While it’s not everyone’s idea of a perfect getaway, the great thing about Hamilton Island is there’s something for everyone here and it’s all at your doorstep.
fter Airlie Beach, Hamilton Island is the next popular location in the Whitsundays. I’m not sure why because most first-time visitors are shocked when they first land on the island. Swarms of people and heavy development make Hamilton Island seem like a busy town rather than a resort island. I can see the attraction though, and it’s hard not to be impressed by the sheer range of accommodation options, restaurants, bars and activities. Hamilton does have the widest range of activities, accommodations styles, and restaurants of any Great Barrier Reef island resort.
Hamilton Island Activities
The reason a lot of people are attracted to Hamilton Island is due to the plethora of activities available here for everyone. On one side of the island is a marina village with cafes, restaurants, shops, and a yacht club. On the other are the accommodations, a large free-form pool and swim-up bar, and the curve of Catseye Beach.
The sheer size of the island resort means there are plenty of entertainment possibilities, which makes Hamilton an interesting day trip from Shute Harbour as you can use some of the resort facilities. The resort has tennis courts, squash courts, a gym, a golf driving range and a minigolf course.
From Catseye Beach, in front of the resort, you can hire windsurfers, catamarans, jet skis and other equipment, and go parasailing or water-skiing. Among the other options are helicopter joy rides and game fishing.
A few dive shops by the harbour organise dive and certificate courses; you can take a variety of cruises to other islands and the outer reef. Half-day fishing trips are also available with all fishing gear supplied.
To get away from the main resort area, hit the beach or the hiking trails – most of the 750-hectare (1,853-acre) island is virgin bushland. The best walking trails are behind the Reef View Hotel up to Passage Peak (230m) on the north-eastern corner of the island.
Hamilton also offers cruises, speedboat rides, go-karts, a “wire flyer” flying-fox hang glider, a shooting range, where you can practice target or clay-pigeon shooting, minigolf, an aquatic driving range, beach barbecue safaris, a wildlife sanctuary, where you can cuddle a koala or hold a baby crocodile, and an extensive daily activities program.
Hamilton Island also has daycare and a Clownfish Club for kids.
The biggest drawback to Hamilton Island is that just about every activity costs extra (and it’s usually not cheap), so you are constantly adding to your bill.
Hamilton Beach Accommodation Options
The poshest part of the resort is the Ultraluxe Qualia, an exclusive, adults-only retreat area on the northern part of the island, away from the mere mortals at the other end. Here you will stay in one of 60 one-bedroom pavilions, with hand-crafted furniture and high thread-counts on your sheets. Each has a private swimming pool and a guest pavilion. There’s a spa and two restaurants, and none of these facilities are available to other Hamilton Island guests.
If Qualia is out of your league, the other accommodations choices are extra large rooms and suites in the high-rise hotel; high-rise one-bedroom apartments; Polynesian-style bungalows in tropical gardens (ask for one away from the road for real privacy); and still glamorous rooms in the two-story, adults-only Beach Club (with minimalist decor, a personal “host” to cater to every whim, and private restaurant, lounge, and pool for exclusive use of Beach Club guests); as well as one-, two-, three-, and four-bedroom apartments and villas. The best sea views are from the second-floor Beach Club rooms, from floors 5 to 18 of the Reef View Hotel, and from most apartments and villas. The hotel and Beach Club have concierge service.
In-room amenities vary depending on your accommodations choice (for example, apartments have kitchens), so check when booking.
Getting to and from Hamilton Island
It’s easy to get to Hamilton Island from the mainland. Hamilton Island is well connected to the main Australian cities by air and by boat from Airlie Beach. Once you’re on the island, it’s also easy to get around.
Hamilton Island by Air
Hamilton Island airport is the main arrival centre for the Whitsundays. Jetstar has flights to and from Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. Virgin Blue has flights to and from Brisbane. Island Air Taxis connects Hamilton Island with Airlie Beach.
Hamilton Island Ferry
Fantasea connects Hamilton Island marina and airport to Shute Harbour by frequent daily services. Cruise Whitsundays connects Hamilton Island airport and Abel Point Marina in Airlie Beach.
Getting Around Hamilton Island
Because a steep hill splits the resort, the best way to get around is on the free shuttle-bus service, which operates on three loops around the island from 7am to 11pm, or by rented golf buggy. The buggies are available from the office near reception or from the Charter Base near the ferry terminal.
Hamilton Island to Whitehaven Beach
To get from Hamilton Island to Whitehaven Beach is easy as the Hamilton Island and Whitsunday Island are located 2km from each other. Visitors can take day trips on the catamarans and sail boats that depart from Hamilton Island in the morning and return by late afternoon.
Hamilton Island Map