From water sports on aqua seas to colourful sunsets, Hamilton Island is an excellent place to unwind.
By Hannah Tattersall
Hamilton Island is one of Australia's most desirable holiday destinations. With its white beaches, famous teal waters and an abundance of marine life, "Hamo" – as it's affectionately known to locals – is the largest and busiest inhabited island in the Whitsundays, an archipelago of 74 scenic islands off the Queensland coast. Hamilton Island has a population of about 1000 and its own airport, post office and supermarket, as well as a range of accommodation options for visitors. It is a convenient base from which to explore nearby Whitehaven Beach, Heart Reef and the Great Barrier Reef.
- The spectacular Great Barrier Reef
- Award-winning luxury resort qualia
- The beauty of a Whitsundays sunset
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Top things to do on Hamilton Island
Explore the Great Barrier Reef
Hamilton Island is a convenient gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. A full day snorkelling or diving tour can be booked on the island and will take you to renowned dive sites nearby, such as Stepping Stones, Paradise Lagoon and Manta Ray Drop Off. Helicopter and seaplane flights over the reef and pristine Whitehaven Beach are another option (and a great way to see the famous Heart Reef, a stunning coral composition naturally formed in the shape of a heart). Families with small children and those seeking a more relaxed experience can take a day trip on a catamaran to see the Great Barrier Reef's spectacular coral formations and hundreds of species of fish, turtles and manta rays.
Stay at one of the world's best resorts
Join former guests Oprah, Taylor Swift and Leonardo DiCaprio and stay at the inimitable qualia, a secluded five-star luxury resort featuring 60 pavilions designed to complement the natural environment (many with private plunge pools). It is not uncommon to see wallabies (the smaller cousins of kangaroos) grazing around the resort's main pool area while you sip on a cocktail. In qualia's two world-class restaurants, Pebble Beach and Long Pavilion, you'll find seafood delicacies such as abalone and oysters alongside reef fish, osso buco and venison, all served with herbs and garnishes grown on the island. Everything about qualia has been designed to relax the mind and body, including its strict child-free policy. There are plenty more accommodation offerings to choose from on Hamilton Island, from the family-friendly Palm Bungalows and Reef View Hotel to the sleek Yacht Club Villas, each perched on the water and featuring breathtaking views.
Head to Race Week
In August Audi Hamilton Island Race Week comes to the Whitsundays. About 250 yachts, and crowds in their thousands, head to Hamilton Island for a week of sailing and festivities. As well as a fleet of monohulls and multihulls worth multimillions of dollars, there are fashion events, celebrity attendances and lots of champagne. Hamilton Island's population rises considerably during race week, with extra flights added from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to convey the sailors' wives and families, and visitors keen to join in the revelry.
Get involved in water sports
Hamilton Island's dazzling turquoise waters make it an ideal place to enjoy a variety of water sports. You can charter a yacht, hire a dinghy, take a guided or self-run jetski tour though hidden coves, parasail, embark on a fishing expedition or go kayaking. However you choose to cruise around the island, be sure to check out the outer waters, where you can often spot turtles and whales. Make sure you leave time for a relaxing swim in the waters off the beautiful Catseye Beach, and a dip in the island's pools. Choose from the Bougainvillea Pool (hidden behind Catseye Beach), Main Pool (featuring a swim-up bar), Sails Pool (alongside Sails restaurant) and the Reef View Hotel Pool (reserved for guests staying at the Reef View Hotel).
Soak up spectacular sunset views
A visit to the Whitsundays would not be complete without seeing one of the islands' exquisite sunsets. Hamilton Island's hilltop bar, One Tree Hill, becomes a revellers' hotspot from about 5pm each day, when tourists and locals alike ride their buggies (the island’s official mode of transport) here to sip cocktails while taking in the views of surrounding islands and the late afternoon sky. It's the perfect place for families too, with a large grassy area for kids to sit and play on. Another popular place for late afternoon drinks – and turtle spotting – is the adults-only Bommie deck at the Hamilton Island Yacht Club. Those wanting to kick on after sunset should head to Pimm’s Garden Bar, where you can create your own cocktail and dance to music provided by live DJs from 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays.
How to get there
Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Cairns offer direct flights to Hamilton Island. You can also fly to Proserpine Airport (also known as Whitsunday Coast Airport), which services the town of Airlie Beach, the main gateway for travellers to and from the Whitsunday Islands. From Airlie Beach you can catch a 60 minute ferry to Hamilton Island Marina (there are more than a dozen services throughout the day). The Whitsunday Islands are recognised for their first-class sailing conditions, and anyone arriving by yacht is more than welcome to dock at the Hamilton Island Marina.