Hamilton Island has to be Australia’s most complete – and accessible – island holiday destination.
You’d visit Hamilton Island just for the flight in. Direct flights land from Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Cairns. Because Hamilton Island sits in the middle of the 74 islands of Queensland’s Whitsunday islands surrounded by the Coral Sea, landing here – among all that blue – could be a tourist attraction in itself.
As soon as you collect your luggage, take a golf cart (most come with accommodation, or hire one – the island is car-free) to your room, past a marina full of yachts, and bars and restaurants set on white-sand beaches.
Island paradises don’t get any easier to access than Hamilton Island – and it’s as suitable for families and budget-conscious travelers as it is for those who like five-stars (Hamilton Island has hosted the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, Johnny Depp and Oprah … who has a koala named after her at the local wildlife park).
What to do in Hamilton Island
Stay a fortnight and you won’t do the same thing twice. Take a jet ski tour, or snorkel the island’s fringing reef where you’ll find resident turtles to swim with. Or hire a kayak (or take a tour) or stand-up paddleboard, or hire a motorized dinghy to find a beach entirely for yourselves.
There’s parasailing too, and wakeboarding and jet-boat excursions. Or try go-karting, minigolf, ten-pin bowling, visit a wildlife centre or explore the island on more than 50km of hiking trails (70 percent of the island is forest). Golfers can take a five-minute boat ride to one of the world’s most scenic courses – the only Australian championship course built on its own island.
Adventures off the island near Hamilton Island
Hamilton Island is an easy gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and Whitehaven Beach (it’s on Whitsunday Island, a few kilometres north). Choose from a variety of seaplane and helicopter tours – from scenic flights to tours which land on the beach or within the reef and include exclusive beach lunches. There’s also a host of boat excursions – from sunset sails to full day diving or snorkelling trips. Or charter your own yacht from the marina – where charter yacht companies such as Sunsail operate.
Best bars and restaurants in Hamilton Island
There’s every kind of bar you’d want on holiday: from sports bars with giant TV screens to swim-up pool bars overlooking the beach – and everything in between. The Bommie Deck is the perfect afternoon bar – it’s built on top of the Hamilton Island Yacht Club and extends right out over the water. There are garden bars too, and live music at lounge bars. Or consider an outdoor movie night on a big screen under the stars at the marina.
One Tree Hill has to be the best cocktail spot. Guests gather on one of the island’s highest locations at sunset (it’s only open 4pm-7pm) at the Whitsundays’ most spectacular bar. There’s a grassy area next door for families too – take a golf cart or free shuttle bus – and order a French 75 – gin, Cointreau, sparkling wine and lemon juice – in a champagne flute … now there’s a sundowner.
Hamilton Island has 10 restaurants. Try everything from Asian fusion food inspired by hawker-style street food to a Mexican taqueria and cantina or fish and chips by the water. You’ll also find two of regional Australia’s best fine dining options, Bommie Restaurant (at the Hamilton Island Yacht Club), and Qualia’s Long Pavilion restaurant, where one of Queensland’s best chefs, Mark Jensen, presides.
Best excursions in Hamilton Island
Take a helicopter from Hamilton Island to your own private helipad/pontoon in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef. Located right beside the world-renowned Heart Reef (a 100sq m patch of coral shaped like a heart), you’ll land at low tide when the reef creates an enormous lagoon. You’ll have 90 minutes to travel around in a custom-made jet boat and a glass-bottom boat for reef viewing.
You’ll also have time to snorkel – Terry the resident turtle will probably accompany you. There’s a maximum of six guests per visit – the helicopter ride takes 30 minutes each way, including flying over Whitehaven Beach.
The writer was a guest of Tourism and Events Queensland.
This article originally appeared on Escape