- Snorkel or dive at the Great Barrier Reef.
- Hike to the summit Passage Peak at Sunrise for amazing views of the Whitsundays.
- Relax on the idyllic Whitehaven Beach.
- Play a round on a championship golf course on Dent Island.
- Enjoy cocktails at sunset at One Tree Hill.
About Hamilton Island
Hamilton Island is arguably the main hub of the Whitsundays, which makes it a great base for exploring the Whitsundays and the Great Barrier Reef. Situated approximately 1,200 kilometres north of Brisbane, Hamilton Island is Australia's answer to the Island Life (isn't Australia already an island?).
Hamilton Island is surprisingly easy to get to as it has its own airport capable of receiving normal domestic air traffic with B737's and A320's departing daily from Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. Golf buggies rule the roads in Hamilton Island and are an easy way to get around; although slightly frustrating with a speed limit of about 30 kilometres per hour (they physically go faster than 30km/hr).
November to April each year is the wet season, which generally means hotter and more humid days, and obviously more rain, compared to the dry season from May to October. Water temperatures peaks in the wet season at over 26 degrees, which unfortunately means that swimming in the ocean requires a 'stinger suit' (essentially a basic wet suit) to stop your skin getting into contact with the Irukandji Jelly Fish and Box Jelly Fish.
Whilst Boxy Jelly Fish stings are exceedingly rare in the Whitsundays, Irukandji Jellyfish stings are not infrequent with 60 reported cases from 2 million visitors last year (per our knowledgeable guide). Our knowledgeable guide also informed us that being stung by a Irukandji Jellyfish should not be high on any travellers list (mainly due to it being occasionally fatal but also because of the vomiting, spasms and severe headaches that follow; and not to mention the expensive medical costs which would follow!). All in all, this made us wear our stinger suits even if we did like ridiculous.
Things to see and do
1. See the Great Barrier Reef
If Sir David Attenborough says that the Great Barrier Reef is the most beautiful thing he has seen then you know it must be something special.
It takes around 2 hours by boat to get to the southern part of the Great Barrier Reef (tour operators usually take you to Bait Reef). Whilst Bait Reef is pretty cool and you will usually see turtles, some nice coral and plenty of fish - it still doesn't quite compare to the northern part of the reef you can reach from Port Douglas or Cairns. A good first experience though of the reef though.
2. Hike up to Passage Peak at Sunrise
We set our alarm for 4:30am three times to hike up Passage Peak at sunrise and ignored it every time... well we were on holiday. Apparently, it is well worth it though! It was a beautiful view in the afternoon nonetheless.
The hike to Passage Peak, the highest point in Hamilton Island, starts at the end of the Resort Drive. You find the trail easily and just follow it upwards towards what you can see as being the highest peak.
Be prepared to get mighty sweaty! Even though it is a relatively short hike of 2.5 kilometres (one way) to a summit height of and 190m above sea level, you are hiking along an exposed path and through high humidity.
3. Whitehaven Beach
The most unique and beautiful place in the Whitsundays; Whitehaven Beach is a relaxing catamaran journey away from Hamilton Island and the perfect day trip.
The sand is primarily silicon which means it doesn't get hot under foot like most Aussie beaches and, like its namesake suggests, is incredibly white (don't forget to bring sunnies). Swim, snorkel, hike, play beach cricket or just relax at this beautiful setting. Definitely worth the cost of a tour from Hamilton Island.
4. Golf on Dent Island
Today we left the girls behind relaxing by the pool (aka drinking cocktails) and headed to the Hamilton Island Golf Course on Dent Island, which is a 10 minute ferry from the Hamilton Island Harbour and included in the price of a round. It is a beautiful championship golf course set on the hills of Dent Island with views of Hamilton and Whitsunday Islands.
It costs about $AUD200 per person for a round of 18 holes including golf club hire and a golf buggy. You will definitely need the Golf Buggy unless you are happy walking 17 kilometres up and down the golf course (or 30km if you are going to zig zag up and down along the course like me).
5. Cocktails at the top of One Tree Hill
Cocktails at the top of a hill with 360 degree views of Hamilton Island. Perfect at sunset.
6. Bird watching on Hamilton Island
Hamilton Island is home to many different native Australian birds including Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, Kookaburras and parrots.
Don't feed them; they are as bad, if not worse, than seagulls at attacking you with food (and our food apparently harms them). However, the birds did provide us with plenty of entertainment - especially the time a guy left his croissant in a bag in his golf buggy. It took a cockatoo about 15 seconds to locate the bag, pluck out the croissant and fly off with it. Poor guy drove off without knowing his breakfast was being eaten by a group of hungry cockatoos - probably should have told him, oh well.
7. Scenic flight over the Whitsundays
Flying in a seaplane over the Whitsundays, landing in Whitehaven Beach and being able to stare down at all us plebs coming in by boat sounds amazing - we will do it next time we go after winning the Lottery or Powerball.
Its actually only $AUD220 per person for a scenic flight from Hamilton Island and a water landing at Whitehaven beach (with an half and a hour relaxing on the beach). Only slightly more expensive than visiting the reef. I wish we'd researched that before we visited!
Eating + drinking
There are plenty of options for lunch and dinner including traditional fish and chip takeaway, Mexican, Italian and Thai. Just avoid the pub - good for a drink if you are outside on the deck but not for food. Most of the good places require a reservation so plan your meals in advance and avoid the standard holiday argument on where to eat.