Hamilton Island is my favourite island in the Whitsundays group of Islands, just off the coast of North Queensland, Australia.
It is a pure and utter luxury paradise.
Majority of the 74 islands in the Whitsundays are completely uninhabited, including the largest and most famous, Whitsunday Island. Although Hamilton Island is very small (only 5 km²) it’s the most inhabited of them all. There is even a domestic airport on Hamilton Island so you can fly directly from your city without having to get to Airlie Beach before catching a ferry.
Hint: If you’re looking for a very secluded type of getaway there are some islands in the Whitsundays that have nothing but a resort on them. Hayman, Daydream, Long Island, South Molle or Lindeman Islands are some options. However the only way to get to these places is by boat from the bigger locations such as Airlie Beach or Hamilton Island. Alternatively you can go camping on Hook Island.
I’ve been privileged enough to visit the Whitsundays three times now and each time has been an entirely different kind of experience.
During my very first time to the Whitsundays I actually stayed on Hamilton Island for the whole 3 days of the trip without venturing out to the other islands. It was back in 2013 on an all expenses paid work trip where we got to stay at The 5 Star Beach Club Hotel.
It literally felt like a dream to stay at the Beach Club, and I guess you wouldn’t expect anything less with rooms starting from $700 per night!
The second time was last year where I stayed on my brother’s camping boat for a week. We used Hamilton Island’s marina as a base for sleeping on the boat, morning coffees, eating out and collecting supplies. During the day we’d cruise around the stunning islands.
It was a different experience to be out of a hotel environment and around all the sailors at the marina.
The highlight of the trip was visiting Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island, the most famous beach in Australia known for having the whitest sand in the world (a must see on your trip to The Whitsundays!)
Tip: I’d say a week is probably too long to spend on Hamilton Island unless you’re there purely for relaxation or plan to fill your days with activities that are off the island itself.
Earlier this year I was working as a travel agent for a backpacker travel agency and had the opportunity to work at the Airlie Beach store for a couple of weeks. I immediately said YES as it had always been on my bucket list to experience working in The Whitsundays, and during my time there I got to go on a 2day/2night backpacker style sailing trip. That, again, was a totally different Whitsundays experience.
Sailing around the Whitsundays on a catamaran with a group of young backpackers was a lot of fun. When we departed Airlie Beach we had a whole 48 hours to explore the islands which meant we could sail a lot further away and see more places than on a day trip, as well as drop the anchor wherever we wanted to sleep for the night.
We visited Whitehaven Beach on one of the days and spent the rest of the time finding secluded snorkeling spots. It was so great, however with it being a budget tour we didn’t visit Hamilton Island, which was the place that made me fall in love with the Whitsundays in the first place. It was a true sailing experience but I did miss the whole ‘luxury paradise’ feeling.
After all these experiences, The Whitsundays remains high up there as one of my favourite places in the world.
Things To Do On Hamilton Island
Unless you’re travelling on a tight budget, in my opinion, Hamilton Island is the best base for a holiday to the Whitsundays as there are hotels, restaurants and many activities there to keep you occupied. And if you want to explore other parts of the Whitsundays there are many boat tours that leave from Hamilton Island’s marina each day.
Whether you’re exploring the island on a day trip or staying a lot longer, here are some things to do on Hamilton Island…
Hire A Buggy
Due to it’s small size, there are no cars on Hamilton Island. Instead everyone gets around on golf buggies which are a lot of fun! I recommend hiring one for the first day so you can explore the island (only takes 10 minutes or so to do a loop of the island by buggy) and then to save money spend the rest of the time walking to get around. It only takes 5 mins to walk from the marina side of the island to the beach side, the two main places you’ll spent the most time.
Tip: Buggy Hire starts from $46 for 1 Hour.
Fish N Chips at The Marina
The marina is a nice place to check out even if you’re not staying on a boat or taking a boat tour, as there are some nice restaurants there. My favourite is the main fish n chip shop (and they also do really good coffee!). If you order food you’ll more than likely be greeted by one of the many cockatoos that live on Hamilton Island.
Fine Dining at The Yacht Club
The Yacht Club is lively when there are certain events on, generally business conferences of some sort. But anyone can enjoy Bommie, the fine dining restaurant there, which is a perfect option if you’re really wanting to treat yourself.
Have A Drink At The Main Pool Bar
Just behind Catseye Beach on Hamilton Island you’ll find The Main Pool Bar, which is literally a bar in the middle of a huge pool. You don’t need to be staying at the hotel to use the pool just bring your own towel and buy a drink at the pool bar to enjoy the facilities.
There’s also the Dolphin Pool (also known as Sails Pool) next to Sails Restaurant on the beach front…amazing food there.
