qualia, Hamilton Island, Whitsunday Islands, Queensland © qualia
Guide to Hamilton Island
From water sports on aqua seas to rainbow-hued sunsets, Hamilton Island is an idyllic 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 just over 1,000 and has 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.
Things to do and top attractions 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 qualia, a secluded five-star luxury resort designed to complement the natural environment. 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 for relaxation, 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.
Head to Race Week
In August, 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' partners 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 through 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 island's exquisite sunsets. Hamilton Island's hilltop bar, One Tree Hill, becomes a revellers' gathering spot from about 5 pm each day, when tourists and locals alike ride their buggies here to sip cocktails and take in the views of 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. But you don't have to stay on land to soak in the sunset views; a sunset sailboat session is a romantic way to end the day.
Get active on Dent Island
Dent Island, just a five-minute boat ride from Hamilton Island, is an island oasis of green rolling hills surrounded by rippling blue water. The island is a magnet for avid golfers, as it is home to the Hamilton Island Golf Club. Before you play a few rounds, start your day with sunrise yoga on the helicopter pad. A healthy breakfast is supplied at the golf club after the one-hour session. Dent Island also offers beautiful walking tracks and calm waters for kayaking, so you have ample opportunity to reconnect with nature. Ferries leave from Hamilton Island every hour.