An island of some 294 hectares, Hayman rises to 250 metres at its highest point. The island's resort is located on the southerly shore fronted by a sweeping sandy beach and surrounded by 14 hectares of lush tropical gardens. A variety of birds inhabit the island, such as White cockatoos, painted lorikeets, kookaburras and kingfishers. Hayman hosts a colony of Proserpine Rock Wallabies. In October 1941 the island was declared a national park.
Monty Embury purchased the island's lease in late 1935 with a view to develop the tourism potential of the island. In 1948, Ansett subsidiary, Barrier Reef Islands Pty. Ltd. bought the lease as part of a plan to develop numerous resorts in the Whitsundays.
The resort Ansett developed was aimed at wealthy overseas visitors. In 1953, Ansett dismantled its Daydream Island resort and shipped the buildings to Hayman Island, to attract a lower strata of client and drop the resort's 'millionaire status'.
In 1987 the resort was demolished and rebuilt to luxury and exclusive status, re-opening in December 1987. It has been rated as amongst the world's best five-star resorts; it is decidedly up-market and its operators actively discourage charterers and the bare-chested, 'bare-boat' set from visiting.
Hayman Island is the most northerly of James Cook's Cumberland Isles as evidenced in Cook's, Matthew Flinders' and P. P. King's narratives and was adopted as such in later official definitions of the extent of the Cumberland Islands. The island was named in 1866 by Commander G. S. Nares, RN, in HMS Salamander after Thomas H. Hayman, sailing master of Salamander.
During Nares' survey a landing was made on the island in February 1866. Sailing directions from Salamander published in the Port Denison Times of 13 October 1866 describe the island as scantily wooded except near the peaks, with grass so thick it was with great difficulty the party was able to get through it on their way to the highest peak to make observations.