Snorkel With Sea Turtles At Catseye Beach
You don’t need to go far out by boat to find turtles because they are often found very close to the shore. Catseye beach is the main beach on Hamilton Island and where you might see sea turtles! You can either do turtle tour for $30 or just hire snorkeling gear and swim around the shore through corals until you spot a turtle. We were very lucky to have found a turtle while snorkeling at Catseye beach.
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Omg we swam with a wild sea turtle!!🐢😍🌊 Kicking so hard to catch up to the bugger for a selfie but as you can see they're actually extremely fast! This has got to be one of the best moments on my travels so far, very cool!!😃😃 #pressplay #video ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ #ocean #snorkeling #seaturtle #gopro #whitsundays
Tip: Be prepared to swim when you see one because as gracious as they look in the water they are are actually really fast!
There’s a booth on Catseye beach that hire out equipment for all sorts of beach games, including beach volleyball which is always a lot of fun.
There are plenty of water activities you can do at Catseye beach including paddle boarding, kayaking, parasailing, jet skiing, jet boating on the jet ryder, windsurfing, wake boarding and tube riding.
Tip: Paddle boarding is only $20 for half an hour or $25 for a whole hour.
Breakfast with Koalas at WILD LIFE
The coolest place to have breakfast on Hamilton Island is WILD LIFE, a sanctuary for Australian animals. The koalas hang out and sleep on the trees next to you while you eat your breakfast. Buy your admission tickets or book your breakfast with koalas here.
Hamilton island is mostly nature and there are many bush walking trails throughout the island where you can spot Australian wildlife in it’s natural habitat. This gives perspective to show how small the actual inhabited part of the island really is.
Another really cool way to get among the nature is to go quad biking. I did this on my first visit to the island and it was soooo much fun!
Health & Fitness
There is a fitness centre on Hamilton Island as well as sunset yoga classes at The Yacht Club on Thursday nights. There are also many day spas around the island to fit some relaxation time into your holiday.
Fun and Games
If you’re into your fun and games, Hamilton Island has a go-kart racing course, bowling alley and mini golf to keep you entertained.
Play Real Golf On Dent Island
For a real game of golf (not just mini-golf) then a stone’s throw away from Hamilton Island is it’s neighbour Dent Island – the entire island is one big golf course!
Another really cool activity to do on Hamilton Island is a Helicopter tour. It can be a pricey experience however when I did it there was a special which was only $60 for a 10 minute ride above Hamilton Island. Obviously the longer the ride the more of the Whitsundays you will see, and the views are incredible.
Scenic flight Over The Heart Reef
There are also small planes that fly all the way to the famous ‘heart reef’ that’s part of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. This flight also leaves from Airlie Beach and is high up there on the bucket list for next time!
Update 30/12/12: We went on a Cruise to the Great Barrier Reef last year where we had a stop at Airlie Beach and did the incredible Heart Reef Scenic Flight. It is so AMAZING and I highly highly recommend it. Book yours here.
Snorkelling and Scuba Diving
Snorkelling at the Whitsundays is quite popular but people often get mixed up with the Whitsundays and the Great Barrier Reef. The Whitsundays aren’t actually part of the Outer Reef which is where you’d ideally want to snorkel/scuba dive to see the best corals and exotic fish. But from everyone I know that’s done a lot of scuba diving in Australia the advice seems to be that the scuba diving is much better on the part of The Great Barrier Reef that’s closer to Cairns.
Note: It’s important to also remember that a lot of the reefs and underwater life got very damaged by Tropical Cyclone Debbie back in March 2017.
Day Trip To Whitehaven Beach
As I mentioned before, if you’re going to venture out on a boat tour make sure to visit the famous Whitehaven Beach!
If you’ve always wanted to learn how to sail then one of the best places in the world to do it is in the Whitsundays. Hamilton Island has a Sailing School that literally gets you sailor qualified, which is something I actually looked into before cyclone Debbie damaged some of their boats. Hopefully the sailing school will be re-opening soon.
Random Fact: Apparently Captain James Cook discovered The Whitsundays group of islands on Whitsunday (the seventh Sunday after Easter), which explains the name today.
I’d like to add too that Hamilton Island is not a backpacker destination, it attracts a much different crowd on the other end of the spectrum. If you’re on a backpackers budget then stick with Airlie Beach as that is where you’ll find hostels, as well as backpacker sailing tours.
Hamilton Island is a luxury paradise and the locals like to keep it that way. It attracts a lot of Australian holiday makers that are looking for a luxury getaway close to home. I love how when I’m not travelling on a budget I can come to Hamilton Island and treat myself to a slice of paradise without the crowds.
Have you been to Hamilton Island or The Whitsundays before? What was your experience like? Leave us a comment…
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