The Whitsunday Islands are mostly empty, with a few resorts here and there, with the exception of it’s main hub: Hamilton Island.
Hamilton Island is owned by the Oatley family (as in Bob Oatley) and is leased by the Australian government. It’s mostly a holiday spot, with only 1,200 residents living on the island, but heaps of resorts, hotels, and apartments available to the tourist.
After spending some time on Whitsunday Island, we pulled into Hamilton Island Resort Marina for a night. This is the most expensive marina we’ve booked in our whole 7 months in Australia at $120 AUD a night. When we hailed the marina, we were boat 2 in a queue of 3, and we were given detailed instructions: starboard side tie, fenders just above the water, and someone will be out shortly to guide us in.
Once settled in I went out to explore the amenities. We were due for laundry service and the marina has ten washers and ten dryers, all commercial sized WITH a change machine. I was very productive.
There’s an IGA available that is very well stocked, if expensive. We hadn’t seen a grocery store since Keppel Bay Marina two weeks prior, so I picked up some bare essentials, knowing we would be headed to the much cheaper Airlie Beach soon.
If you’re a morning person and particularly enthusiastic, go hike up Passage Peak first thing in the morning to watch the sunrise over the Whitsundays. Passage Peak is a 5.3 km hike round trip and the summit is the highest point on Hamilton Island, and the hike comes complete with all kinds of wildlife and scenic views.
Spend the morning strolling along Front Street. Grab a well-deserved breakfast after your hike at Bob’s Bakery or a sit-down breakfast at the Marina Cafe. Front Street has plenty of shopping but my favorite stops were the art shops. Hamilton Island Art Gallery has plenty of amazing (and mostly nautical) works in a variety of mediums, including some that even glow in the dark. The sculptor Foot Young has a gallery showcasing hundreds of his sculptures – some bizarre – for display at his Foot Artworks Gallery. If the schedule works out, the Hamilton Island Art Gallery has art classes for kids and adults.
The Hamilton Island Yacht Club is worth a stop to see the bizarre architecture and see what is, I assume, a mock-up of Wild Oats in modern art.
There’s even a Hamilton Island audio tour available on the Hamilton Island app.
Located on the east side of town, Catseye Beach is a 700-meter white sand beach protected by the reef just off the shore. There’s a very small channel that small boats can get through, but mostly it’s reserved for swimming. If you don’t feel like getting sandy, there are three public pools along the beach.
David and I made the hike up to One Tree Hill, a small cafe (almost a kiosk really) that overlooks the view towards sunset. It’s a popular spot because of its stunning view, and we got there with just enough luck to snag a table. The nearby parking lot and lawn with picnic tables fill up too, and golf carts line the road.
There are several restaurants that offer fine dining on Hamilton Island. I definitely recommend making a reservation. We ended up not eating out because we didn’t book anything in advance. Instead, we had a quiet dinner on Starry Horizons.
Hamilton Island is the base for a variety of tours, from diving the Great Barrier Reef to a beach day on Whitehaven Beach.
There are no private cars on Hamilton Island. The preferred method of transportation is golf carts, which are called buggies in Australia. Buggies can be rented hourly or daily.
Otherwise, there’s the free shuttle bus that tours all over the island.
Aside from our preferred method of transportation (private boat), you can arrive on Hamilton Island via plane or ferry. The Hamilton Island Airport (HTI) is just 5 miles south of the marina and flies directly to Cairns, as well as other further airports. The free shuttle has a stop at the airport. The ferry is the transfer service operated by Cruise Whitsundays and is the best option if you are coming from the nearby Airlie Beach.