirees. “There really is nothing else like it. The entire island has an electric atmosphere,” says Oatley, who plays the impeccable host on dry land while her family’s eight-time-Sydney-to-Hobart-winning yacht, Wild Oats competes on the water.

Oatley spoke with The MECCA Memo about her life on Hamilton Island before and after Debbie, her sun-focused skin-care routine, how to host the ultimate party…and how to get ready for one in five minutes.

TMM: What was it like as a child visiting Hamilton Island? What are some of your fondest memories?
NO: “I grew up in country New South Wales and first went to Hamilton Island on holidays when I was about four years old. I still remember the excitement! You can imagine a country kid on a tropical island for the very first time…at that age everything is awesome! I was particularly fascinated with the beach and snorkelling, which I did all day long.”

Can you describe the moment when the cyclone hit and the emotion of experiencing such an event?
“Losing communication was extremely difficult, as we could not receive updates on what was happening on the Island. We were concerned but we were trying to be rational and think ahead about what would be required. Dad and I knew there would be a large scale clean up ahead, so we started buying gloves, rakes and chainsaws and ordered every piece of corrugated iron we could get our hands on because we knew that new roofing would be required.”

If someone only had 24 hours on Hamilton Island how would you recommend spending it?
“On Hamilton Island, if you haven’t seen the Great Barrier Reef there are many ways to experience it from the Island, but one way I think is magical is to get on a seaplane and fly to Hardy Lagoon. When you land there, you and the other 12 passengers (you can charter it privately if you prefer) feel like the only people on earth and are able to spend about two hours snorkelling. Once you’re back on solid ground I always suggest heading to the Yacht Club to watch the sunset and a few cocktails on the deck and then to dinner at the Bommie restaurant located within the Yacht Club.”

What do you enjoy doing when you have time off?
“I love to cook and I also love to garden. Nothing makes me happier than pottering in the garden with my dogs—Luca & Isla. I also love being out on the boat, being out on the water is a magical thing.”

Can you describe the role that sailing played in your childhood?
“I can’t sail but my dad grew up sailing in Balmoral, he actually built a sailing boat in his bedroom, and they had to tear a wall down in the house to get it out! The family got into competitive sailing in the late ‘90s, which eventually brought them up to Hamilton Island for Race Week.”

I like to keep a simple routine and maintain a natural look.

You’re renown for the parties you host on Hamilton Island. What’s the secret of planning a successful soiree?
“For 1-20 guests the best parties are at someone’s home. For 20 or more guests I like to make everyone feel welcome and important as soon as they arrive. Greeting guests at the door is essential, with glasses of Champagne ready to go. As the night progresses I like to make my way around the tables, topping up glasses, it’s a nice way to go around and have a chat with everyone and make sure they’re having a nice time. “

Spending so much time in sunny parts of the world, what does your skin-care routine look like? How do you protect your skin from the sun?
“SPF 50 is an absolute must for me. Right now, I’m wearing Mecca Cosmetica To Save Face Superscreen—it feels more like a moisturiser than a sunscreen and wears really well under makeup. To keep my complexion hydrated and protected (especially after being out in the sun), I make sure to use the Eve Lom Moisture Mask and The Revitalising Oil from Darphin. I love how good my skin feels after using these.”

Tell us about your favourite beauty products and your routine
“I like to keep a simple routine and maintain a natural look. My daily makeup consists of NARS Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturiser, Chantecaille Faux Cils Mascara, HOURGLASS Brow Sculpting Pencil and a pink or nude lip—I’m loving NARS Satin Lip Pencil in Biscayne Park because it’s a little bit of both. My everyday fragrance is Diptyque Eau Rose because it’s super fresh and floral without being overpowering.”

What is your go-to beauty look and how do you amp it up for big events likes race week?
“I don’t like wearing too much makeup and my go-to for events is more natural than a ‘look’. Ellis Faas Skin Veil Foundation gives a beautiful, luminous finish and feels light on my skin. NARS Blush in Orgasm is sensational, it gives the perfect peachy flush to my cheeks. For eyes, I just swipe on By Terry Ombre Blackstar Cream Eyeshadow in Misty Rock and I’m ready to go. And for the finishing touch—Mojave Ghost from Byredo is my favourite fragrance for after-hours.”

With a busy social calendar how do you prep for a big event?
“I try and get a good night’s rest the night before an event. If that’s not on the cards lots of water and a 111SKIN face mask is absolutely essential.”

Words by Romy Erdos
Photographed by Kara Rosenlund
January 2018


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