Hamilton Island is a popular member of the Whitsundays group in the Coral Sea, and is the second largest inhabited island in the chain. The 5-square kilometer island almost exclusively caters to the tourist industry and to island visitors, though the small number of island residents (less than 1,500) is growing to support tourist businesses.
The island attracts guests of all types, and offers a multitude of land- and water-based activities to suit all tastes.
Known for its annual Hamilton Island Race Week yacht festival, Australia’s largest offshore race which features over 150 yachts from Australia and New Zealand, the island attracts boaters from far and wide. A big beach party is part of the week’s festivities, and takes place when the yachts arrive at famed Whitehaven beach.
The Oatley family (which owns and manages most of the island’s businesses and resorts) has a long-term lease on the land, from the Australian government.
The first resort on Hamilton Island was constructed in the early 1980s.
The Whitsundays were formed when sea levels rose and submerged land, leaving “drowned mountain” islands close together. Because of this, most of the Whitsunday islands are continental islands (except for Green and Heron islands, which are cays).
70% of the island is a protected national park, making it a perfect location to explore. Kangaroos, koalas, and dolphins can be seen within the island’s 50-acre fauna park.
Hamilton Island is the postcard perfect tropical island you imagine it to be, with beautiful sandy beaches surrounded by bountiful coral reefs (including fringing coral reefs).
Activities (Nature and Wildlife Interest)
Hamilton Island has dozens and dozens of activities with varying degrees of involvement and physical activity, to suit every holidaymaker.
- Water sports: snorkeling (from the island, or as part of a boating package), scuba diving, windsurfing. wake boarding, jet skiing, water skiing. H20 Sportz is a PADI 5-star dive centre. Fantaea Cruises run daily diving trips, and guests can stay overnight with their “Reefsleep” experience. Turtles and manta rays are frequently seen. The reef offers beginner and more advanced diving opportunities.
- Bushwalking: A variety of trails, from beginner to challenging, traverse the island’s National Park.
- Boating and game fishing: cruises to the Great Barrier Reef, catamaran and yacht sailing, dinghy hire, sea kayaking, twilight sailing, cruises to Whitehaven Beach. The resort offers sailing courses.
- Whale-watching: humpback whales travel up from Antarctic waters, through the Australian Whale Sanctuary to the Whitsunday waters between July and September each year. There, they mate and give birth, after which they return south. The whales frequently pass within a couple of kilometers of Hamilton Island, making sightings more likely.
- Children-friendly: go-karting, Clownfish Club (supervised age-appropriate activities, including arts and crafts, snorkeling, fishing, mini golf, pool games)
- Golfing: 18-hole championship golf course, located on neighbouring island Dent Island – a five minute ferry ride from Hamilton Island. World-class par 71 championship course, with challenging dunes, ridges, valleys, and stunning 360-degree vistas of Hamilton Island and the Whitsundays.
- Animal reserve: Koala Gallery Wildlife Experience, with kangaroos, koalas, wombats & crocodiles
- Land activities: tennis and squash courts, gymnasium with aerobics classes, mini golf, yoga, quad biking
- Scenic flights
The Hamilton Island Resort offers six hotels covering a range of budget and accommodation styles:
- Palm Bungalows: more affordable accommodations offering standalone bungalows with private balconies overlooking the gardens. Bungalows are located near the resort center.
- The Reef View Hotel: offers standard hotel rooms on the lower floors (garden or coral sea views) and luxurious suites on the top floors, which have stunning views of the Coral Sea and the Whitsunday Islands. The resort’s four elevators are external glass lifts so that guests can appreciate the view. The resort features a bar, restaurant, swimming pool, and shop.
- Whitsunday Holiday Apartments: Accommodation for the more independently-minded, these apartments still have the convenience of a hotel-type accommodation but also a full-sized kitchen for its guests. Guests have access to gardens, and a pool and spa.
- Hamilton Island Holiday Properties: self-catering accommodation, ranging from one- to four-bedroom accommodation and standard to deluxe villa options.
- Beach Club : luxurious five-star beachfront resort, a two-storey boutique resort offering contemporarily-designed rooms. Beach Club has an infinity pool, club lounge and bar, and a restaurant. This resort caters to couples and honeymooners, and does not allow children.
- qualia: located on the island’s remote northern tip, this premium resort offers the ultimate in luxury. The resort offers luxurious pavilions for its guests, located in secluded and spacious areas of the resort.
Facilities on the island include: four pools, six bars and nightclubs, over ten restaurants, numerous boutiques, golf course, convenience store, gym, relaxation center, business center, yacht club, marina, swimming pools, tennis and squash courts, video store, church, mini golf and golf driving range, golf club
Hamilton Island is located almost exactly halfway between Mackay and Townsville, and about 900 kilometers north of Brisbane.
Hamilton Island has the only airport in the Whitsundays that is large enough for commercial aircraft, with daily flights running between the mainland and island. Direct flights to Hamilton Island run from a variety of Australian cities: Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Cairns, Townsville, the Gold Coast, and Uluru. Alternatively, visitors can fly to Prosperline Airport or Mackay Airport on Virgin Blue, the closest mainland airports to Airlie Beach (from there bus transfers bring travelers to the marinas to catch a ferry to Hamilton Island).
Several passenger-only ferry companies have routes between the mainland and Hamilton Island. Launches leave from both Shute Harbour and Abel Point Marina in Airlie Beach, south of the town of Bowen. Because of this, tourists rely mostly on rented golf carts for transportation on the island.