If you've ever wondered how many shades of blue and green there are in the world, a visit to Hamilton Island in Queensland will give you some idea. The sheer number of hues will have you reaching for your thesaurus as you try to put its beauty into words.
Despite our concerns that Hamilton Island might be over-commercialised, we were actually blown away by how laid back and naturally beautiful it was. Here’s our experience:
We chose to stay at the Beach Club, and it was the perfect choice for us, since we were child-free and so is the resort. This meant that even though it was the Christmas holidays and the island was heaving with people, we could always come back to the resort for some peace and quiet.
Even though the entrance to the resort is quite low-key, the view as you enter is nothing short of spectacular, with the infinity pool shimmering a deep blue, the whisper of palm trees and the alluring white sand of Catseye beach beyond.
The Beach Club is quite intimate and only has two floors, which means it fits nicely into its surroundings, unlike some of the high rise hotels, which stand out like the proverbial. The whole resort is surrounded by lush tropical gardens, and we were surprised to see sweet little wallabies hopping around on the lawns and cockatoos who were keen to come and share our balcony.
The rooms are gorgeous and have a beachy vibe, with a huge bed in the centre of the room, massive stone bath, and a kitchenette.
The piece de resistance of the Beach Club would have to be its infinity pool, which offers sensational views across Catseye Beach, and with no kids splashing around in it, it’s a peaceful place to sit and watch the activity going on in front of the resort. You’ll be tempted to sit and enjoy cocktails in it all day.
Things to do:
If you’re staying at the Beach Club, you have free use of all the water activities available on Catseye beach. Despite being very dubious about Stand Up Paddle boarding for quite some time, we decided to give it a try. It was easier than I thought, but I can’t say I’ll be taking it up anytime soon! However, it did give us another perspective of the island, looking back at the shore after we’d paddled out.
Other water sports on offer included kayaks and sail boats, and there’s heaps to do on the beach as well, including beach volleyball.
Whitehaven Beach tour
Famed for having some of the whitest and softest sand in the world, a trip to Whitehaven is definitely a must do during a stay on Hamilton island. Only half an hour away by Catamaran (we went with Cruise Whitsundays), it’s an easy half day trip, and you can go either in the morning or around lunchtime.
While the beach is stunning, the sand impossibly white and the ocean equally impossibly turquoise, there’s a couple of other things you need to know about Whitehaven. Firstly, at certain times of year (like when we went in early January), there are stingers in the water (including the potentially deadly Irukandji jellyfish) and it’s recommended you wear a stinger suit. I don’t know about you, but wearing an all over suit didn’t exactly fit with the picture I had in my head of frolicking in the calm, blue, clear waters of Whitehaven.
Secondly, the catamarans carry a lot of people. So if you had a picture of yourself and your beloved strolling hand in hand along a deserted beach, forget it. Having said that, if you walk far enough from the drop off point, you can find a patch of sand all to yourselves away from the crowds.
Once we got our heads around these two things, we really enjoyed our time at Whitehaven. We hadn’t realised that we’d get dropped off at the island for three hours, so in hindsight I would recommend bringing a book. There’s also no mobile phone reception, which turned out to be a blessing, so instead we just lazed around on the beach, sunbaked and napped, which is a pretty great way to spend an afternoon!
Great Barrier Reef tour
We took the two hour trip out to the Reefworld pontoon with Cruise Whitsundays. The pontoon itself is quite impressive, and there’s a number of different activities, depending on how wet you want to get.
Apart from diving and snorkelling, there’s also a mini submarine which takes you for a quick spin around the reef, an underwater viewing pod to watch the fish swim by and a couple of above-water viewing holes where you can see massive fish congregate underneath the platform.
My partner chose to go diving, but because of an ear problem, I went snorkelling instead. All the equipment is provided (including stinger suits). Once again, trying to get away from the crowds is almost impossible and made even more difficult by the fact that you have to stay inside a designated area. But, I still managed to get some space and see some incredible marine life.
To be honest, the reef wasn’t as colourful as I’d expected, but it was still a great experience and I'm glad I can now tick it off the bucket list.
After all the water activities, you might be ready to spend some time on dry land, and a hike through the tropical rainforest which covers much of the island is a great way to do it. There are heaps of walking trails which offer hikes of different lengths and grades of difficulty. A couple of them lead to lookouts, including Resort Lookout and Passage Peak, which offer some spectacular views of the island and its surrounds.
Once you’ve experience all the water sports, swimming, snorkelling and hiking, it might be time for some pampering, and Spa wumurdaylin (dragonfly) is the place to do it. The serene ambience will help you relax as soon as you walk through the doors and they have the full range of treatments available. My aromatherapy massage was heavenly!
I was a bit concerned that since the restaurants have a captive stream of diners, they might be a bit ordinary, but I was definitely wrong. The food on Hamilton Island exceeded all my expectations.
The food at the Beach Club was far superior to your average resort. The mix of buffet and a la carte options at breakfast was a perfect way to start every day (not to mention the stunning views). The specials on offer were imaginative and delicious.
We also had dinner at the restaurant one night, and we were very glad we stayed in - it was probably the best meal we had on the island. The food and service were impeccable, and little digestives and apperitifs appeared on the table between courses.
Set right on Catseye beach, Coca Chu is a South East Asian inspired restaurant with a contemporary, beachy vibe. The food is sensational – our curries were absolutely full of flavour and everything we ate hit the mark.
Situated on the marina with tables overlooking the water, Romano’s is another nice choice on Hamilton island. The food was good, but I think I made the wrong choice with the risotto with corn, which didn’t quite work for me. My partner’s meal was definitely better, so I helped him with his instead!
If you stay at the Beach Club, breakfast is included at a choice of three places, including the nearby Wild Life Hamilton Island, where you can have breakfast with the koalas. Our table was right next to a little enclosure in which a male koala slept wedged into a tree. Despite the fact that koalas sleep about 20 hours a day and aren’t very exciting even when they are awake, this was still a really nice experience. The breakfast was actually pretty good– buffet style with a cook making up fresh omelettes, pancakes and French toast to order.
Overall, our trip to Hamilton Island absolutely exceeded our expectations, and I wish we could’ve stayed a couple of nights longer to really relax into the island’s laid back vibe.
While you might not get attacked by a koala, you may still want to consider taking out travel insurance. For this trip, we used Australian based insurer FastCover, and you can get a quote for a policy here: https://fastcover.com.au/ref?id=Wafaraway
For more info, see: http://www.hamiltonisland.com.au