48 hours on Hamilton Island
Confession Session: I thought Hamilton Island on the Great Barrier Reef was best for travellers on P plates. You know, what I mean, the type who laze by the pool all day. Where cocktails are the main form of leisure and where the streets are cleaner than a hospital theatre floor.
The truth is, Hamilton Island is all that. But it’s also so much more. Its languid tropical beauty and Baskin Robbin list of things to do (hint: at least 31 types) are astounding. In the 48 hours that Mr W and I were there, we didn’t once get that dark, squishy feeling of entrapment. Quite the opposite; we want to return.
So here’s what we did.
Hamilton Island Airport bustles with three kinds of people: the pale arrivals, the baked/flaked departures, and the busy staff keeping the two groups distinct. The best thing you can do at the airport is book one of those dinky little white golf buggies and get out of there. Hello, Hamo!
I’m a cabana kind of girl and the stand-alone Palm Bungalows would normally be my first choice of digs, but I figure that when in the Whitsundays, you should wake up to the Whitsundays blues. I’m talking water here, people.
I couldn’t afford the Beach Club and didn’t have enough friends to fill the rooms at the Yacht Club, so I checked into the Reef View Hotel, closing my eyes to the dizzy bronze sky tower (oh Keith, what were you thinking?) to focus on the old-school massive rooms and the maddeningly beautiful outlook once you get inside. It worked. But more on that later.
12PM: DIP AND LUNCH
I landed on Hamilton Island expecting to take out a second mortgage just to dine out. Instead, I found a raft of cafes brimming with options that cost no more than mainland venues. What’s more, the food was good.
Lunch for me was fish and chips on the grassy foreshore of the stunning marina for just $10.50 while my partner opted for a plump chicken, cheese and avocado toasty purchased from the Marina Café for $8.50. Then it was back to Catseye Beach for a quick dip in the ocean.
2PM: TIME TO EXPLORE
Unless you’re Michelle Bridges on a vengeance, the electric buggy is the best way to get around this hilly atoll. Toss in the camera and a bottle of wine (or get creative and pack a picnic from the island’s grocery store) and make an afternoon out of drooling over the million-dollar mansions dotting quiet coves.
Just remember that each buggy only has three hours of juice and you don’t want to conk out miles from the hotel. Or do you?
5PM: COCKTAILS AND SUNSETS
The cocktail is back. But it’s oh so different from the ’80s. Goodbye Moscow Mule and Gin Sling, Hamilton Island’s Bommie Deck serves up Espresso Martinis (decaf, if you please) and Sakatinis with ginger and coriander – all surrounded by limpid blue water and blazing sunsets to enhance. Cocktails are also the perfect aperitif to…
7PM: DINNER AT COCA CHU
Ladies and gents, if you’re looking for perfectly pure air to accompany your next order of dribble worthy Asian food, like son-in-law eggs or twice-cooked crispy duck dripping in jammy goodness, then forego Bali and head to Coca Chu restaurant at Hamilton Island.
I’ve lived in Asia for more than 10 years and this restaurant rules when it comes to authentic Asian flavours. Here’s a tip, leave room for a plate of rainbow-coloured sorbet on a bed of toasted and shredded coconut. As the divine Annie Lennox once crooned, “sweet dreams are made of this“.
6:30AM: CLIMB TIME
Wake up to an ethereal view all the way down the Whitsunday passage knowing that no amount of designer joux joux can come close to the artwork before you. Sorry Palm Bungalows, the Reef View has just won my heart as THE top spot to sleep on Hamilton Island.
The first decision is what activity to do: Golf at the 18-hole championship course on neighbouring Dent Island or a sweaty hike to Passage Peak? I don’t know the difference between an iron and club, so I out putt Mr W and we opt for a 90-minute climb all the way to the island’s best vantage point. It’s tough, but it’s worth it.
11AM: WHITSUNDAYS BLUE
Let’s be clear. You’re on a tropical island on the fringe of the Great Barrier Reef and Australia’s most famous stretch of sand is just a sail away. You know what that means? A five-hour sailing and swimming adventure to Whitehaven Beach, one of the world’s most acclaimed beaches.
A picture can tell it better than I can explain it, so just look up. If you want more prose, then read all about the colours I saw here. Need I say more?
4:30PM: AFTERNOON ACTIVITIES
Back on the island you’ve got just enough time to stop by the Hamilton Island Beach Sports and grab a complimentary board (free for in-house guests) and stand-up paddle your way into the sunset.
The water around Catseye Beach is generally calm and who knows, you might even spot a turtle or two.
There’s a festive vibe at the Marina Tavern where pub grub rules. So that’s a no for us. Instead, we venture off to the exclusive Bommies restaurant looking for romance. Too bad it’s full.
The concierge recommends Mariners Restaurant where the claim to fame is massive seafood platters served with jumbo-sized views of the harbour. The venue is jam-packed and the service is awesome, but the grilled snapper I order just doesn’t quite please the palate. We hightail it over to Romanos for a quick coffee before heading back to our luxe digs.
9AM: AHH, THE ISLAND SPA
Remember all that money you saved on that cheap lunch on the first day? Well, it’s time to burn it on your body and soul before jetting out of Hamo.
Spa Wumurdaylin is a little haven of touchy, feely love tucked in beside Hamilton’s Beach Club. The therapists here are as happy as the guests and the technique is sublime. The 60-minute signature massage is the best departure present for someone who’s just been baked and flaked.
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